Anyone who has ever started their own company has heard countless times, “think outside the box!” But what if this whole time we should have been thinking OF the box? Founder of cult-candy company, Sugarfina, Rosie O’Neill did just that & the result, was a hit. Famous for their unique candy served in aesthetically pleasing candy cubes, as they call them, Sugarfina was born after O’Neill & partner Josh Resnick watched Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Between the movie they watched & various candies they had discovered on international travels, they brought the idea to life by creating the world’s first grown-up candy store. “We thought we were going to have to do a lot of educating to people of what it means to have a grown-up candy store,” explains Rosie, “but because it was so different people just got it instantly. I think sometimes the more visually & conceptually different you are from everyone else, they really don’t have anyone to compare it to.”
Perhaps they should owe their success to Rosie’s background in marketing at Mattel for Barbie or Josh’s in video games. After all, who better to open a grown-up candy store than two adults whose entire careers have been targeting a much younger demographic? Rosie likes to joke that they currently have every child’s dream job, & I certainly don’t think anyone would argue otherwise. After taking multiple trips abroad, testing candy, seeing how it was made, & bringing it back for friends to try out, they decided to give the company a go. Before launching their first brick & mortar, Rosie & Josh tested out the concept online. Up until that point, candy in the U.S. had always been advertised for kids, sold at gas stations or convenience stores, & was not necessarily the most glamorous product. Though their approach that “art should be an experience” costs a bit more than other candy companies, they felt confident that consumers would pay the price for better quality, packaging, & ingredients. That certainly paid off as they now have over fifty storefronts & are expanding internationally to places such as Vancouver & Hong Kong.
Rosie attributes the leap to take the company internationally to her employees. “Josh & I can’t do everything,” she says, “and we don’t know how to do everything. I think what makes all the difference is just having people who you truly trust.” After a few bad hires, the Sugarfina team has implemented a “no assholes” policy since they are firm believers that nothing is ever done by one person. Whether it’s giving someone their first job out of school or a much-anticipated product launch, the company is no stranger to firsts. Trusting their employees to work together, remaining passionate about the company, & enjoying their day-to-day lives are all factors that help to make Sugarfina what it is today.
Besides a dynamite team behind them, their backgrounds in cohesive industries, & the lack of competition around them, Rosie & Josh also credit their packaging & product for helping get them where they are today. For instance, their Confetti Dolci candies are made by hand in a small village in Italy. Each piece of that candy is produced in that small town where nuns physically stomp on locally grown roses to create the rose water syrup that is infused into the candy.
When you’re buying Sugarfina, you’re not just buying candy. Instead, as Rosie notes, “you’re buying art, local history, a souvenir.” With regards to the packaging, the signature Sugarfina blue – which many say reminds them of the infamous Tiffany’s blue – is actually very far off from that shade. Instead it comes from David Hockney’s swimming pool series, one of Rosie’s favorite collections of artwork. The cube itself was an innovative design idea as there was nothing in that exact shape on the market at the time forcing them to custom order the cubes which is a massive expense for a small, brand new company. However, Rosie notes that it was “one of the best things we did because it really established our brand.”
Once their brand was established, Sugarfina took things to the next level with their collaborations. You’ve likely heard of their viral Whispering Angel Rosé partnership which had a wait list of over 18k people. Happy Socks, Jonathan Adler, Casamigos – the list goes on & on. Going forward, Rosie has three dream collaborations in mind. The first being another alcohol partner focusing on Gin with herbal notes. Another collaboration Rosie would love to pursue is with the late Kate Spade. The final dream collaboration would be with none other than our favorite mice, Mickey & Minnie. Rosie hopes that collaboration would target adults who grew up with the cartoon mice & are looking for a gourmet, nostalgic treat.
Between Sugarfina’s upcoming collaborations, international expansion, & ever-expanding team, the company’s massive success thus far is just the start of it all. However, despite all that growth, one thing that will always hold true for the brand is the support of small businesses. “When you can work with someone who is small, very high quality, & keeping those transitions alive.” Rosie notes on preserving small artisans, “It’s so important [to do so].” Rosie firsthand knows how complex it is to make candy. She adds, “I have made candy many times before & it’s very, very difficult, even to make it in small batches.” That knowledge perfectly aligns with how Rosie sees the past & future of Sugarfina: as a company that will stay true to who they are regardless of scale. While their core values will always remain the same, they will never be afraid to think outside the
candy cube box.
