Searching on Etsy I just about squealed when I found this delightful duo, Andie and Jason, selling creative candy and sweets in all sorts of whimsical shapes and lifelike colours. Andie’s Specialty Sweets is the kind of shop which stands out from the crowd, not just for beautiful photography and simple styling but because it’s a unique and exciting product which speaks to our desire to buy artisan-made products.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
I (Andie) started attending art school right out of high school. But I was quickly presented a job offer as Art Director of a small, handcrafted and innovative snowboard manufacturing company. I dropped school for the real-life education/experience, and it proved invaluable. The company had a small cult-like following and developed lines for larger, more commercial, snowboard companies.
I had no idea at the time that everything – from the skills I learned to the structure of the company itself, and the struggles and successes of being small and handcrafted – would one day serve as a resource for the direction of our business today.
From there I worked for several years as a photo-realistic airbrush artist, servicing record labels, and producing replicas of album covers, up to 24’ x 24’.These billboards were installed mostly on Sunset Blvd. at night clubs, street corners and major record stores.
When the ability to create large-scale digital replicas became more affordable, acing me out of a job, I began my own interior mural and decorative finishes business, including some restoration projects. One of these exciting restoration projects was on a cabinet from the 1400s Ming Dynasty.
It was during this time that Jason and I met. Jason had a business background and was running a successful pool and spa maintenance company. He also had an artistic ability and great eye for detail that had been set on a “shelf.” We married, and at 9 months pregnant with our first child, I retired from scaffolding and painting on my back, to relish the fleeting joys of motherhood.
At the birth of our fourth child, I listed a couple of sugar-crafted flowers on Etsy, during the kid’s naptime. I had acquired some culinary skills from my Dad, and had the privilege of creating a few wedding cakes for family and friends. Entertaining and making life special through culinary/pastry art had been one of my new outlets for artistic expression.
The most I thought that could come from those listings, and the most I aspired to at the time, was a little extra Christmas spending cash.
A little over one year later, and after the introduction of our Candy Vintage Buttons and Candy Gears, Jason sold his business and we took the plunge together, focusing both our attention and energy on the specialty sweets business.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
We’ve developed our own unique recipe and some trade secrets unique to the industry. But most monumental, we have discovered a way to scale our business, which appears to be limited in its growth capacity.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
We’ve had many amazing moments, most of which have taken us off guard.
To recall a few: collaborations with Martha Stewart Weddings, many special request from magazines and features in some of the most desirable blogs and publications, a place at the Martha Stewart Weddings Annual Bridal Market Party, unexpected and very large orders from international dignitaries, named Martha Stewart’s top D.I.Y. resource for edible art, our Chocolate-Filled Sea Shells featured in The New York Times (holiday gift guide 2013), several Etsy features, and our Buttons being one of the top selling items in the Martha Stewart American Made store.
Each time we are humbled and grateful, but rather than feeling like we have “scored,” we are more like spectators of a well-written, unfolding story, which is extremely entertaining but unpredictable.
We’re anticipating a climax, but expect we’ll be taken by surprise.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
We’ve never been in doubt about our creative direction, just highly pensive. We’ve also been thankful we haven’t made any decisions in haste. Our ability and the time seem to converge just when needed.
We’re always on our toes, looking for that pull-the-trigger moment when one must act upon opportunity. But we know that every business has its restrictions.
It is rare for a business to have infinite resources and time.
The object is to keep your goals always before you, make adjustments when doors close or unforeseen doors open, and be thankful for what you’re getting to do today, and do it well.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
Our ideas are as many as there are things in the world. For us, it’s choosing what will best translate to candy, and what will have a timeless appeal –trends that have lasting power.
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
Our goal is to indeed have balance in our life, but we will be the first to admit, we are not successful at a “balanced life” at this junction in our business. At present, a concentrated focus on our business is what is required, which will lead to greater balance in the future. Meanwhile, the sacrifices and adventures today are knitting us together as a family.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
We have not yet paid for customer acquisition. But we do record and keep a customer list.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Focus on continually developing your craft and never get comfortable with your skill level or high-minded.
We have also known that if we focused on the depth and integrity of our work, the breadth would follow. We have seen evidence of this in a word-of-mouth, acquired customer and in the % of repeat business we are privileged to serve.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It’s too much to divulge and a little top secret. But, in a nutshell: more refined and greater capacity.
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