Sugarfina, the gourmet candy brand, recently opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Beverly Hills.

By starting online first, Sugarfina founder Rosie O’Neill and Josh Resnick debuted their brand with only $60,000 of bootstrapping investment. By the end of this year, they expect to hit about three quarters of a million dollars in revenue.

Sugarfina's brand is built around fancy, often imported, candies: some 40% of their offerings are exclusive to Sugarfina in the U.S.

Small tasting packets retail as low as $2.50; while “bento boxes” containing eight two-inch cubes filled with candy go for $60. A feature called “Kid in a Candy Store” offers a tasting packet of every candy in the store for $250.

O’Neill and Resnick spend a considerable amount of their time globetrotting in search of the next hit flavor (current favorites already include “champagne bears” and “pumpkin pie caramels”).

They are confectionary diplomats, seeking audiences with old and distinguished candy-making houses around the world. They have a partnership with the candy-maker for the Italian royal family; and the “Kyoto blossoms” they sell are “the same that the Imperial House of Japan serves to dignitaries and important guests,” says O’Neill.

Take A Look Inside Sugarfina's New Emporium For Exotic Candy Connoisseurs

The confectionary diplomats behind Sugarfina unveil a tasteful new shop for candies from all over the globe.

Sugarfina, the gourmet candy brand, recently opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Beverly Hills. "As far as we know," says cofounder Rosie O’Neill, "we’re the first sweets brand" to transfer an online presence into a brick-and-mortar one.

Rosie O’Neill

O’Neill—who founded Sugarfina with boyfriend Josh Resnick, and was named on of our Most Creative People in Business earlier this year—notes a trajectory that other companies, like Warby Parker, have followed: "from clicks to bricks," as she puts it. A retail location was always her and Resnick’s dream, but success online was needed to prove the concept. "Retail is very expensive to get into," says O’Neill. "It’s hard for new brands to do." But by starting online first, O’Neill and Resnick debuted their brand with only $60,000 of bootstrapping investment (by the end of this year, they expect to hit about three quarters of a million dollars in revenue.)

"We were able to test a lot of different candies, go through different iterations of packaging, and really fine-tune what the brand stood for. It was also a great way to drive a lot of awareness," she adds, noting that hundreds of people—many of them online fans—arrived to the store on day one in November.

O’Neill and Resnick hatched the idea for Sugarfina on their third date, after seeing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory al fresco in L.A. Both gourmands, they wondered why they could find fine wine, food, and even chocolate in abundance—and yet there was no similar place to go for the discerning candy connoisseur. They wound up building a brand around fancy, often imported, candies: some 40% of their offerings are exclusive to Sugarfina in the U.S.

They also wound up focusing on candy-as-gift. Small tasting packets retail as low as $2.50; gift boxes (complete with "tasting menus") go for $25, while "bento boxes" containing eight two-inch cubes filled with candy go for $60. A feature called "Kid in a Candy Store" offers a tasting packet of every candy in the store for $250; Sugarfina is currently working on a concept gift item that would be a giant acrylic steamer trunk filled entirely with candies. "That will probably be around $5,000," says O’Neill, who hopes to have the concept ready by Valentine’s Day for deep-pocketed lovebirds.

O’Neill and Resnick spend a considerable amount of their time globetrotting in search of the next hit flavor (current favorites already include "champagne bears" and "pumpkin pie caramels"). On a recent truffle-hunting excursion in the Piedmont region of Italy, the team stumbled upon a winery that also made candy on the side. "They barely spoke English," recalls O’Neill, who had trouble communicating exactly what she meant when she wanted to buy "a lot" of candy. "They thought we meant a few bags—when we really meant as much as we could carry on the plane that day."

They are confectionary diplomats, seeking audiences with old and distinguished candy-making houses around the world. They have a partnership with the candy-maker for the Italian royal family; and the "Kyoto blossoms" they sell are "the same that the Imperial House of Japan serves to dignitaries and important guests," says O’Neill. When she and Resnick travel to sample candy, they take it very seriously. "We treat it like a wine connoisseur does with wine," she says. They note the texture, aroma, appearance, mouth feel, finish, and tasting notes. "You can approach it as you would any fine food."

The pair recently returned from a trip to Morocco, Hong Kong, and Indonesia (where they found—and rejected—some "really bizarre, gross" candy derived from the notoriously smelly durian fruit), and they plan a trip to Japan soon. "We’re so European-centric in our sourcing right now," says Resnick. "It’s a big planet out there, and we want to broaden our reach."

Their plans go beyond terrestrial: the company plans to send the first gummy bear into space aboard the Virgin Galactic next year. And they don’t hesitate to pull cute publicity stunts; at a recent public screening of the Breaking Bad series finale, O’Neill and Resnick wore yellow hazmat suits and distributed blue rock candy to the 2,000 attendees.

If their lives seem like a dream, then surely there are at least occupational hazards to running a candy store. How many cavities have they developed since going into the sugar-slinging business, I ask? "Zero," says O’Neill. "The funny thing is, Josh and I have lost weight since we launched. We eat candy every day! But with high-quality gourmet candy, you’re satisfied with a small amount."

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5 Comments

  • Katey Windberg

    There is absolutley nothing creative about this store, i cant believe FC would even feature this company. its a generic luxury style candy store where they just emphasize on words such as "fancy" and "imports". and their kid in a candy store package, what kid would spend $250 for a mere 8lbs of candy! these people clearly saw the wrong Wonka movie, "candy connoisseur"? get a grip!

  • Andy Levitt

    $250 - $5,000 for candy gifts?! these people have no shame! and you consider a 60k investment "bootstrap"? thats a spit in the face to true, hustling and bustling entrepreneurs! society needs to wake up!!

  • Wallace Cane

    Just visited their webiste and WOW! what a rip off. $2.50 for just 1.15oz thats the equivalent to $35 for just ONE lb smh what ever happened to the honest old fashioned candy stores?? you know the ones that actually listened to the customer and not flaunt their luxury vehicles. this company is a prime example of whats wrong with this country and the way we support our true entrepreneurs.

  • Stacey Noah

    I couldn't agree more. Im appalled to see that us, as american citizens continue to support these extemely wealthy individuals, funding their hobby ventures. Is this not the same Josh Resnick whose company was bought out for $860 MILLION! and what nerve do these people have to state that they "bootstrapped" their businnes with "ONLY $60,000" the audacity is truly sickening. Im all for entrepreneurship and pursuing the american dream but be honest with how you approach your consumers, as pointed out earlier, let us end the tyraid of the trust fund hobbyist!

  • Silence Dogood

    what a joke another case of the 1% trust fund hobbyist looking to do something with their monopoly money. $60 for eight squares at a total of less than 2lb?? over $30 for just one pound of candy! its disgusting.