Sweet Success

Cupcakes anyone?

If your answer to that question isn’t an immediate yes… we might have to rethink our relationship.

I rarely turn down a baked good. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. And in the early to mid 2000s cupcakes became a thing. Like it’s called the “cupcake craze“. And it started because of Sprinkles. A boutique cupcake bakery founded by Candace Nelson (and her husband) in 2005. In the almost 20 years since Candace has learned a lot about being an entrepreneur and luckily for us she has published a book sharing her recipe.

Sweet Success (available now) is loaded with her playful spirit and is completely transparent about the work that goes into founding a business. I was lucky enough to attend a fire side chat with Candace at 1871 Chicago and, even before diving into the book as soon as I got home, I gleaned plenty of inspiration from the discussion.

Candace’s career background was Investment Banking. Basically the opposite of baking. But she had a passion for baking, she knew it made people happy and when she got dealt a pink slip she took the opportunity to reevaluate her life’s work.

Instead of going to business school she went to pastry school and honed her craft.

And she had a spouse who said “I believe in you” when she shared the idea of a cupcake bakery. And together they worked to bring Sprinkles to life.

When the floor opened for questions someone asked what a lot of us were thinking… “Tell us about working with husband. What were the challenges? The advantages?”

The room collectively giggled and so did Candace. She then shared that she and Charles met working together at investment banking. “I knew we had the same work ethic, sense of humor and we had complimentary skill sets.” There were definitely challenges and frustrations but she felt that being “Aligned in life and work was a beautiful thing”.

And she closed by saying “Learn how to argue well – you’ll be fine.”

Candace fondly remembered the early stages and valued the process. She started by delivering cupcakes to friends who were having parties… for free. She got a few pity purchases but it didn’t take long before she was getting orders and she couldn’t trace how that person knew her. She knew in her bones it’d be big. She envisioned it as a national brand.

And she understood that cupcakes in and of themselves weren’t exactly special or revolutionary and knew that her modern, elevated approach to a delicious baked good needed the backing of a strong story and brand. Oddly enough her cupcakes aren’t known by their sprinkles. They’re known for the dot.

It’s trademarked.

The branding brings together the fun and playfulness of cupcakes with her jewelry store style storefronts. People continue to be attracted to the brand’s fun vibes.

Candace also openly talked about moving on from Sprinkles. She still serves on the board but she is no longer involved in the daily operations. Candace says she’s “more of a founder than an operator.” And then reflected on the journey her mindset has taken alongside the business.

“For so long I looked for my “one thing” but struggled because I had many interests and liked a lot of things. Over time I’ve learned that not knowing my thing is kind of my superpower. I believe in pivoting and reinvention. I’m a lot of things. I’m multifaceted.”

And boy is she ever. Candace is now involved in another restaurant start-up Pizzana, she’s producing Sugar Rush on Netflix. Sweet Success is her second book (her cookbook was released in 2016). She is a wife and parent too. (Her son Charlie was three when they opened Sprinkles Chicago and came with her and her husband while they got the store up and running.)

When asked about work/life balance she said this, “Balance happens over time – not in a day. When you’re building or pushing a product into the world it does require extra hours, extra effort. During those times prioritize sleep!”

So while I’m tempted to stay up all night reading Sweet Success, I’ll take the girl’s advice and stick to my bedtime.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


fun emails every

from the



Where to Next?