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

Tempted To Dial Your Ex: 5 Ways To Know Whether Or Not You Should Contact An Old Flame

Thinking of ringing up your ex during these uncertain times? Maybe you want an excuse to contact your ex, or maybe you genuinely feel the need to connect with someone on an emotional level. As a matchmaker and relationship expert, I was surprised at the start of the coronavirus quarantine when friends were telling me that they were contacting their exes! But as social distancing has grown to be more than a short-term situation, we must avoid seeking short-term solutions—and resist the urge to dial an ex.

It stands to reason that you would contact an ex for support. After all, who knows you and your fears better than an ex? This all translates into someone who you think can provide comfort and support. As a matchmaker, I already know that people can spark and ignite relationships virtually that can lead to offline love, but lonely singles didn't necessarily believe this or understand this initially, which drives them straight back to a familiar ex. You only need to tune into Love Is Blind to test this theory or look to Dina Lohan and her virtual boyfriend.

At the start of lockdown, singles were already feeling lonely. There were studies that said as much as 3 out of 4 people were lonely, and that was before lockdown. Singles were worried that dating someone was going to be off limits for a very long time. Now when you factor in a widespread pandemic and the psychological impact that hits when you have to be in isolation and can't see anyone but your takeout delivery person, we end up understanding this urge to contact an ex.

So, what should you do if you are tempted to ring up an old flame? How do you know if it's the wrong thing or the right thing to do in a time like this? Check out a few of my points before deciding on picking up that phone to text, much less call an ex.

Before You Dial The Ex...

First, you need to phone a friend! It's the person that got you through this breakup to begin with. Let them remind you of the good, the bad and the ugly before taking this first step and risk getting sucked back in.

What was the reason for your breakup? As I mentioned before, you could get sucked back in… but that might not be a bad thing. It depends; when you phoned that friend to remind you, did she remind you of good or bad things during the breakup? It's possible that you both just had to take jobs in different cities, and the breakup wasn't due to a problem in the relationship. Have these problems resolved if there were issues?

You want to come from a good place of reflection and not let bad habits make the choice for you.

Depending on the reason for the breakup, set your boundaries for how much contact beforehand. If there was abuse or toxic behaviors in the relationship, don't even go there. You can't afford to repeat this relationship again.

If you know you shouldn't be contacting this ex but feel lonely, set up a support system ahead of time. Set up activities or things to fall back on to resist the urge. Maybe you phone a different friend, join a virtual happy hour for singles, or binge watch Netflix. Anything else is acceptable, but don't phone that ex.

Write down your reasons for wanting to contact the ex. Ask yourself if this is worth the pain. Are you flea-bagging again, or is there a friendship to be had, which will provide you with genuine comfort? If it's the latter, it's okay to go there. If it's an excuse to go back together and make contact, don't.

Decide how far you are willing to take the relationship this time, without it being a rinse and repeat. If you broke up for reasons beyond your control, it's okay. If your ex was a serial cheater, phone a friend instead.

If there was abuse or toxic behaviors in the relationship, don't even go there. You can't afford to repeat this relationship again.

As life returns to a more normal state and you adjust to the new normal, we will slowly begin to notice more balance in our lives. You want to come from a good place of reflection and not let bad habits make the choice for you. Some do's and don'ts for this time would be:

  • Do: exercise ⁠— taking care of you is important during this time. It's self-care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Do: shower, brush your teeth, and get out of your sweats.
  • Don't: be a couch potato.
  • Don't: drink or eat excessively during this time. Again, remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Do: think positive thoughts everyday and write down the 3 things you are grateful for. Look at the impact of John Krasinksi's SGN. It's uplifting and when you feel good, you won't want to slide backwards.
  • Don't: contact a toxic ex. It's a backward move in a moment of uncertainty that could have a long term impact. Why continue flea bagging yourself?