It’s good to be queen
‘Candy Queen’ Jackie Sorkin balances motherhood with her booming candy business.
Hollywood Candy Girls creator Jackie Sorkin doesn’t get star struck — unless Oprah is involved, that is.
“Working for Oprah was amazing for me,” Sorkin says.”I was literally about to pop out my daughter, and Oprah came out (behind me) and said, ‘Oh my gosh, this looks amazing!’ I didn’t even know who it was. I just turned around to say ‘thank you,’ and my belly was so massive that I almost knocked her over. She just looked down at me and was like, ‘Hey little mommy, what are you doing working?’ and she puts her hands on my pregnant stomach. I was so close to her, I could smell her. I wanted to cry.”
While Oprah touching her pregnant belly is not an everyday occurrence for Sorkin, creating colorful confections and elaborate candy displays for Hollywood’s elite certainly is. The 32-year-old entrepreneur makes her clients’ “sweetest dreams” come true — all while raising her 2-year-old daughter, Isabella, and her 6-month-old son, Christian.
“I never even knew I would have kids, and now I have these two beautiful children who I love,” Sorkin says. “It truly is a juggle. I’m a mom, I’m a businesswoman, and I am so proud of that.”
A Sweet Beginning
Though she’s held a variety of jobs, Sorkin discovered she had a way with candy while working for an event production company. For events, she built small, vibrant candy displays that quickly took attention away from the affair itself.
“The event business that I was trying to push and entertainment stuff I was trying to push — it was like, ‘forget about that,’ Sorkin says. “People were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so gorgeous. I would love you to do my wedding; I would love you to create something for my birthday.’”
Aside from her creativity, Sorkin used another ingredient in the making of her success: the sinking economy.
“It was a horrible time in the economy, and the news was just being bombarded with the economic downturn,” Sorkin says. “People were freaking out and losing money left and right, losing their homes, companies (were) closing. I had this light bulb where I was like, ‘Well, America is experiencing its worst nightmare at this very moment, so this may very well be the time that I can make everybody’s sweetest dreams come true. I kind of ran with that. I knew that candy, no matter what and when, makes people very happy.”
Not everyone was supportive, however. Many people, including some of her loved ones, doubted the success of a unique concept in such a difficult economic time.
“I started my business without a penny, without a single business loan from a bank, a person,” Sorkin says. “Everybody in my life thought that I was nuts or absolutely stupid for starting a business like this, and it’s such a personal attachment to the growth of my business, that it’s almost like one of those things where I prove it to myself.”
And so — with a little scraping and lot of passion and perseverance — Custom Candy Buffets and Dessert Bars was born. In 2009, Sorkin rebranded the business as “Hollywood Candy Girls” to include both confectionery and her other endeavors, and she is thrilled about how far it has gone.
“For me, to be in this moment when my business grew, developed and started when the economy tanked, and we survived and grown every year, there is something very huge about that,” Sorkin says.
Business as Unusual
Though her company’s title says just ‘candy,’ Sorkin, the self-proclaimed “female Willy Wonka,” affirms it goes far beyond that.
“This is a very fun, quirky, whimsical company, and everything we do is with sweets, candy and all kinds of confections and desserts,” Sorkin says. “The more glitter and sparkle, the better, but really, we create with candy.”
With her team of six to eight candy girls and her candy engineer, Sorkin creates whatever her clients desire — even if it is a 8-ft. throne made out of silver foil-wrapped chocolate coins and and LED-lit rock candy diamonds.
“We always say, ‘If you can dream it, we make it,’ Sorkin says. “We never say no, but that was a really cool one.”
Regardless of what she is making, Sorkin pays the most attention to color. Currently, her favorite product is Buffalo, N.Y.-based SweetWork’s Celebration gumballs.
“They have stuff that shimmers and glimmers and it like makes me pee my pants,” Sorkin says. “That’s my favorite stuff — it’s the colorful, shimmer gumballs they produce, theSixlets in the gazillion colors, the M&M’S in all the single colors. You’ve got to give people all the popular candy that tastes great, but for me, because we create, it’s all about color. The better the color, the more I work with it.”
In addition to massive displays, Sorkin and her crew also make chocolate- and candy-inspired desserts such as ice cream cone cake pops and candy-coated macaroons.
“We make a lot of desserts, but all of our desserts are candy-themed,” she says. “Our pastry chef is phenomenal. It’s really beautiful stuff, and we always try to tie in candy elements.”
Though clients can choose from a variety of products and services, none of it comes with a set price, and that’s just how Sorkin likes it.
“Everything is custom,” she explains. “I know that it probably is a lot more headache and work to truly custom quote everything we do, but we’re not a cookie-cutter company. I never want to be that, and I don’t have cookie-cutter pricing.”
That ‘Mompreneurial’ Spirit
With huge events and innumerable orders coming in each week, Sorkin says the Hollywood Candy Girls kitchen can be a little hectic. In 2011, TLC decided to document the controlled chaos in the reality show “Candy Queen.” Sorkin filmed 6 episodes while she was nine months pregnant.
“Doing the show with TLC was fantastic,” Sorkin says. “TLC is where we wanted the show to land, and it landed there. You become very close to production and the crew. I think you have more chances of winning the lottery than the people that get to have their own show. The fact that we have a show, and now I’m working on more shows, I think it’s very exciting.”
“Candy Queen” aired Dec. 5, 2011 through January 2012 as a special series. Though it is still unclear what will come of the show, Sorkin has plenty of possible projects to consider, including a book, a Hollywood Candy Girls candy line and opening retail stores.
“I have to be honest, my business has blown up not because I sit on my butt all day, pregnant or not, whether I’m filming a show or not,” Sorkin says. “I am a competitive person. A lot of people are like, you are this ‘mompreneur.’”
Other moms have definitely taken notice. Sorkin says women contact her every week about their own business ideas.
“Women and moms e-mail me and contact us on our Facebook pages and Twitter and they relate,” Sorkin says. ”Relating to people is a very important thing for me. I think you should connect with people in life and be open, and that’s kind of how I am. All of these women are like, ‘How did you do this?’”
Sorkin did it by following her passions, and she believes others should do the same.
“Sometimes you just have to go for things, and whether it works or not, you still just have to go with it blindly if you really believe in it,” she says.