What It's About
A veteran embraces her unique challenges and creates a sweet side hustle.
Words of Wisdom
When I started my company I made sure that I had a cushion. I never took out a loan and never spent more money than I could afford. That is one of the most important things! Of course when I first started my business it was a true side hustle and I had to occasionally use my income from my regular job to cover expenses.
65% of the American candy brands have been around for more than five decades. With that sort of longevity many brands are incredibly well known and have a big market share. However, with the market for candy in the USA approaching $20 billion there is plenty of room for side hustlers and smaller players to make their mark.
Notes from Chris
Episode 702Ellen Laguatan worked in the military for 30 years. Throughout her service she held many positions, including maintaining F-16 fighter jets, as well as working in computer and radio maintenance. She loved her work. At work, Ellen kept a candy jar on her desk... and she had to have that candy arranged in a certain way. Otherwise, she couldn’t eat it. What appeared as a peculiar quirk to most people, was actually a severe condition to her. You see, Ellen has OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a mental illness that affects 2.2 million Americans. It’s characterized by having unwanted and repetitive thoughts, urges, or images that don’t go away. The famous example is of someone washing their hands over and over again, despite them already being clean. Early on, Ellen’s coworkers would mix up her candy jar not realizing how negative the consequences could be. But, gradually they learned this was a real problem for her and made efforts not to disrupt her. One day, Ellen was away from her desk a new colleague took some candy and unwittingly rearranged the whole jar. When she returned to her desk the OCD took over. (She says he just didn’t know and he’s now a good friend.) She spent the whole afternoon rearranging the candy jar using her specific counts and OCD traits. She wasn’t able to leave for the day until it was done. While rearranging the candy Ellen thought… “I shouldn’t have to do this. I’m not the only person who eats their candy this way, I know I’m not. There should be an OCD Candy Company for people like me!" The idea stuck in Ellen’s head like taffy. Fast forward a bit and Ellen’s retirement is now coming up. But she wasn’t sour patch about it. In fact, she was looking forward to trying something new. When the opportunity arrived for Ellen to open a small storefront, she went for it. In this, she would stock lollipops, sweets, books and accessories as well as her specially OCD packed candy. The total cost of setting everything up was $6,450. This cost included her initial candy products, deposit, and rent as well as packaging for the original batches. Over the next two years Ellen noticed that the candy in her store seemed to be the best sellers so she decided to double down and transition into a full-on candy shop called, The OCD Candy Company. Ellen actually received some negative feedback about the name and considered calling it The Organized Candy Company instead, but decided against it. Some people may be offended, but many others will visit the store because of the name and Ellen is happy with that trade-off. It means she can help more people by providing them candy they can eat. If she was going to run a traditional candy store, she would need to increase her range. While her specialty was the OCD candy products she had created, lots of potential customers would just want typical candy. So she began carrying a broad range including vegan, sugar-free, gluten free, nut free and even soy free candy of all different flavors. The nature of retail means that her profits fluctuate a lot. There are some really great days where Ellen might sell hundreds of dollars worth of candy, and some really bad days where she may sell nothing. On average she makes about $1,750 a month in profit. She keeps a close eye on her monthly expenses and knows how much she needs to make each week to turn a profit. While it’s great that she makes some side income doing this, for Ellen, the real reward has been being able to help other OCD sufferers. One of the things she noticed a few months after launching was parents, teachers and carers of autistic children coming to buy her candy. Through their visits, she discovered her candy helps autistic kids suffering with OCD tendencies enjoy candy like everyone else. With that knowledge, she decided to take a portion of each sale and donate it to charities for children with autism. The people in her target market return again and again. When they come into the store with these requests they aren’t laughed at, judged or looked down on. Ellen understands them and, through her candy company, helps them.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- OCD Candy Company: Check out Ellen's sweet offerings over on her website.
- Candy Heart Hustle Becomes Six-Figure Second Income: After being unable to find branded candy hearts for a client, a marketing executive decides to create her own.
- Subscription Box Service Delivers Candy From Japan: An expat living in Japan packages candy twice a month and sends it around the world to hundreds of people who pay $29/month.
- Brooklyn App Developer Spins All-Natural Cotton Candy: A mobile app developer gets nostalgic and creates an all-natural cotton candy catering biz.
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