Self-Made: Interview with Leslie Lyon & Elisabeth Vezzani, Co-Founders of Sugarwish

In our second installment of Self-Made, we’ll be covering Leslie Lyon and Elisabeth Vezzani, co-founders of the wildly popular candy gift delivery startup, Sugarwish. Both Vezzani and Lyon came from corporate backgrounds where they noticed a major gap in the corporate gift market for fun, thoughtful, easy-to-send gifts. It was then they came up with a simple yet universally loved concept: personalized, automated candy delivery.

Unlike most gifting services, Sugarwish allows the receiver to personalize their candy and enter their own shipping information, so you simply purchase the gift, it sends an e-card to the recipient and they select their own candy and free delivery. This automates the process and makes it easy for both the sender and the recipient. There’s no doubt their innovative, personalized take on candy delivery set them apart from other gifting services.

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We got the chance to gain insight from Leslie and Elisabeth on how they got started, their best advice for entrepreneurs, and what’s to come for Sugarwish. Here’s what they had to say:

What inspired you to start your own business?

Sugarwish actually started as a conversation about a lack of clever gifts.  We were 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.  Our conversation turned into a meeting…and then into several (hundred) meetings. We just knew that Sugarwish had huge potential and we both felt compelled to make it happen.  So we created a website, set ourselves up as an official “company”, and (fast forward)… grew into a booming business.

What was the most difficult part about starting your business?

Our biggest challenge when we started was that we introduced a completely new concept, and then we had to custom build the functionality to make it work. There was no example to look at to see the path ahead. Today, our challenge lies in the balance of running the company’s day-to-day operations while also strategically planning for its growth.  We have definitely grown faster than expected, so we have to force ourselves out of daily tasks and push ourselves to spend time planning for the next phase —because it’s coming whether we are ready or not.

What were the best strategies you used for getting through difficult times while building your business?

The best strategy for dealing with tough times has been realizing that setbacks are part of the process and sometimes failures are the best way to make progress in the right direction.  We have had great forward momentum throughout this entire journey.  But with momentum and quick growth, comes skinned knees.  We’ve had to come to terms with that, and learn to see the setbacks and failures are our friends (or at least acquaintances). We are breaking new ground and it can be messy…And that’s o.k.

“We are breaking new ground and it can be messy…And that’s o.k.”

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

If you have a concept you are really excited about—you just have to go for it.  There is never a “right” time, and life will get in the way if you let it. Once you decide that you are “in”— be sure to pace yourself.  If all goes the way you hope—you’ll be in it for a long time. (Think Marathon — not Sprint.)

Most importantly, no matter how busy and hectic it gets, make sure you are enjoying the ride.  It is easier said than done—but celebrate the little victories.  Your business might make it and it might not—so be sure you are not waiting for the “big prize” at the end. There is no way to know if there will be one. And regardless if your idea makes it to the big time, there will be many precious moments and smaller prizes along the way—so make sure you notice and enjoy them.

“Most importantly, no matter how busy and hectic it gets, make sure you are enjoying the ride.  It is easier said than done—but celebrate the little victories.  Your business might make it and it might not—so be sure you are not waiting for the “big prize” at the end.”

What are your top 3 favorite business books?

See You at The Top by Zig Ziglar
LEAPFROG by Nathalie Molina Niño
The Start Up Playbook by Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman

Are there any other business resources you recommend?

Same as above!

What is up-and-coming for Sugarwish?

Sugarwish is in the Happiness business. It’s at the core of everything we’ve done and everything we’ll do in the future!  We are continually developing ways to “up our game’, to make gifting even more delightful, more fun and more memorable. 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.

We’ve also put an enormous amount of time and energy into making our corporate gifting platform seamless, customizable and just plain awesome. We now have thousands of companies who use Sugarwish to motivate and congratulate their employees, thank their customers, and celebrate their partners each and every day.

And last but not least, our new (super exciting) product this year is our Sugarwish POP-UP Sweet Shoppe. It comes in 2 sizes (Large and Extra-Large!) and arrives with 6 delicious candy types, an adorable scoop and 50-100 red and white striped treat bags. It is quickly becoming one of our top sellers—which we can’t say is any surprise. We are obsessed with our Sweet Shoppes and have them delivered to every event we go to. Let’s just say that no one regrets inviting us to a party!

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