About Colts Chocolates
"Food and music were the only things I ever wanted to do" is the way Mackenzie Colt explains how she went from being a "Hee Haw Honey" to owning her own candy business. "I grew up in a family where no one cooked. Sunday dinner was about the only homecooked meal we ever had, so when I got married at fifteen, I started reading cookbooks like they were novels," said Mackenzie. "Once I learned to cook, it was time to start experimenting and making up my own recipes." One of those made-up recipes became the now famous Colt's Bolts, the best selling product of her candy company.
Where it all Started
Mackenzie's father was a professional baseball player with the St. Louis Browns. She was born in Memphis when her family moved there for her dad to manage the Memphis Chicks, a semi-pro baseball team. A short time after her birth, her family moved back to St. Louis where she spent her childhood years.
From her youth, she wrote and sang her own songs. When she married, she used those talents to put her husband through college and law school. What started out as a "gig" in the lounge of a St. Louis hotel ended up with Mackenzie opening for Buck Owens concerts for the next two years. Buck and the Buckeroos were performing in the showroom of the hotel where I was singing. "After they finished each night, the band members would come into the lounge to relax. Within a few days, they brought Buck in to hear me and he hired me to be his opening act," explains Mackenzie. "After two years of performing with him, Buck introduced me to the Hee Haw executives. At that time, Barbie Benton was leaving the show, and Buck suggested that I audition. I did along with thousands of others, and I was hired. The rest is history."
"I spent the next six years with Hee Haw. They gave me the opportunity to not only be one of the cast members, but also to perform my own songs on the show. It was a dream come true." After coming to Nashville for six years to tape the Hee Haw show, Mackenzie decided in 1984 to move to "Music City" to pursue her songwriting. "What I discovered was that I was totally burned out from music. I really didn't have the inspiration or motivation to continue writing songs. I would write part of a song, then turn it over to a co-writer or just put it up and forget about it." "My only problem was that I didn't know what else I could do, except sing and cook. That's when I started thinking about the candy business," said Mackenzie. "I guess in the back of my mind, I had always wondered if I could turn my candy making into a business, but I really wasn't prepared for what happened," said Mackenzie.
The Early Days
"My first order from the Honey Baked Hams stores wasn't for my candy, but instead for 500 of my Gooey Butter Pies. I had to immediately find a professional kitchen that I could lease." That first order gave Mackenzie the confidence to continue. "I had so much to learn," says Mackenzie. "I didn't know where to buy large quantities of chocolate or specially cut or colored foil to wrap the Colt's Bolts in, so I went to the grocery store and bought Hersey bars to melt down and Reynolds Wrap to cut into little squares."
"Since that time, I've learned much about the business of candy making. I now secure contracts for 100,000 pounds of chocolate, instead of buying one Hershey bar at a time. I'm very particular about what we put in our products. I use only the best ingredients."
"When an order for 12 tons of Colt's Bolts came in from a Japanese gourmet foods distributor, the company was ready. We knew what to do."
Colts Chocolates Today
Today Mackenzie's company has five primary products; Colt's Bolts, Gooey Butter Pies, Chocolate Dipped Animal Crackers, Truffle Babies and Roy Rogers Happy Trails Chocolate. "Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were guests on Hee Haw and we became friends. When I started experimenting with a concoction of peanut butter, chocolate and trail mix, I sent Roy a sample. He loved it and I decided to dedicate it to him. "Roy and Dale are only two of the Hee Haw cast who have been so supportive. My fellow castmates were some of my original "tasters" when I was developing the recipe for Colt's Bolts, and they have remained some of my most loyal customers."
Besides Roy and Dale, Mackenzie's customer list reads like a who's who of country music. Clients include Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Vince Gill, K.T. Oslin, Eddie Rabbit, Dwight Yokum and Garth Brooks. She has also shipped product to Priscilla Presley, Leslie Nielsen, Joan Rivers, Geraldo Riveria, Dick Clark and President and Mrs. Bush.
"Starting this company has been good for me. It has given me the energy to work hard and taught me how to work smart. It has even improved my songwriting. I may not get the instant gratification of 20,000 people applauding when I'm on stage, but I have long term gratification. Every day several thousand people buy my candy. That's the kind of applause I really love!"
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