Meet the powerhouse behind Art of Sucre, Emily Harpel. Emily started Art of Sucre in 2016 when she noticed there was a hole in the market for a chic twist on a nostalgic treat. Emily took to TikTok in 2020 growing her following to 1.2M followers, partnering with brands like American Girl, 818 Tequila, and Barbie, while growing her team from a one woman show to 20 employees.
Hi, Emily. Welcome to the show. I am so excited to have you here. Please tell us who you are, where you’re from and what is Art of Sucre?
Yeah, thank you so much for having me on. And the being in Ohio part is spot on, which is so funny because people get really confused when they find out that our brand is from the Midwest.
They automatically always think one of the coast, New York or LA, but that’s I love Ohio. Me too. It gets a lot of hate, but I do live here intentionally. I promise. But yeah, I own Art of Sucra, which is a luxury cotton candy company. We used to do events and we’ve since transitioned into the world of CPG, where we ship our cotton candy and our cotton candy glitter bombs, quite literally all over the world.
How on earth did you go from like, literally physically spinning cotton candy and handing them to 12 year olds or wedding guests and then packaging and making that formula and figuring that out?
What’s so ironic about all of this and where we are now is that for years and years and years, when I did events, people asked me like, Oh, is your plan to package this? Like, do you ever want to open an in person store or an online store? And my answer was always like, vehemently, no, I will never package cotton candy.
I’m never going that route. And now I just have to really laugh at myself because. How naive here we are today. Um, but yeah, it really just kind of became this light bulb moment in the event space during COVID. We were told, you know, two weeks and then it was four weeks and then it had been a couple of months.
Oh boy, like what, what do we do now? And so I always tease that, um, my kind of the next thought process was maybe I should go get a real job. You know, maybe I should not just spin cotton candy for a living and figure something out, but it really just went off like a light bulb one day. And I was like, I need to package this.
I have a really unique concept. It goes over so well. I need to figure out a way to get this in the hands of anybody and everybody that. Once it, and my original thought was to kind of just make the business both, it was going to be events and packaging. And very quickly the packaging just completely overtook and we don’t even do events anymore.
Okay. So what is the unique concept? What is unique about it? Is it the flavors? Is it the bombs? What’s unique? Is it everything?
It’s kind of everything, right? When you think of cotton candy traditionally, you think of pink or blue and there’s really no flavor associated with it. I made Werther’s. I made Werther’s cotton candy because my machine, you could put the Werther’s in it and it crunches it up and then it was delicious.
But anyway, go ahead. Yeah. But most people, you know, you can’t go to a baseball game and get that right. So the whole concept was to take something that had been lost in this really nostalgic tree and really give it this upgrade of something that kids and adults would want to try, you know, the same and make champagne flavored cotton candy and bourbon flavored cotton candy and watermelon Island Punch and all of these crazy different flavors.
And then also really turn it into an And that’s where the event side came in because when you are making the cotton candy in person, it’s pretty magical to watch. And then we found a way to really package that with our glitter bombs, which is what we’re really known for on social media specifically, but it’s.
Again, cotton candy is the base of the company. It has edible glitter inside. You drop it in something clear and bubbly, cotton candy dissolves, and then beautiful edible glitter floats out, making your drink nice and sparkly.
How do you, how did you come up with that formula? Like what, like you go to a scientist who makes that?
Me and I’m not a scientist to be clear. Um, I have no background in food and beverage at all, which again, edible glitter, edible glitter. Yeah. And, and the idea for this came from actually while I was doing events. So I’ve done the glitter bombs for years and years and years before I even had the packaging.
And I was at a charity event and this woman came up to me and she had a glass of champagne in her hand and she wanted a cone of champagne, cotton candy. And she looks at me and she goes, well, what happened if I was to put this cotton candy in this glass of champagne? And I said, well, it would dissolve.
It would just melt in the glass. And she goes, that’s amazing. Let me try. So I spun her this tiny was so cute. This tiny little cone of cotton candy. She dropped into her champagne and she was just in awe. And mind you, it had no edible glitter in it at this point. It was just, just the cotton candy and she loved it.
And she went to. I swear to you, every person at this 300 person event and had them in line getting tiny cones of cotton candy to drop in glasses. People were just loving it. I’ve never seen something catch on like wildfire like that at an event. So I really, really went home that night and was like, they’re like.
