Lisa Stelly is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Fancy Sprinkles, the woman-owned and woman-run confectionary sprinkle company that launched in 2016 on a mission to reimagine the edible arts industry from mundane and basic to sexy and cool. As a mother of 3 children, an entrepreneur, reiki healer, and lifestyle personality, Lisa has given life to sprinkles that no one could have ever imagined. Her fun, colorful, edgy, and cool persona emulates throughout each of the brand’s one-of-a-kind products that help consumers unlock their creative potential.
What began as a hobby to help Lisa cope with postpartum anxiety and depression after the birth of her second daughter in 2016, has evolved into Fancy Sprinkles, a rapidly expanding company that has brought innovation to the edible arts market, making the amount of money Lisa had planned for the whole first year in just two months. Since then, the company has grown 100% year over year.
Uncovering Her Talent and a Gap in the Market
Back in 2015, after falling down the rabbit hole of cake decorating videos on Instagram, Lisa thought it could be an interesting hobby. She gathered all the necessary tools and started her journey into the cake decorating and edible arts world, decorating her daughter’s birthday cake. After this experience, Lisa immediately recognized that this was more than a hobby. It was a form of art that enabled her to express her creative potential.
As she started creating more cakes, Lisa Stelly explored all the different cake decorating products available in the U.S. market. She quickly realized the baking & cake decorating products were in the 90s, and that sprinkles were cheap and mushy. Why would you put something like that on a beautiful and tasty cake?
Lisa was determined to find a solution and discovered that sprinkles in Europe tasted good. While the U.S. sprinkles frequently had wax and cornstarch as the first ingredient, European sprinkles had powdered sugar. Armed with this knowledge, Lisa Stelly started ordering small quantities of sprinkles from Europe and Canada that “looked the prettiest and tasted the best.” That was the very beginning of Fancy Sprinkles, and since then, the company has created a wide variety of luxury toppings and other edible art products.
And now here’s Lisa Stelly.
Full transcript below
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Podcast with Lisa Stelly. Turning a Sprinkle Hobby Into an Edible Art Empire.
sprinkles, people, ceo, business, year, worked, edible, hobby, decorating, company, thinking, lisa, felt, money, baking, hire, fun, pretty, dtc, offend
Mike Malatesta, Lisa Stelly
Mike Malatesta 00:06
Hey everybody. Welcome back to the How’d It Happen podcast. I am so happy to have you here as I am with every episode and today, I’m fulfilling my promise to you once again with an amazing success story. I’ve got Lisa Stelly on the podcast. Lisa, thank you so much for joining
Lisa Stelly 00:27
me. Yeah, thanks for having me, Mike. Happy to be here.
Mike Malatesta 00:31
So let me tell you about why you should be excited about Lisa as I am. So Lisa Stelly is the founder and chief creative officer of Fancy Sprinkles. The woman-owned and woman-run confectionery sprinkle company that launched in 2016 on a mission to reimagine the edible arts industry from mundane and basic to sexy and cool. Who even knew that that reimagination would be out there. So I’m really looking forward to exploring because I certainly didn’t, as a mother of three girls and entrepreneur, a Reiki healer and a lifestyle personality Lisa has given life to sprinkles that no one even herself. And probably you could have ever imagined her fun, colorful, edgy and cool persona emulates throughout each of the brands one of a kind products that helps consumers unlock their creative potential. And this business started in 2016, as I mentioned as a hobby to help Lisa with her postpartum anxiety and depression after giving birth to her second daughter, and is turned into an innovative and quickly growing company that in just two months exceeded her expectations and since then, has grown 100% year over year which is amazing. Finally, Lisa, is model a social media influencer a trendsetter in all things pretty I like that. And you can you can follow her on Instagram at at Lisa Steli S T E ll y. And her company is fancy sprinkles that come. So at least I start every show the same way. It’s with a simple question. How did happen for you?
