USU students create subscription candy business

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The couch has been pulled away from its original spot against the wall in Devin and Cassie Pierson’s home. Where it used to sit, stacks of blue and brown boxes have been piled high, lining the walls of the Pierson’s living room.

On the side of one of the boxes, the word “Russia” has been hastily scrawled, on another is a picture of a globe encased in a candy wrapper. In this small apartment, flavors from all over the world have been assembled, sweets and treats from countries like Japan, New Zealand, Holland, and Bulgaria fill these brown and blue boxes. This is the Headquarters of MapCandy.

MapCandy is a subscription candy business created and run by Devin and Cassie, two Utah State University student entrepreneurs.

“Customers go to mapcandy.com and subscribe to receive a MapCandy package during the first week of each month,” Devin said.

Compared to other candy delivery subscriptions, MapCandy packages are filled with different global goodies, bringing diverse flavors from all over the world into customers homes.

“Each package also comes with a “Cultural Flavor Exploration Guide” which folds out like a map and shows you where each item originates and gives a brief explanation about each item” Devin said.

“I think it’s a neat opportunity to try different candies that you wouldn’t normally have because variety is awesome,” said Alex Gerber, an interior design major. “There are so many good candies out in the world.”

Josh Kirk, Devin and Cassie’s web developer, echoed a similar sentiment.

“I think it’s cool that you can order candy from all over the world and they curate it for you and send it to you,” he said. “You don’t even have to think… It’s a big world out there, there’s candy from all over, why not try some from somewhere else.”

The original idea for MapCandy came from one of Devin’s friends, Derek Hastings. Noticing a lack of foreign snacks and drinks on the American market, Devin and Hastings began working together on the project.

“Foreign candy is hard to find and expensive to buy and ship individually,” Devin said. “Initially, MapCandy was going to be a “one-stop-shop” for all your foreign candy, but there were too many inventory issues.”  

After considering these potential problems, the one-stop-shop idea evolved into a candy subscription business, allowing Cassie and Devin to have more control over their inventory flow. In the next two and half years that followed, MapCandy continued to evolve from an idea into a reality.

Just as the company evolved, so did the logo. Cassie kept a stack of drawings in sheet protectors showing the progression of their brand name. The first in the stack is a picture of a globe with the words “Map Candy” printed through the center.

“I drew this on an airplane two years ago, and then I kind of just played around with it,” Cassie said.

Eventually, Cassie’s nine-year-old sister got ahold of the picture and had the idea to wrap up the globe like a piece of candy, incorporating the two major elements of their business into one image. After some fine-tuning and the help of Kirk, the MapCandy logo was ready to be published on their website and printed on their boxes of merchandise.

Throughout this two year process, both Devin and Cassie have dedicated many hours to their business, each contributing a different set of unique skills and talents.

“Cassie has the creative touch,” Devin said. “Sometimes we have differences of opinion but we are pretty good at hearing each other out and coming to the best solution for our brand image.”

As a business major, Devin is able to complement Cassie’s creativity with his educational background.

“I have been privileged to be a Hunstman student, there is a great entrepreneurial spirit in the school and I get to be surrounded by a lot of talented people,” he said. “One of the things I really like about being a business student and starting a business at the same time is being able to really be engaged in the classes, thinking about how MapCandy relates to whatever is being taught and immediately applying what I’m studying.”

Daniel Holland, one of Devin’s professors said, “I think experience is one of the greatest teachers so I love it when students start a business while they are still in college. It helps to make their classes more relevant – they develop questions to ask in class, see how concepts may apply to their business, and go out and test the concept in the real world.”

Another one of Devin’s professors, Mike Glauser the executive director of entrepreneurial programs at USU, said he believes all students, regardless of their major “need to develop entrepreneurial skills in order to have successful careers.”Utah State has many resources available for student entrepreneurs. Workshops, mentoring and even financing is available to students “who are serious about building a business.”

While Devin’s business experience with MapCandy has made his classes more meaningful, it has also taken a balancing act to devote enough time and attention to work, school and family life.

“I guess when you’re starting a business you have to give up a little bit of a focus on school,” Devin said. “I really do enjoy being a student I really do like learning, but this is more fulfilling so this has slowed me down a lot from graduating.”

Cassie has seen the effects of entrepreneurship in her own education as well.

“I’m taking a psychology class and I was taking anatomy but I actually ended up having to drop it just because it’s either anatomy or launch MapCandy, and I chose MapCandy,” she said.

School isn’t the only sacrifice the Pierson’s have had to make for their business. Their entire living room is filled with boxes of candy shipments, encroaching upon their personal space.

“It’s claustrophobic,” Cassie said. “As girls, we like to have the couch where it belongs up against the wall and have plants and nice things but slowly the plants have been going away and the couch has been getting closer and closer to the TV.”

While being an entrepreneur has its pros and cons, one thing Cassie and Devin do not complain about is candy taste testing.

“We spend a great amount of time researching and sampling many different items from many different countries,” Devin said. “We select what we believe to be the best tasting and highest quality items to really make our packages a premium experience.”

After sampling candy from countries around the world, Cassie decided her favorite treat is a Milkita Melon candy from Indonesia. Devin’s favorite is Halva, a sunflower-based dessert from the middle east that is sometimes put on toast. Other favorites include Turkish Delight and chocolate-covered pineapple bits from New Zealand.

“I like fruity candies and he likes more unique stuff,” Cassie said with a laugh. “Which is good because you need a mix of both, everyone has different tastes.When I order samples I order all the stuff that looks safe to me and when he orders, he orders things like Halva and Turkish delight.”

Because Devin and Cassie differ in their candy preferences, MapCandy shipments come equipped to satisfy both the tentative tasters and the more adventurous consumers.

“There are some products that are slightly like U.S products but then there are products that are completely unique,” Devin said. “Our mission statement is to create something that everyone can look forward to every month by bringing cultural flavor to every door.”

 

alina.haws@aggiemail.usu.edu

@AlinaShaw5