By Tomboy KC | Photography by Danielle Sabol
Sprinkles, like Starbucks, started a craze that felt obvious only after we weren’t the ones to come up with it. Candace Nelson, however, has the bragging rights of being the person that did. On top of it all, the founder of Sprinkles is a hella stylish, well-spoken mom who also happens to be a cupcake prodigy, serving as a judge on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. With new Sprinkles locations popping up all over (Texas just welcomed a new one at Plano’s Legacy West) and a new dessert show in the works, Candace Nelson might just have it all…
TKC: I’m sure this is a story you’ve told a thousand times, but for readers who haven’t heard it, how did Sprinkles come about?
CN: I was working at an internet startup in San Francisco. After the dot com bust, I found myself out of a job and not sure what to do next. While many of my friends were heading to business school, I saw this time as a perfect opportunity to pursue my passion. I enrolled in Tante Marie’s Pastry Program to hone my baking skills. Baking is something I’ve always loved to do, since I was a child. Upon graduating, I began a custom cake business out of my home. I soon came to realize that special occasion cakes were just that – reserved for special occasions! Raised with the philosophy that dessert should be a daily indulgence, I started baking more and more cupcakes. And so, the idea for Sprinkles was born!
TKC: Why cupcakes?
CN: Cupcakes are truly the little black dress of the dessert world. They are so versatile – they can be baked in any flavor and they can be decorated to be an afternoon treat or a wedding dessert. But what I truly love about cupcakes is that they’re portioned just for you… no need to share!
TKC: How did you arrive at the name Sprinkles? Did you ever consider calling the store something else?
CN: I brainstormed dozens of names, but when I came up with the name Sprinkles, it just felt right and stuck. It reflected the playful and fun nature of the brand I was trying to build. Just saying “Sprinkles” brings a smile to peoples faces.
TKC: While we love the OG red velvet cupcake (seriously, we’ve waited in really long lines for it), Sprinkles comes out with new flavors all of the time. Do you have a favorite flavor this season?
CN: Our special July flavor was Lemon Blueberry and it is one of my all-time favorites. This cupcake is the taste of summer – a fragrant lemon cake studded with tart blueberries.
TKC: What does a typical work day look like for you?
CN: Less than two months ago, I opened a Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant called Pizzana in Brentwood, California. ( Of course, I had to include Sprinkles on the dessert menu! We make a delicious Neapolitan ice cream terrine with Sprinkles Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry ice creams.) With a new restaurant, I find myself there all the time managing quality, tasting food, developing the seasonal menu items, greeting guests and working with the team to be the best we can be.
TKC: In your non work life, is there a particular designer or look that you tend to favor?
CN: I love Proenza Schouler, Stella McCartney and Chloe.
TKC: On the flipside, are there any trends that you absolutely loathe?
CN: I’m not a huge fan of tops with shoulder cut-outs.
TKC: If you could only buy one item this Summer, what would it be?
CN: The Row black satin slides.
TKC: Name one beauty product you couldn’t live without.
CN: Vintner’s Daughter.
TKC: What is the lost song you had playing on your iPod/iPhone?
CN: Wearing Nothing by Dagny.
TKC: Favorite emoji?
CN: Until there is a cupcake emoji… I love the face with hearts as eyes.
TKC: Coffee or tea?
TKC: Mascara or Lipstick?
CN: Lipstick (or, really, lip gloss).
TKC: Instagram or Snapchat?
TKC: You’ve just opened a new location in Plano. What’s next for Sprinkles?
CN: We’re always looking for great new locations to keep the brand growing. We’re in the process of moving our warehouse to Dallas. I have a new dessert show in the works!
TKC: Is there one moment that stands out where you felt like you finally “made it”?
CN: About 8 months after I opened Sprinkles in Beverly Hills, I received a call from Oprah’s producers asking us to bring 300 cupcakes to Chicago the next morning for a segment. It was a surreal experience that changed our business forever.
TKC: What advice would you give to 22 year old Candace?
CN: Pursue your passion while taking calculated risks. People thought I was crazy to open the world’s first cupcake bakery. It was an untested concept and no one knew if it would work! That’s why prior to opening, I did my research. I calculated exactly how many cupcakes I’d need to sell each day to be successful. I researched the bakery industry and conducted interviews with others to understand potential pitfalls. Yes, I invested my life savings into my dream, but it was not without careful and detailed consideration!
Cupcakes are truly the little black dress of the dessert world. They are so versatile – they can be baked in any flavor and they can be decorated to be an afternoon treat or a wedding dessert.
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