Lisa Stelly 02:16
Well, I would say the simplest answer to that is that it happened through a series of discoveries. And it also happened through learning a new hobby. And from there realizing that there was a pretty big space and gap in the market for what I felt didn’t exist yet. So I basically got into cake decorating and edible Arts is what we’ll call it, because it’s not just baking, and I want to point that out specifically is that a lot of people think, well, I don’t bake so I can’t use sprinkles or any of the other things that you guys sell. And I’m very adamant that you don’t have to be a baker because I’m not really a baker. I’m more of a decorator, you summed it up in my bio, which is I like to make things pretty. I’m sort of a curator by that nature. So when I got into edible arts, I started cake decorating now I wasn’t like baking things from scratch. Really, I was like using Betty Crocker cake mixes. And that’s not the fun part. For me. The fun part is decorating because I’ve always done like artistic things, you know, like I really love to do crafting and decorating and I have like a million hobbies, makeup. So I kind of just applied that same interest to cake decorating. And when I watched all these YouTube videos of these creators decorating these gorgeous cakes, like things I had never seen before in a grocery store, even like a lot of bakeries. I thought wow, that looks fun, I can probably do that. And so I did a bunch of research, watched a bunch of videos bought the tools I needed to decorate, and I decorated my first cake and I became addicted instantly. It was like I got so much creative fulfillment out of this hobby. And it really felt like something that was mine that I could continue to do and I got a lot of validation you know, a lot of people were like, wow, this is beautiful. You’re meant to do that. And so it kind of unlocked this creative thing in me that I wanted to keep going with it. So when I started going with it and making more cakes, I would be shopping you know I’d be going to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby or the grocery store and everything just looked like so mundane. It wasn’t speaking to me I’m the type of person who buys products kind of baked based on the packaging. You know, like I’ll look at something and I’ll go that really speaks to me that feels like it matches with my aesthetic. Now pretty much every other aisle in every store, you know makeup skincare haircare it’s speaking to us it’s community Look at the packaging, just communicating something right? Like we’re trendy, we’re cool. You vibe with us. And I got none of that from the baking aisle is just like, this is all branded in 1990. And we haven’t changed a thing. And a lot of it was confusing, you know, like, they’ll call something what it is. But as someone who’s not a baker, or is new to this space, I had no idea what to use it for.
Mike Malatesta 05:27
So using their language, in other words, and just functionality is what they were describing. Yeah, just
Lisa Stelly 05:33
kind of assuming that the consumer knew what to do with the product. And I thought, well, there’s a huge lack of education in this space. There’s such a barrier to entry to get into it. And it’s really intimidating. And so unless you want to spend a lot of time researching what tylose powder, or Marang powder is, it’s very confusing. So that was one of the first issues that I noticed about the baking space. And let’s just say the baking and decorating aisle. And then the sprinkles were just so ugly. It was like, you know, I’m making this artistic work of art that I’ve put so much effort into, why do I want to put something cheap and mushy and gross on it? To decorate it? It’s like, No, you’re just undressing it at that point. So I thought, you know, there’s got to be something better. So I started like looking online and like other countries what they were selling, and I just so happened to be traveling to Europe at that time. And I was in Germany and I tasted some of their sprinkles. They were like little heart shaped sprinkles. And they were like shiny and pretty crunchy. And they tasted like powdered sugar. And I was like, Okay, why can’t we do this in America. So I started ordering stuff from different countries, and like different, you know, individual ingredients, like Jimmy’s, and pearls and heart shapes and like mixing them together. And I made some donuts and I put them on the doughnuts. And I had a friend who was also part of another company that was very successful. They actually just went public, they’re very successful company. And he was over at the house. And he tasted the doughnuts and said, you should sell these. And I said, like the doughnuts. I don’t want to have a bakery. I can’t do that. I can’t deal with Brian’s and like moms. And he was like, No, the sprinkles. These are the best sprinkles I’ve ever had. I can’t and I can’t stop looking at them. They’re so pretty. So that got my wheels turning, you know, and started thinking Why aren’t companies doing this already? Well, after a lot of research, I realized, like, it’s just one of the things that just hasn’t been innovated on in so many years. And, you know, the companies that own like all of the bigger companies that own a lot of the baking supplies, they just kind of keep doing the same thing. They haven’t had many challengers or competitors, they haven’t been forced to innovate, right? Like a company has to be forced to innovate pretty much if there is competition. So I was like, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna start a decorating brand that is going to have great sprinkles. And eventually, like, we’re going to start with that, because that’s what needs the most help. And it’s the