It all started as a conversation about a lack of clever gifts. The founders Elisabeth Vezzani and Leslie Lyon were two busy moms, convinced that there had to be a way to create a gift that was easy to give, fun to receive and would be both thoughtful and unique. Elisabeth and Leslie were tired of giving the same impersonal gift cards and gift certificates to celebrate every occasion. It began to feel like gift-giving had become this empty ritual of handing cash (cards) back and forth. The Challenge was to think of a new way to give a gift that would bring “thoughtfulness” back to giving. It needed to be more fun for the receiver, without making more work for the giver.
Their conversation turned into a meeting… and then into several (hundred) meetings. Elisabeth Vezzani and Leslie Lyon just knew that Sugarwish had huge potential and they both felt compelled to make it happen. So Elisabeth Vezzani and Leslie Lyon created a website, set themselves up as an official “company”, and (fast forward)… grew into a booming business.
Sugarwish is in the Happiness business. It’s at the core of everything they’ve done and everything they’ll do in the future! Sugarwish is continually developing ways to “up their game’, to make gifting even more delightful, more fun and more memorable. They recently made it possible for Sugarwishes to be gifted using the social APP of your choice. So in addition to sending Sugarwishes via eCards, they can be sent via Text, Slack, Facebook, and Snapchat. So basically, if you can use it to send an emoji—you can use it to send a Sugarwish.
Sugarwish also put an enormous amount of time and energy into making their corporate gifting platform seamless, customizable and just plain awesome. Sugarwish now has thousands of companies who use Sugarwish to motivate and congratulate their employees, thank their customers, and celebrate their partners each and every day.
Tell us what makes Sugarwish so special from all the other candy gift businesses?
What makes Sugarwish unique is that it flips the traditional gifting model–allowing the recipient to choose what they want. We have also created a super fun interactive selection process that delivers that “kid in a candy store” feeling from virtually anywhere. This has really helped us to gain both recognition, and a rapidly growing customer base. By letting the recipient choose what they want we are absolutely certain they will love what they get!
We’ve recently made it possible for Sugarwishes to be gifted using the social APP of your choice. So in addition to sending Sugarwishes via eCards, they can be sent via Text, Slack, Facebook, and Snapchat. So basically, if you can use it to send an emoji—you can use it to send a Sugarwish.:)
You have clients like Google, Hyatt, Southwest Airlines. Tell us did they approach you or did you approach them?
The majority of our corporate clients have found us. In most cases they receive a Sugarwish from someone– and after having the Sugarwish experience themselves, decide to use us as a gifting solution for their company. Sugarwish has experienced tremendous growth over this past year and the majority of the growth can be attributed to a significant increase in our corporate business. It’s funny because when we first started Sugarwish, we had no idea how truly antiquated corporate gifting was. When our existing consumer customers began sending Sugarwishes for their businesses, we took a closer look at the competition (or really –the lack of competition), and saw a huge opportunity. We’ve put an enormous amount of time and energy into making our corporate gifting platform seamless, customizable and just plain awesome. We now have a ton of companies who use Sugarwish to motivate and congratulate their employees, thank their customers, and celebrate their colleagues each and every day. We anticipate even greater growth this upcoming year as we are finding that companies are not just using Sugarwish for “gifts” but for sales strategy, marketing and customer satisfaction initiatives as well.
To what do you attribute your success and how do you define success?
Defining success for us is pretty simple. If you set a goal and you reach it—ta-da—success is yours. In our case, we set out with the ultimate goal of making people happy and having fun doing it. We are super lucky because we really feel like we are living our success each and every day.
We attribute the success of Sugarwish, as a business, to the overall concept of allowing the recipient to pick their favorites (from an interactive online candy store!) We also feel confident that the simplicity of our buying process has helped, as well. Since all that is needed to send a Sugarwish is a person’s email, phone number or a link to them on social media—(and the recipient make the final gift selections and enters the shipping address themselves!), any gift giving barriers are pretty much erased.
What sacrifices have you both had to make to start a business?
The biggest sacrifices we have had to make probably sleep, family time …and really just about anything in our lives that does not involve Sugarwish. It can be all-consuming but like most entrepreneurs, we love our business like it is our child and the reason we devote so much of our time and energy to it is because we really do believe in it and we want to see it grow and continue to be successful.
Starting a business needs investment, what was yours?
We were self-funded for the first few years – which we both believe had enormous value. It forced us to clarify our priorities constantly because we did not have the money available to do everything that we wanted to do. After going through a start-up accelerator in Boulder, we met some individuals interested in investing. The timing was right for us to move our business to the next level, so we took a few investors at that point.
What are your Sugarwish’s goals currently? As in vision and mission.
Deliver Sweet Happiness…
How do you get unstuck creatively?
Luckily, this has not been an issue for us. Both of us could literally spend all of our time on the creative part of the business. So the bigger issue for us has much more to do with reining in the creative impulses so we can get the business of running Sugarwish done.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
There are a lot of great things about being an entrepreneur, but for us it’s the freedom that we have to make decisions and create a business that truly reflects our own vision. To create something big from a small idea, and then to be able continue to shape it as it grows so that it matches our vision (even if that vision changes) is an incredible feeling. There are many tough aspects of entrepreneurship –but knowing that you are in the drivers seat creating your own “dream come true”–is incredibly empowering and is probably the reason so many people choose this very unpredictable and challenging road.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
We have been really lucky in that we haven’t had any notable failures in our journey so far but we have had our share of smaller mistakes (or “course correctors” as we like to call them). These little “correctors” might be painful or costly—but they always come with a valuable lesson that is usually worth more than whatever was lost. So we really attempt to get the value out of each error and then just proceed in an upward direction.
Inaction (or loss of momentum) can be much more dangerous to a start-up than making mistakes. Inaction (due to the fear failing) can be the end of a start-up while mistakes can be an important part of the growth process of any business and can be the quickest way to identify problems and make progress in the right direction. The real concern should not be about failures or making mistakes, but rather, the loss of momentum, due to the fear of making mistakes. So we try hard to keep choosing and keep moving.
If you had one piece of advice to our readers to those just starting out as a business owner, what would it be?
There is no finish line. Make sure you enjoy the ride.