Fudge may connote all things sweet, but the Blue Ridge Fudge Lady is built on pure grit.
Robin Burdette is the founder and owner of the Blue Ridge Fudge Lady in Pulaski, Virginia. Fudge had always represented joyful memories for Burdette.
"My Granny Burdette and my Aunt Jean were big chocolate makers, and so every year, especially around the holidays, my happiest memories were making fudge and laughing with them," recalls Burdette.
Childhood nostalgia, however, did not initially translate into a career for Burdette. She joined the U.S. Navy and served as a cryptologist. "Cryptology morphed into cybersecurity, and then I switched over and was Army Civil Service for years," Burdette tells Fox Business. "So I've really been in the IT, cybersecurity realm for most of my adult life."
Burdette's cybersecurity job constantly kept her traveling which, the single mom says, became difficult when it came to raising her young daughter. Additionally, Burdette tells Fox Business that her job also kept her far away from her family and support system in Pulaski. "I wanted something where I could set my own hours, be close to my family, and do something that made me happy," says Burdette. "So, inspired by the memories with my Granny Burdette and Aunt Jean, I opened my own chocolate shop."
Burdette opened her first fudge shop on Aug. 4, 2014 in Radford, Virginia, but she had to close the doors on Doghouse Gifts and Chocolates less than one year later. "I had a lot of growing pains, and I made a lot of mistakes, like paying way too much in overhead," explains Burdette. "It forced me to step back and do lots of market research, because I knew that there was profit potential, and I just needed to figure out how to get there."
Undeterred, Burdette regrouped, rebranded, and switched locations to Pulaski, Virginia, and officially opened Blue Ridge Fudge Lady on Dec. 5, 2015. Burdette tells Fox Business that honing her attention toward the internet and social media was critical to her newfound success. "Getting my website up and running was the key. The reach is so much bigger than a retail shop," says Burdette. "I've really been able to get the word out about my fudge through SEO, Google Ads and social media, which has been phenomenal for me." Burdette posts Instagram videos, Facebook updates and holds Twitter competitions that boost traffic into her brick-and-mortar store as well as for her online store.
Burdette tells Fox Business that she hopes to grow her online business 50 percent each year in the next five years, as well as grow the corporate and wholesale side to her business. As Blue Ridge Fudge Lady grows, however, Burdette has made it her goal to make other small, local businesses around her thrive. "My learning curve was so great that I want to share all the mistakes that I made, so it will help people, especially in my community, start businesses in a more efficient manner," says Burdette. She sells products from local entrepreneurs in her store, while also helping local middle schoolers start their own small businesses by teaching them how to get their own business licenses and create business plans.
From empowering those around her to empowering herself, Burdette tells Fox Business she will never give up and continue to persevere in the face of adversity. "I grew up in a small, rural community playing sports, and early on learned when you lose, you get up and you keep going," says Burdette. "You learn and keep striving, especially when it's for something you love and for something that makes you happy."
To see Burdette's favorite fudge, sweet treats and fudge-making secrets, watch the full video above.
Emily DeCiccio is a video producer and reporter for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.