most user friendly product, right? Everybody knows how to use sprinkles. And then we’re going to branch out from there into other products. And so I started buying really small quantities from distributors, making my own sprinkle blends, and giving them fun names and personalities. And we worked on our packaging and our branding and our messaging and our vibe. And then I started, you know, I made a social media account. And I just started like spamming it, like, you know, I learned how to do my own. I learned how to make my own website, I didn’t hire a single person. I started everything with my own capital. It only costed me about $2,000 to get started. Granted, I had my own computer and camera at the time, so I didn’t have to spend money on equipment. It was basically just like, you know, Shopify fees and like, some raw materials. And I started small. And, you know, I sent a bunch of cake decorators that I really liked online care packages, and they all loved them, and they just started posting about them for free. So I got a lot of organic marketing in the beginning. And so, you know, that’s kind of how it happened. And
Mike Malatesta 09:28
so you gave us a ton there. I really do think that the stuff you said near the end was was a real good takeaway there because you you know, you saw that the companies that you were buying from weren’t innovating they certainly weren’t speaking to you. So you saw the opportunity to to innovate provide it and even if it was just a little it was a lot because no one had been had been doing anything and then the way you you talked about how you bootstrapped it and you know the organic marketing and the care packages In the social media, it’s like, really, really, I think, instructive for a lot of people listening, because so many people think that, you know, in order for me to start a business, you know, it’s, it’s gonna take all this money and all this all kinds of complexity, and you just kind of made it very simple. Now I know, the rest of the story probably isn’t simple, because growing a business is not a simple endeavor, but you made it really simple there. So thank you for that. That was good. Okay, thank you. So you mentioned, you know, that this hobby, as it was when you first started it, you started the business in 2016. But when did your actual how much? How much? How much time was involved in this experimentation that you were doing when you when you first chose it as a as a hobby, the decorating and that kind of thing? Five months, five months, okay, so you got you accelerated from this is kind of cool, too. This is something I want to really get into.
Lisa Stelly 11:00
That’s also just part of my personality, I go zero to 60. What I want to do something, I do it like, I don’t delay. I don’t think about it too long. I I’m an intuitive. So I rely on my intuition a lot. I’m very perceptive. And I kind of knew, in my spirit like that this was something that I shouldn’t be doing. I felt extremely connected to it. It wasn’t something that I was like, Oh, I’m going to start this business and make a ton of money. Like I did wasn’t even thinking about that, right? I was just like, oh, maybe I’ll make enough money to like contribute to my family and like, take them on vacation or something like it was not a money thing. It was, it was purely like, I wanted to do this for myself. And I enjoyed it. And I wanted to give other people the same products that I was enjoying, and like, Get other people into this hobby, because it was so fun. So it came from a really, I think that’s important, like it has to come from a good place. Should never start something like purely with the intent of money, because you’re not going to speak to your customers.
Mike Malatesta 12:04
Again, I agree with that you can’t people who get into a business and think well, I’m just gonna make x that’s my goal. I always think you’re you’re missing the whole boat. Because people, don’t you think people can sense when you’re in it for the money, as opposed to when you’re in it for the passion of it or whatever. It’s kind of it makes its way it makes itself known? I guess.
Lisa Stelly 12:27
Yeah, I mean, those companies kind of sometimes, like I know, someone whose company folded for that very reason was like, it’s just not sustainable, because you can’t care about it. For the time that it takes to build it in order to make it’s valuable enough to sell. It’s really hard to put passion into that, especially if you’re selling consumer products.
Mike Malatesta 12:51
What, what are some of the other things in your life that you’ve gone zero to 60 on, I thought that was a really interesting way to say,
Lisa Stelly 12:58
Well, I’m very ADHD and I have OCD. I’ve got the whole gamut of mental health disorders. And so I talk about that all the time. I’m very open about it, because I think it is really important that people talk about it and like D stigmatize these things. And so for me, it’s I tend to hyper focus on things, which is a symptom of ADHD, and I’ll get into hobbies. So last year, I got really into indoor plants. And I was on Tik Tok. I learn everything on YouTube and tick tock, by the way, I don’t have a college degree. I literally am a sponge, when it when I’m interested in something, I am a sponge and I will learn everything there is to know about that topic in a very short amount of time. I retain things that I’m interested in. So that’s also how I knew that I wanted to start this business is because I was highly interested in it. So I got really into indoor plants. Last year, I learned everything there is to know about plants. And now I have like 50 indoor plants in my house as a jungle. So that’s just one example. I just, you know, I tend to be very hobby oriented.
