SCC alum is a sweet success
When Kevin Baker enrolled in the Electromechanical program at Southeast Community College in 1972, he was one of only two students since it was a brand-new program. He’s proud to be part of the introductory class.
“It changed my whole life,” he said about his time at the Milford Campus. “I feel like I was prepared when I graduated. I could hold my own.”
Originally from Cedar Creek, Nebraska, Baker always had an interest in mechanical equipment design. After he graduated from SCC in 1973, he first worked at Brunswick Corporation in the aerospace division. When that plant closed, he went on to work at a candy manufacturer until it closed. Since he had experience with designing mass-production candy-making equipment, he decided to start up his own candy company in 1987.
“The boys were small, so I decided to go and develop our own candy,” he said. “You gotta take a gamble sometime.”
The gamble proved to be worth it. Bakers Candies is one of the most successful and well-known candy companies in Nebraska and the Midwest. The family-owned business is located in small-town Greenwood, Nebraska, but people come from near and far to get their hands on the famous chocolate meltaways in the colorful twist-wrapped foils.
The business started with four employees and now has 21, Baker said, including his sons Todd and Paul. Kevin designed the four automated production lines, which are able to mass produce candy at a rapid rate. For example, it’s able to wrap 220 individual candies in one minute. He said the most rewarding part of the job is knowing it’s his family’s business.
“The idea that you started it, and every day you get your job done and make a living for the whole family,” he said.
Todd, the oldest son, is the general manager, while Paul serves as the production manager. Both grew up in the chocolate factory and even experienced some important milestones there.
“I learned how to walk on the factory floor,” Paul remembered. “After school, the school bus would drop me off here, too.”
“The most rewarding part is working with family,” Todd said. “The reason we love what we do is we get to work together.”
He adds that working in a family business isn’t for everyone. Some days there are definitely challenges. However, the key is to have boundaries.
“Each of us has our own responsibilities with the business, and we work hard to respect each other and those responsibilities,” he said. “We work together, but we try not to overlap.”
Kevin looks back fondly on his time at SCC Milford. He even supports a scholarship at Louisville High School for students to attend SCC.
“He’s very indebted to the education he got from SCC Milford,” Todd said. “SCC put the tools in his hands and enabled him to do all of this.”
Bakers Candies added a new outlet store in September 2019. The Bakers now have more space to sell the famous meltaways, as well as hundreds of other types of candies and refreshments.
As for the future, the Bakers hope to keep churning out hundreds of pounds of candy each day, which equates to approximately half a million pounds per year. With nine grandchildren, there’s plenty of help to be found.
“If your last name is Baker, nobody’s safe,” Todd joked. “They’ll get recruited at some point or another.”
For more on SCC’s Electromechanical program, go to https://www.southeast.edu/electricalelectromechanical/