Since its launch in 2005, candy nelson‘s Sprinkles Cupcakes had a celebrity following after counting everyone from Oprah Winfreyat Katie Holmes (who helped put them on the map) and client-turned-friend Reese Witherspoon. The Revenge of a Blonde star praises serial entrepreneur on the back of her new book Sweet Success, but has also shared many tips with Candace over the years. “[Reese taught me] embrace ambition as a business and not consider it a bad word. And go for it as a woman,” Candace said HollywoodLife in an EXCLUSIVE interview. “And, own it,” she added.
“The other thing is just to support other women around you… give it back to the ones that are coming up and the women in your life that are doing things and making things happen. Two of the many things she inspired [me on],” the former sugar rush executive producer and judge added advice from her Oscar-winning friend.
Entrepreneurship was not on the cards for Nelson as a youngster, especially with a corporate lawyer father. “In other words, risk aversion,” she notes. “There weren’t many role models in my life for entrepreneurship, and not female entrepreneurship…there was probably a whisper of inspiration when I got my first cookie from Mrs. Fields. I still remember someone bringing one home from the mall…it was so incredulous that something so delicious ever existed created by a woman,” she recalled, referring to a colleague entrepreneur. Debbi Fields. Like her father, Candace initially followed a traditional career path – albeit in banking, not law – but ended up in baking school after 9/11 and the dot-com crash of the years 2000. While planning his own wedding around the same time, Nelson took note of the cupcake tier trend – sparking the idea that America’s favorite dessert could use some sort of “upgrade” .
“I wanted to do something artistic after baking school, but something that people could possibly eat on a daily basis…[cupcakes] are innately American, it’s something our country loves – we have wonderful nostalgic memories of it,” she says. “So we gave it a complete makeover and it was from the inside out starting with the techniques, the ingredients, the quality of the ingredients, their freshness and reinventing the look. I wanted to create the modern cupcake… I looked to make it more sophisticated to appeal to adults, but I didn’t want to lose the playfulness,” she explains. Her and her husband chris nelson opened the first Sprinkles location in Beverly Hills in 2005, eventually becoming a national chain.
The book is something of a guide to taking a recipe and turning it “into profit,” according to the cover — but Candace reflects on several milestones along the way, including a “pivotal moment” involving Oprah. “Harpo Studios called and it was around the time people were calling on the phone…he was a producer from the Oprah Winfrey Show and she said, “Oprah loves your cupcakes,” Candace recalled to HL. “I just remember thinking I was being had right now?” There’s still no one like Oprah in terms of the power she had with this show…Having Oprah talk about your product on her show was the pinnacle for a business owner or someone marketing a product,” said she recalled, adding that she had to complete the daunting task of finishing 350 cupcakes overnight and bring them to Chicago.
“I said no problem, we’ll get through it,” Candace said. “It was a slow day in January and I was like ‘okay, turn on the ovens’ and we baked these 350 cupcakes, booked a red eye, got them all on the plane…we were a global brand of the overnight and we had one place.
As well as starting arguably the most pioneering bakery of the 2000s, Candace went on to make her television debut on cupcake wars in 2009, executive produced and appeared on sugar rush and also launched the successful pizza business Pizzana. The Wesleyan University alum co-founded the latter with her husband, which has three locations in Los Angeles and one soon to open in Dallas in addition to selling frozen pies online. She says building her own brands and mentoring other women in business is what ultimately inspired her to write her new book.
“[Sweet Success] came from a very genuine place where a lot of female founders reached out to me for advice and I mentored a few on the side. And I started investing in female and mostly underrepresented businesses,” she explained. “COVID gave me an opportunity as the restaurant was not open and it gave me a little time to sit down and reflect and write about the amazing journey I have been on and the lessons I have learned to reach a larger audience. Only so many hours in the day. I think it’s just about seeing how much power women have and how many of them don’t realize it.
As for plans to return on camera, Candace says never say never. “I just co-created and produced [Best In Dough] for my partner at Pizzana, Daniele Uditi, on Hulu. It’s a pizza version of cupcake warsshe says of one of her many ongoing projects. “As for my return to the camera – I’m always open to that, but maybe it could be in the vein of a business or entrepreneurship show instead of a baking show!”
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Sprinkles’ Candace Nelson on Reese Witherspoon’s Advice: Interview – Hollywood Life E! News UK