Mike Malatesta 14:11
And zero to six. So there’s this, there’s this this test that you can do, it’s called Colby, Kol V, and it measures your, what it calls the Quick Start your your, and I think you’d probably be a 10 on the Quickstart based on what I just heard there because it really, it’s sort of the way that you’re naturally inclined to react. And there’s four different things but Quickstart is one of them. It might be fun for you to take that assessment at some point to see kind of what you are because it’s not only helpful for you it is kind of helpful for the people around you too, because they can they understand, you know, sort of what makes each of you tick naturally and it’s anyway, sorry.
Lisa Stelly 14:54
Yeah, no, we did the we did the Myers Briggs Personality. Okay. Yeah, that’s assessment, we actually did it at our last off site, we had someone come in, it’s like a expert in it and speak and everybody figured out their Myers Briggs Personality so that we can understand each other better. And it makes so much sense. Like, oh, you know, Katie’s and Ian, TJ. So that means she likes to think so we need to give her a little bit more time like it. It makes such a huge difference. It’s crazy.
Mike Malatesta 15:24
That’s a that’s fine. I’m on I’m at em TJ as well. What are you?
Lisa Stelly 15:29
I’m an E, I’m an E and i j. I think that’s the intuitive. extrovert. What’s the end stand for?
Mike Malatesta 15:39
Now you’re gonna, you’re gonna, yeah, you’re gonna test me? I’m not sure I have to think about it. But maybe I can’t remember the end of the before the end of the podcast. So how do you use the Myers Briggs? Have you used that in your company? Since the off site? So I like cuz I always wonder about this. You do the you do the, the, the off site and you do a do an assessment like this? You’re like, yeah, that’s who I am. Yeah, that’s who you are. And then over time, you usually remember who you are. But you kind of forget how who other people are. And I’m just wondering how you have, you know, progressed to using it in a positive or productive way in the company since then?
Lisa Stelly 16:18
Well, the off site was only like two weeks ago. So it’s been very recent. All right, but actually, just yesterday on a KPI call. Our CEO said, does anyone have any questions? And also, you know, for the whatever one, whatever letter resembles the people who need like, thinkers, I think it’s the tea’s they need a little bit more time to come up with a question. They need to think it over. You know, she said, does anyone have any questions? Also, you know, for the people who want to think about it, the teas, you know, you can think about it in 30 minutes or so ask your question. And so I was like, that’s interesting. Like, we’re kind of incorporating it into meetings. And I also thought it’d be great to put on our resume. Names. Yeah. You know, so when you’re talking to someone, so you can know, okay, I shouldn’t prompt this person to answer me now with a question because that’s not the way that their personality works. They need some time. They’re not an intuitive. Like, if you asked me a question, intuitively, I’m going to be able to come up with it. But some people want to think about it and process it.
Mike Malatesta 17:20
Yeah, that’s really good. On the zoom, I hadn’t thought about that. When we had it done, it was presume. And we posted it outside of everyone’s office or on their cubicle wall. So always a reminder, because that’s one of the things that always frustrated me about those tests is that you get all this energy around doing them. And then, you know, it kind of dissipates over time. Because
Lisa Stelly 17:43
yeah, it’s like, how do you integrate it? You have to integrate it into like, your culture, I think,
Mike Malatesta 17:47
yeah, it’s a good way for someone when you’re not communicating with them in a way that’s appropriate for their style to say, hey, remind this, Sue, I am. Yeah, so anyway, um, so is it going zero to 60? ever got you into trouble? Cuz I wonder sometimes, not every idea is a great idea. Yeah.