Thing here, I need to play with this. And I took a lot of time to figure out exactly how to, you know, make it perfect and make it that magical thing that it is today. And there’s been kind of several phases of that, but I used to do glitter bombs live at events. I’d spin them near the bars, drop them in.
Were you ever like a bartender?
No, I started this business literally right out of college. I had graduated, I was supposed to go to graduate school, so no background in any of that.
Are you going to open a store ever?
That’s the ultimate question. I think I’ve learned my lesson in saying, never say never here I am.
Um, I don’t see us opening like your traditional brick and mortar location. The overhead on that is insane. The only thing that would make sense to me is if we were to have like our production facility in the back because we’d have to move so much. So much product, right? I could see something like a cotton candy cafe being really cool and like a pop up and you know, either like New York or Chicago or LA somewhere like that, I think it’d be really fun where it’s almost like a bar that you could come and spin cotton candy and have it meet.I
How many followers do you have on TikTok right now?
We have 1. 3 million followers.
Would you consider yourself an influencer or would you consider yourself a business owner?
That is a line that we straddle. That’s crazy. And I feel like really unique that not a lot of people can relate to because we absolutely get hit up to do influence. Right. Well, and it’s, and it’s like paid influencer campaigns under the name of Art of Sucre. And I tread so lightly with that because I feel like to be an influencer and to successfully be an influencer, you have to build a lot of trust with your audience.
And I do think that because we are a business and if we were to do some type of collab that didn’t fit or just was just. It’s kind of like a money grab. It would be really, really like, here I am in my Lulu lemons. Well, why are you wearing Lululemon? If you’re, yeah, exactly.
You’re like an accidental influencer.
Pretty much. And the interesting thing about the business page is that like people don’t really know what I look like. Like it’s not my face necessarily. That’s on. TikTok it’s really my voice is what I get recognized for more than anything because I voice over the videos but what we’ve been able to do is we have partnered with some really large brands like Barbie and American Girl and 818 Tequila, which is Kendall Jenner’s brand and Kate Spade and all of that We’ve been able to use our TikTok following to get these partnerships where they’re paying for our product and then Implementing them and then we’ll say Hey, also, if your brand’s interested, we’ll make a video about you as well.
And so we’ve partnered with you.
Do you reach out to influencers or brands via TikTok or Instagram?
Instagram, Tik TOK, honestly, Emma, who’s my right hand here, her entire job, her title is brand director.
She does a little bit of everything, but her entire job is sending pitch emails. So we’ll find brands that we want to work with that specifically may not have a presence on Tik TOK, or is trying to grow on social media and really paint this. Very detailed picture for them about what a collaboration would look like, what content could look like, how we want to see this activate and how it really is a win win for them because they’re getting a really cool product that matches their brand that they can use in any activation that they want.
And they’re getting the social support, not only for their own pages, but from our audience as well.
What is the biggest issue with TikTok right now? What are some challenges?
It really is like the Wild West. I think there’s a couple of things. One is that if you can step away from the emotional side of posting with social media as much as possible, especially if you’re a business owner, and especially if you are the founder, that’s wait, say it again. Go back. If you can step aside from the emotional part of posting that Is key because I did not do that in the beginning.
And like you said, it’s the wild, wild West. And if you get your emotional, you know, wellbeing and mental health tied up and views and posting and comment, it’s not going to be great. It’s, it’s going to be very challenging. And the biggest thing for Tik TOK is that consistency is key. And, and that means posting.
As much as you possibly can to what you can handle and then just letting it go and not worrying about how many views you’re getting. And I know that’s super easy to say from somebody that has a larger following, but trust me, it wasn’t always that way. And, and views are views. That’s kind of the beauty of Tik TOK, right?
Even if you get 200 views, one of those people could be an exec at Disney. You don’t know.
So how do you get past that emotion ?
No. Well, and that’s the thing too, that this, this sounds like bogus advice and it sounds like, duh, that’s so much easier than done.
But being embarrassed is a choice. And that’s one thing that I really had to come to the conclusion of, because I think I’m, I’m much like you, I’m really introverted. I would so much rather be at home on my couch with my dog and book and like, talk to no one. Like even my husband, I’m like, I love you, but like, I would just like to be alone.
Like that, that’s more of my vibe. So I understand putting yourself out there. It’s a very vulnerable thing to do, but also there. There comes a point where it’s no longer embarrassing and people then start to look at it as you being successful and then they want to know how you did it. So you have to start out being embarrassed.