- for the frosting:
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons at room temperature
- gel food coloring in your favorite color/s
- Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
- Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start on low speed and gradually increase to medium-high speed, whisking until stiff peaks form and the mixture is fluffy and glossy, about 10 minutes.
- Set aside ½ cup of the meringue. You’ll use this later to add color to the frosting.
- With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth.
- Set aside 2 cups of white buttercream.
- To tint remaining buttercream, separate the reserved ½ cup of meringue into small bowls, one for each unique color. If you’re making ombre in one color, you only need one batch of tinted meringue. Add gel coloring to the meringue and stir until you reach a deep shade of your desired color (color will become lighter when you mix it into the buttercream).
- Separate buttercream into your desired number of colors. If you’re making ombre, separate into 3 batches so you can tint each batch at a different color intensity (from lighter to darker).
- Add tinted meringue to buttercream frosting and stir with a flexible spatula, adding additional tinted meringue until desired color is achieved.
- Transfer frosting to pastry bags fitted with a coupler (no tip required as you’ll be piping thick rows of frosting). Frost cake, serve, & enjoy!
3 small mixing bowls (you'll need equivalent amounts of bowls for the amount of colors you're making the frosting)
Manchego in Santa Monica & Sugarfish (Editors note: With the brands being only two letters apart it seems a collaboration between the two would be seamless. Wishful thinking? We’ll just have to wait & see!)
Favorite Kitchen Appliance?
“One of my favorite things ever is this [zester] for zesting. The micro blade tools…all work differently. One for lemon zest, one for parmesan – I just love those things! If you add a little lemon zest to a recipe, it totally elevates it.”
Favorite Sugarfina Flavors?
Peach Bellini, Tequila Grapefruit Sours, Sparkle Pops
Favorite Sweet Besides Candy?
Rosie notes “I’m a huge fan of Jeni’s Ice Cream & I really love her approach to small batch, interesting ingredients, & I love how they work with local farmers.” True to her own approach, Rosie appreciates how Jeni’s knows exactly where their ingredients are coming from & are able to support the smaller guys in that process. Her favorite flavors? Brambleberry Crisp & Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks.
Favorite Grocery Stores?
Santa Monica & Brentwood Farmers Markets
Favorite Pantry Staple?
Ironic coming from the candy queen herself but Rosie notes, “I’m really into salt. I know that sounds weird but I probably have ten different types.” Redeeming herself on the salty vs. sweet battle she adds, “I like to make chocolate chip cookies with sea salt on them.”
Dream PLSR guest?
Rosie’s dream person to spend a day in the kitchen with would be sushi chef Jiro Ono. Referencing Jiro Dream of Sushi, Rosie adds, “I would love to go spend a month with that guy & just do whatever he needs me to do. I just want to be in there, learning.”
Would You Ever Do A TV Show?
“I think it’d be super fun! I’d have to definitely get better at talking though… I’m going to mess up one thing either talking or cooking,” Rosie says with a laugh.
Words To Live By:
“You only get one life, so why not go out & do the things that you really want to do, or maybe you’re even scared to do because what do you want to look back on when you’re 80? Thinking you didn’t do it. You won’t look back & regret the things you did, only the things you didn’t do.”
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BAKING TIPS & TRICKS FROM ROSIE:
Use a cake leveler to slice off the top dome of your cake when making a layered cake. This will easily allow the layers to stack on top of one another.
To get the piñata candy filled center of a cake, simply use a smaller, round cookie cutter to remove the center of each layer sans the top layer. Stack those layers with the centers missing on top of one another, pour the candy in, & place the full top layer on to close up the cake.
Before applying your frosting to the outside & top of your cake, do a thinner layer of frosting all around the sides & top. This will act as a “crumb coat” to keep crumbs from appearing in the final frosting you apply.
To keep your cake from moving on the cake stand, put about 1 tsp worth of frosting in the center of the cake stand & place your first layer of cake on top of that. This will allow your cake to remain in place while you decorate it.
If you’d like to avoid any mess, especially when frosting is being used, on your cake stand put pieces of Saran Wrap around the edges of the stand, touching but not under the cake itself. This will catch all the frosting, sprinkles, candy, etc. that falls & can easily be removed once you’re ready to serve the cake!
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*Images via Shannan Leigh for Public Lives, Secret Recipes.
**Editing by Rob Lee.
***Thank you Microplane for sponsoring this post.