Lisa Stelly 18:06
Yeah, I would say it’s gotten me into trouble with going back to the plants. Because once I lost interest in that I had to then water 50 plants. And also, it was a very expensive hobby. So like, plants are not cheap. So that was kind of like, Oh, great not here to keep these alive, like six months later, when I’m over them, not have to keep them on, like, I’m over them in the sense of like, more than just a core and like, I got over the whole, like potting them, like I get really into hobbies. And then like six months later, I kind of phase out of it. So my bad habit is like spending too much money on a hobby and then getting over it. So it gets me in trouble.
Mike Malatesta 18:45
Well, with this with the sprinkles, at least you’ve got five years into it. And five plus maybe
Lisa Stelly 18:51
Yeah, and that’s a lot of money. A lot of people’s jobs are interesting, that one, that’s the one that I like, have to maintain interest in. And I do because it’s so fun. And it. It’s constantly innovating and changing. We always have a new product. And so that’s really fun. That keeps me engaged.
Mike Malatesta 19:13
You mentioned that you’ve got a CEO and it made me think to ask you what was never your intention to run the business? Or was it something that you quickly discovered was not your unique ability? Or was it just not a one what how did that come about? And when in the evolution of the company that the CEO come along?
Lisa Stelly 19:36
I think that there’s a lot of confusion with entrepreneurs and founders in general, especially now because so many people are starting your own businesses. I think that there’s a lot of confusion between a founder and a CEO and what the difference is. To me, if you want to have a successful company and you don’t have any background in finance Leading board meetings, seeking investor money, you need a CEO, you know, like, I have no experience in that arena. I don’t have an MBA. I’ve never run a business before, especially to this degree, like I’ve done small little things, but not like this. So it was really important to me for the health and wealth of the business that we get a real CEO. That was one of the first things that I noticed about two years in, like I noticed about a year and a half in that I was really like struggling with finances, like I didn’t even want to look at them. And so that’s kind of when I was like, Oh, I really wish we had someone here who like really knew finances and forecasting and all these things. And so I went from that very quickly, intuitively realizing that that was something I wanted. And so after I got our first investment in believes, August or September 2018, that my first request was, we need to put out a search for a CEO. And they were like, Well, I think you can do it a little bit longer. And I was like, I can’t, I’m doing 80 jobs right now. I can’t be the CEO is not, it’s not long term, what’s going to be good for us. And so we started that search, we’ve cycled through a couple of CEOs already. Okay. But um, yeah, we, we will always have that position, that will never be something that we’re like, I don’t think we need a CEO anymore. But I recommend that to a lot of people like, not right off the bat. But like, once you get to a certain point in growth, especially if you have investment. Me personally, I didn’t feel comfortable taking on that investment and having it be my responsibility where that investment was going to be allocated, because I did not have the experience or the expertise to do that. And I did not want to fail. Yeah, so
Mike Malatesta 22:03
and what? So you mentioned that you’ve cycled through a couple that’s that’s, you know, quick cycles, I guess, from 2018 to 2021, can you give give me some perspective on where were you involved in the selection? And if so, where, you know, you may have missed, I’m trying to get like a lesson out of this for people who are looking for a CEO.
Lisa Stelly 22:25
I think it’s not like a hard lesson that we learned it was more just like when you’re a company that’s growing so fast. You, you know, when we got our first CEO, and I believe it was 2019, beginning of 2019, it the company from that beginning of the year to the end of that year was basically a totally different company, right? Like a CEO has to be have the ability to staff, they have to know who to hire next, that’s something I was really bad at was figuring out who we need to hire next. Like, you know, in the direct to consumer world, there are so many types of jobs, there’s like head of growth Chief Revenue Officer, blah, blah, blah, like stuff that I didn’t even know existed. So how am I going to select someone when I don’t even understand the job description. So we’d like that was another reason I was like, We need a CEO. And so I think it’s more just a thing where we were just trying to find the right fit, you know, what I mean? And each CEO, we had brought us to a different level, but then it became a thing of like, well, this person is not really like, either they didn’t want to move forward, or we didn’t want to move forward, because the business like plan had changed, right? So it’s kind of like, it was never like a bad thing. It was always just like a constant moving learning experience. Okay. So I guess for us, it was, it’s a little different, you know, if you’re a company that’s very well established, you can spend a ton of money on whatever CEO you want. But when you’re just getting started, the company was only two and a half years old at that point, right. So like, we didn’t want to hire a CEO that we would have to pay a fortune to because we just couldn’t afford it. Right. So we had to start with someone who was like a little lower, maybe had never been a CEO before. So it’s, it’s more of a thing where you’re just like cycling and working your way up. Versus coming out of the gate hiring someone who’s like driving a Ferrari and you know, metaphorically speaking, is used to driving Ferraris, and then they come down to Dr. Akia. It just doesn’t really work because a lot of what they know, is too high level for where you’re at. So it’s kind of the thing of like match, finding the right match at the right time. And then progressing from there. And if the person is like, you can outgrow people, you know, with a company that’s scaling so rapidly, like you’re gonna outgrow people, it’s just something that’s gonna happen. And not just that CEO like every level?
