Finding a romantic partner on an online dating site isn’t such a rare occurrence these days. But finding a romantic partner who shares your dream of opening up a candy business? That kind of jackpot is the stuff of Match.com legends.
Enter, Rosie O'Neill and Josh Resnick. The couple met on the aforementioned dating site in 2010 and conceived of their now-thriving artisanal candy business during their third date (where they went to go see "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory," naturally). A year and a half later, O'Neill and Resnick founded their company Sugarfina, a made-up name combining "sugar" with the Italian word for "fine," with the aim of creating a "candy store for grown-ups."
"I definitely have a sweet tooth, but I don't think candy was in either of our [Match.com] profiles," O'Neill told The Huffington Post. "We're big foodies, so I'm sure we talked about food. But we've both been candy fiends our whole lives."
Rosie O'Neill and Josh Resnick, founders of Sugarfina, in Morocco
Aside from their mutual interest in sugar, the pair was a natural fit because they both injected a bit of fun into their career aspirations. O'Neill had been the Director of Marketing for Barbie and Resnick was working in video games when they met.
At first, they talked about a potential candy business as a sort of escape fantasy, but they soon realized there was a niche that needed to be filled: Surely they couldn't be the only ones who longed for an artisanal candy experience, one unlike the staunchly unadult, uncurated version they felt most candy stores were offering. They tasked themselves with finding candies made with high quality, all-natural ingredients that also had interesting stories behind them and weren't easily available in the U.S.
Fortunately, funding the business wasn't a problem, since Resnick sold Pandemic Studios, his video game design firm, to Electronic Arts in 2007 in a deal valued at $860 million. The next step? Traveling the world in search of delicious candy. The couple has spent the past few years jetting off to remote locations in countries like Italy, Greece and Germany, where they've relied on extensive online research -- and serendipity -- to discover treats to sell. Once they had amassed a collection of 125 candies, they launched Sugarfina's web site. A year later, they opened a store in Beverly Hills, California, where they're based.
"We approach it really seriously," O'Neill says of their extensive taste-testing. "We look at it how a sommelier would approach a wine."
Often, the two of them are tasting dozens of candies a week, judging each morsel on appearance, taste and uniqueness. In a single session, they'll taste about 20 candies, biting each one in half and splitting it. If they like it, they'll taste it later in the day and then again the day after to ensure that the candy lives up to their tasting notes. (Pro tip: Avoid tasting more than 30 pieces of candy at a time to avoid a sugar rush-induced headache, according to O'Neill.)
Sugarfina's Champagne Gummy Bears
Thanks to the couple's adventurous palates, Sugarfina offers luxurious yet unconventional treats like gummy Champagne Gummy Bears, marshmallows containing 24K gold and Absinthe Chocolate Cordials (absinthe flavored, but still). O'Neill takes on the creative role of making sure the marketing and packaging for Sugarfina's candy is just as "grown up" and opulent as the sugary morsels themselves. As for Resnick, he handles all of the business, legal and operations side of things.
"It works out great, since we perfectly fit in where the other person leaves off," O'Neill said. "Josh had been an entrepreneur in his past career, so he's done this a few times before. For me, it was like leaping out into the unknown. It was very scary, but it was great to be able to have him as an anchor point."
Both O'Neill and Resnick have been able to throw themselves into such an all-consuming business, because it truly is a labor of love in every sense of the word. Understandably, they thoroughly enjoy all of the globe-trotting, taste-testing, collaborating on recipes and even the shop talk that seems to seep into their every personal outing. Dates often turn into impromptu business meetings and most "vacations" are thinly veiled candy-scouting trips.
"In so many ways, I just thank my lucky stars every day," O'Neill said of meeting Resnick. "Without him, I would've stayed where I was and had a really great career [at Barbie]. I wouldn't have taken this risk of following my heart and creating a career out of something that shouldn't even be a career. It's just so much fun."
During one of their many 100-hour work weeks last August, Resnick proposed to O'Neill and she accepted. Their hectic Sugarfina schedules haven't allowed them to start planning the actual nuptials, but they certainly have the sweets covered and they don't seem to be stressing about the rest.
"I always joke to Josh that it feels like we're in summer camp," O'Neill said. "I just hope that never ends."
Sugarfina's store in Beverly Hills, California