From Candy Aisle To Corner Office: Sugarwish Founders On Un-Commoditizing 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)"

3 min read

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get the advice you need!

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.


Dear Sadsies,

I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.

I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!

- The Armchair Psychologist

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