Mike Malatesta 25:01
Yeah, first? Well, for sure. And you? Yeah, those are a couple of really key things that you brought up first, you know, to, to, you can’t afford to hire an established CEO. And it’s probably not even the best thing for a company that’s in the early stage. Because not only are they used to that’s the, you know, getting a certain paycheck and stuff like that. But they’re also used to having people do stuff for them, right? Oh, yeah. No, like big time. Yeah, it’s kind of Oh, I forgot what it was. Even if they were the founder at one time of a business. It’s still like, Oh, I forgot about all that stuff, you know. And, yeah, probably natural to bring someone in who’s maybe not really qualified to be CEO, but they have, you know, the drive the passion, culturally, they’re a fit, and, and they have at least some of what you’re looking at yet to the next stage.
Lisa Stelly 25:51
Yeah, I think it’s important to say, Okay, we need a CEO right now, especially if you don’t have one, and maybe you’ve just taken funding, or you don’t have funding, but you want to get funding? Well, now you’re going to be looking for a CEO who has a background in getting funding, right? So that’s going to be something that you’re going to want. Whereas, and you might say, Okay, so from for this year, or this two years, we’re planning on keeping this CEO or this other employee to get us to this level. And once we’re at this level, then we’re going to be looking for someone with completely different qualities, someone who’s maybe more trained in another area that we weren’t thinking about two years ago. So it has to be a fluid thing, I think, you know, when you get closer to an acquisition, it’s really important to have like, particular talent on your team. But when you’re so young, in growing in the business, you shouldn’t be saying, okay, you know, we’re only making this much money, it doesn’t make sense to go and hire someone who’s gonna cost you a really large salary, especially when there was other hires that you need to make, like we had, we had make a lot of hard choices, you know, like we had other hires that we needed to make, to keep the business running. And so we couldn’t afford to just go and, you know, pay a lot of money for a CEO at that point. So they’ll help tremendously.
Mike Malatesta 27:15
Yeah, okay. So none of them were like complete duds, you’re saying they all
Lisa Stelly 27:19
know me, they all got us to a certain level where we want it to be right. And then you know, one of them was just wanting to retire so that there was no, you know, what I mean, like it was working out? Well, it just, it the timing didn’t line up. But where we are now is just so great. Because our CEO right now, she’s also on our board. And she is the reason that this company got funding, she believed in this company, more than anyone, like, same level as me, and she’s been around for so long since the beginning. She understands the business so well, like, it’s so hard when you bring in a CEO or a high level employee, and they have to, like, learn the business. And they’re just like drinking from a firehose. It takes a long time to onboard someone, but what I loved about bringing on her name is Kylie. It just worked out so naturally, like the flow, and it’s just been, like, amazing.
Mike Malatesta 28:17
That’s another thing that you, you bring in the right person, and all of a sudden, all of these things that you imagined were possible, sort of begin to become possible where, where before they were maybe frustrating, because, yeah, yeah, so
Lisa Stelly 28:31
well, and Mike COVID, really, COVID really was a huge issue for the last two years, you know, just with morale, and employees and sales. And just, it was, it just was so nuts the last couple of years, just nuts. That’s the best way to sum it up. And I think a lot of people feel that way.