That’s just the way that it is. So if you can actively, you know, somehow psych yourself up to understand that being embarrassed is a choice and that you can see the end goal in this. Some of my first videos are. I mean, genuinely laughable, like I can’t believe I published that like, Oh my gosh, you, you only get better as you do it more and more and more than at one point you start feeling so comfortable.
And you’re like, yeah, look at what I’ve accomplished. Look at how, look at all these cool things that have come from this. I’m so glad that I didn’t give up or get in my own way of feeling emotional or embarrassed about it.
How many TikToks do you post a day?
At one point when I was growing the account, I was posting three a day, which is a lot.
And it was only possible because I didn’t have a product. I like to say that I kind of built my backwards because I was doing events and then I had about a year of a transition where I was figuring out how to do the packaging, how to do the shipping, how to do all of that. So I was posting. Before I even had the learnings like, Oh my God, I had a meeting with a vendor today and he didn’t show up like things like that.
Exactly. Or even like, Hey, we got this packaging sample in here, size a here, size B, which one do you like better? And I mean, I took that advice. To heart. It was, it was really genuinely helpful information. And it also allowed people to get so invested and so involved in the brand that they actually really care about what we do, which is a beautiful thing as well.
Cause it’s this sense of built in community that you can’t buy money. Can’t buy that. My head is just racing.
Do you have any famous clients that you could share or you can’t share?
I wouldn’t know that. We did 5, 000 glitter bombs for Beyonce recently, which was How do you know? Beyonce wrote you? Hi, it’s Beyonce? Hi, it’s Queen B. No, no. Um, it really depends on the brand. Um, we worked through specifically a field house. So like an arena for her concert. And like, they told us, they were like, these are for Beyonce.
They’re going to her VIPs. And we shipped 5, 000 glitter bombs. to them, um, which was crazy. And it’s sometimes, you know, sometimes you don’t know, we’re currently working with a client right now that they have a large client and we can get, but we don’t know who it is and we’re not allowed to know who it is.
So there are some things that we just get these like mystery, really large products that it could be anybody it’s wild. That’s crazy. Okay. Remind me to share with you.
What’s next for Art of Sucre?
So for us, I feel like we’re really in a good spot right now because again, it’s been a bootstrapped process from the beginning.
So one of the things that you have to do when you’re starting a business is you have to baby step it. And for us that has been in packaging because packaging is. So expensive and the whole kind of idea of the brand is that we have these collections that are going to always and forever be on our website.
There are original flavors or the best sellers or the tried and trues. We also do a ton of limited edition and seasonal and that goes over really well. So we’re doing these. small drops of these flavors and different glitter colors and all of this. So from an ordering standpoint, when you’re doing packaging, that can get really tricky.
And I feel like over the past two years, we’ve spent a lot of money pouring into being able to find the right printers, the right providers, the right, you know, being able to afford the foil boxes that are in boss and everything looks beautiful. So now that we have that ready to go, we’re really looking into kind of.
scale into more of the event space. Like again, with the Beyonce’s and the Taylor Swift’s, we have the ability to do custom cocktails for all of those concerts at the different arenas and launching into amusement parks and things like that, but then also expanding our wholesale. Um, and I don’t mean that necessarily as in a big box way, but with smaller stem, like more premium.
Exactly. Well, I’m going to keep you top of mind and if there’s anyone that you, that we know that you see, we know that you want to be introduced to, let me know. Amazing. I appreciate that. Because I love, I love connecting. That’s what it’s all about. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
How could everyone find you?
Tell us. Yeah. So everything we kept it very simple for you. It’s just art of Sucre. It’s art of Sucre. com at art of Sucre. You’ll find it all there. Perfect.
Name an influencer you love to follow, but hate to admit that you do.
Oh, man, I feel like that, that is so hard because I feel like I’m in this space of like, I walk both lines and I’m sure I’m an answer to that to some people. Um, oh my gosh, the one that my husband always teases me about is Makeup by Mikayla. I literally love her and her accent is seriously so fun. But he’s like, who are you listening to?
But it’s happening right now. So she’s probably the one that comes to mind for sure. Okay, good one. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for joining. We are going to be watching you. I personally would be ordering from you. Everyone make an order. It’s awesome. And just can’t wait to see all the rest of your future success.