From Candy Aisle To Corner Office: Sugarwish Founders On Un-Commoditizing A Category

From Candy Aisle To Corner Office:

Sugarwish Founders On Un-Commodotizing A Category

Corporate gifting can be pretty uninspiring at times, as gift cards and flower arrangements can feel a bit generic. Knowing this experience all too well, Denver entrepreneurs (and moms) Elisabeth Vezzani and Leslie Lyon decided to shake up the pretty bland gifting game by creating Sugarwish, a new sweet startup which allows customers to send birthday, holiday, and corporate treats. And unlike most gifting models, Sugarwish allows consumers to choose exactly what kind of candy (think gummy bears, Sour Patch Kids, and Jolly Ranchers!) they want, giving them complete control and personalization over the gifting process. “What makes Sugarwish unique is that it basically flips the gifting model, allowing the recipient to choose what they want,” says Sugarwish co-founder Leslie Lyon.

A Sugarwish gift box

Sugarwish started off as a conversation between Lyon and Vezzani about the lack of clever gifts that existed on the market. Elisabeth Vezzani was tired of sending generic gift cards to her clients, and was searching for gifts that were more fun and customizable. She then teamed up Lyon, who would often reminisce about the fun she would have on her work breaks visiting candy shops. Both women were convinced there had to be a way to create a gift that was easy to give and fun to receive. The duo immediately settled on candy, as they both agreed it was celebratory and a fun item anyone can enjoy.  

“Personalization is the cornerstone of our business and is what we do best. By letting the recipient choose what they want, we are absolutely certain they will love what they get.”

After the basic idea of Sugarwish was conceived, both Vezzani and Lyon had a lot of decisions to make regarding its early stages. Deciding on the company logo, product packaging, and designing the website were some of the challenges the duo faced, especially since existing ecommerce platforms would not allow for the “receiver picks” aspect of the business.

However, both women felt Sugarwish had huge potential, even if that meant making meaningful mistakes along the way. Mistakes are part of the growth process of any business and can be the quickest way to identify problems and make progress in the right direction,” adds Vezzani. “The real concern should not be about making mistakes, but rather, the loss of momentum, due to the fear of making mistakes. Fear of making mistakes and the resulting indecision can do much more harm than a few bad choices made in the spirit of progress and moving forward. So we try hard to keep choosing — and keep moving.”

Thankfully, Sugarwish didn’t face too many bumps in the road as the business grew faster than both women expected. Although they were anticipating bit of a ramp period along the way, Sugarwish didn’t exactly experience one, making it a whoa-to-go from day one.

Lyon and Vezzani note that Sugarwish was self-funded for the first few years, which they believed had enormous value. Doing so forced the duo to prioritize constantly, as they didn’t have the money to do everything they wanted to do. Shortly after going through a startup accelerator in Boulder, they met individuals interested in investing, which allowed the duo to move their business to the next level.

Over the past year, Vezzani and Lyon state that the company’s tremendous growth was caused by the significant increase in corporate business. And by carefully and cleverly scoping out the gifting competition, they were successfully able to perfect the gifting platform in just 18 months.

Although Sugarwish has been an exciting journey in entrepreneurship, balancing motherhood with the business is an obstacle both Vezzani and Lyon face. “Balancing motherhood—and, quite frankly, everything else that is not Sugarwish—is definitely one of our biggest challenges,” says Lyon. “Over the years we’ve established a few ground rules for ourselves to help decide what can be done versus what needs to be done, but we can’t say we have mastered this skill. It is still a work in progress for us.”

Founders of Sugarwish, Elisabeth Vezzani and Leslie Lyon

Earlier this year the company introduced a new Sweet Shoppe gift, which is sure to become the new luxurious candybar every company has dreamt of experiencing. In addition, expect to see more product lines from Sugarwish later this year, as both Lyon and Vezzani are constantly brainstorming new ideas.

“As far is what is next for us—we are planning to add more product lines to Sugarwish,” says Vezzani. “Our customers love the receiver picks aspect of our gifts, and we are confident that this concept can be successfully applied to many other products as well. We are currently in the process of deciding what our next product line will be, so stay tuned.”

“You’ll probably hear this comparison a lot, but starting your own business is very much like having a child, as it is awesome, wonderful, stressful and scary. It will take all you’ve got to give (and then some). So just be sure you know what you are getting into—and then go for it.” – Lyon

"Sugarwish allows consumers to choose exactly what kind of candy they want (think gummy bears, Sour Patch Kids, and Jolly Ranchers)"

Vezzani’s Quick Ten 

1. What app do you most use?


2. Briefly describe your morning routine:

Up slowly, but then…At ’em

3. Name A Business Mogul You Admire!

My Co-Founder, Leslie—the heart and soul of Sugarwish.

Not yet a mogul, but we are working hard to make her one

4. What product do you wish you had invented? 

Spell Check

5. What is your spirit animal?

            A Saint Bernard           

6. What Is Your Life Motto?

Good things happen to those who hustle—with purpose

7. Name your favorite workday snack:

Whatever’s within arm’s reach—and like 80 cups of tea.

8. Every Entrepreneur (you pick one, then fill in the blank) must be _to be successful

Gritty to be successful

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

10. Desert Island. Three things, go!

Water, water, iPhone

Courtney Leiva

Courtney Leiva is a lifestyle and beauty writer who has contributed to Refinery29, Women's Health, NewBeauty, Byrdie and When she's not writing, she's usually found experimenting with new gluten-free recipes that pop in her head. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @misscourtneysays!

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