Mike Malatesta 28:54
So let me ask you one more question about sort of the finance growth side of the business. And then I want to get into the, the actual products, and then a little bit more about you so I can understand sort of where you came from to get here. But the the, you mentioned taking on investments. So it started as pretty much as a hobby became, you know, a really big hobby, something more became real, you know, business and then you started growing quickly. And you you mentioned taking on an investor, can you help me understand when sort of the switch happened for you? Because I’m thinking and you correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m thinking at the beginning you weren’t, you know, you you may not have been thinking this is going to be a huge business. You may have been thinking this is a real this is like a real neat project for me to see if I can disrupt this can create something that hasn’t been out there that people actually want. So tell me what’s changed about your thinking? I guess because when you take on an investor, you know, you’re giving up equity in the company, you’re definitely expectations go up and you know, there’s real, there’s real, you know, line of sight to a big company.
Lisa Stelly 30:15
Mm hmm. Yeah, I mean, something that I kind of learned, and it really resonated with me early on was that a lot of founders put a lot of emphasis on equity. And I always say, would you rather have 10% of a company that’s worth $100 million, or 60% of a company that’s worth $20 million, or $10 million? You know what I mean? So, for me, I was trading equity for success of the company, long term like I was, I’m betting on me, every day, I’m hedging my bets on me and my company. And if I don’t believe in it, and I don’t think that we can get there, then like, what am I doing? Right, like holding on to my equity that’s worthless? You know, so it’s just kind of like, do you want to grow your business or not? Like, where do you see like, Do you have a number in mind that you want to get to the business to? Valuation wise? Do you have a number that you want to walk away with? You know, like, I think these are important things to think about, you know, when I talked to my investor, those were the first things he asked me it was like, How much money? Do you want to walk away with them? I was like, I haven’t thought about it. You know what I mean? And so Okay, well, if you want to walk away with this amount of money, then we need to get to this X amount of revenue, which means this valuation in this year, hopefully, so and then that’s what you start working towards, like, if you don’t have a goal that you’re working towards the end, like, there’s no way to measure your success, really. So that was really important to me. The first thing is, like, know what you want. And also, like, know, what you want in an investor? Like, are you just going there to get money? Do you need money? Do you need help with the business? Do you want other input, like for me in that first year of business, because it took off and like blew up and I was doing everything I was like customer service order packaging. I had, like one other girl helping me. At that point, who had hired to help me package orders. I mean, I was doing everything social media, like back in website, I was like, mildly, like coding at that point. And so I was so exhausted, I didn’t even know who to hire to help me. Right. This is my first venture, interesting direct to consumer. And so for me, I didn’t have to go looking for money, it kind of came to me, which was, I understand that, that doesn’t happen for everybody. But for me, I was very, I don’t wanna say lucky, but the universe lined it up for me, because I believe in all of that, like stuff. And
Mike Malatesta 32:58
was it from the guy who liked the sprinkles on the doughnuts, and that made it
Lisa Stelly 33:02
it was from their investor. Okay, so, um, so it’s a private equity firm, and the chairman. He, someone told this guy who ate the doughnuts, told Kylie, who was now our CEO, okay. Hey, have you seen fancy sprinkles? And she’s like, No. And he was like, Look at this. And she was like, Oh, my God, this looks so fun. Like, how much money is she making? And he told her and she was like, she want to meet with me. And I was like, yeah. And so we sat down, and we had sushi. And we just hit it off with the same age. You know, we’re both moms, we were so similar. And she just loved the business. She loved my story. And she was like, you know, I want you to meet who is now my partner. And when we met, we just like, hit it off, talk to her hours. And, you know, he doesn’t invest in that many businesses, like a lot of businesses want him to invest, but he doesn’t. So I felt really special that I was like one of the 1000 businesses chosen. Because when he does invest, like he goes hard, and is really committed to it. And so, that was really exciting for me, because it was validation that not only did I believe in this, but other people saw my vision. And they saw, you know, it wasn’t, it wasn’t like super transactional, it felt very involved. So I’ve heard from a lot of friends and colleagues that a lot of times when you go with like venture capital, capital, it can be very transactional. And there’s a lot of hard lines in the sand, a lot of hard numbers and it’s just kind of like a very money transaction. This felt very much beyond that. It was like okay, helping me decide who are we going to hire next? What resources do we need? Now? I have their resources, right, because there’s an incubator program under the private equity firm with all these resources that you can pay for Actually, so that you don’t have to go out and hire a full time data researcher, you can use theirs for 20% of his time and pay a fraction of what you would pay someone full time because we just didn’t need full time data researchers, I didn’t need a full time, you know, growth specialist. So it worked out really nicely. And it also opened up a lot of opportunities and relationships to the business. So that’s why I chose to go with them. Because I wasn’t about the money we were, we had money that first year, we made a lot of money. And so I was sitting on a ton of money. And I was like, I don’t know where to put this next, I need a specialist to come in and help me so that I don’t waste it. So that was the whole point of you know, getting that first round of investment. Like let’s add some more capital to this and then decide where we’re going to put it to grow this business. Okay, so for me, it was like, that’s kind of the transition from the first year into that investment period of the second year.
Mike Malatesta 36:03
And would it be appropriate to share the name of the private equity firm for the show notes? Or?
Lisa Stelly 36:09
Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s fine. It’s Sterling partners in Chicago. Okay. My business partner, Steven testlets. Thank you. Yeah, just check with the PR firm that that’s okay. I’m pretty sure it’s fine. I mean, we, we did like a Business Wire. There was like present Business Wire about it when it happens. So it’s public knowledge, I think.
Mike Malatesta 36:33
Okay, I’ll double check. I’ll look it up. And just to make sure that when you are answering thank you for all that information. By the way, one thing that you said in there, I thought was really important. Well, a lot of it was important, but one thing you said was really important. And that is know what you want. I was just coaching a CEO yesterday who was looking at being acquired. And it’s, you know, you get a letter of intent. And it’s amazing how many people get a letter of intent, they sort of get a little excited about it, but they don’t take the time to actually think about what they want out of this. And when you go into something not having thought about what you want you know, you sometimes set yourself up for disappointment because you think I don’t know if this ever happened to you, but you kind of think that the person you’re talking to because you’re getting along and you’re having a good conversation is thinking the same thoughts that you’re thinking and oftentimes they’re not Yeah, especially when it comes to something like that it can lead to disappointment when you’re answering the HOW TO HAPPEN question you described you know, your adventure into sprinkles and, and other things now as edible art. And when you said that, I thought, I wonder what that means? Because I was thinking, not food. But when you say edible art, are you thinking are you describing food as art? Because it got I got the sense that when you were talking about the old school sprinkles and baking stuff, they were like sort of looking at food as food. Or is it something else that I’m missing?
Lisa Stelly 38:16
No, it’s It’s just that it’s like food is art. So we sell sprinkles as well as edible glitter. We sell kits so that you can make your own like cake sickles and cake pops. And, you know, we sell tools to decorate cakes. And you know, we have fancy sugars, like we have a whole cocktail audience. It’s not just edibles, like also drinkable. So we have a whole customer base that just buys sugars like colored. Like we sell beautiful glittery sugars, and they run their cocktail glasses with them. They put the edible glitter in their drinks. That’s like a whole other customer that we’ve acquired. So yeah, so it’s not just baking. So that’s why we say edible art because it’s sort of it’s not just for bakers, or people who like to make it’s also for entertainers, who just you know, they want to bring it’s called Prison powder. That’s our edible glitter. They want to bring that and put it in their purse and like when they’re out of the bar, put it in their drink and it’s just so glittery and gorgeous. And you can drink it, it’s edible and so just like fun stuff, you know, so yeah, it’s just kind of like making things that you can eat pretty
Mike Malatesta 39:32
and the glitter doesn’t change the taste of anything. It just just
Lisa Stelly 39:35
no taste around. It has no texture. It’s like a miracle powder. It’s it’s so glittery. Yes. And we have like every color under the sun. It’s you know that when we launched that product, it was like a whole new world emerge. It was very exciting. Well, because they in the baking world, there’s something called disco dust and it’s actually plastic, so it’s not edible and it says it on the jar like don’t eat this. It’s for decoration only, like if you’re going to decorate like a topping that no one’s going to eat on the cake, but people like started eating it. And so there was this whole thing on Instagram where a lot of bakers didn’t know disco dust isn’t edible. So we kind of against stepping into that education piece like educating consumers like you can not eat this, our product like that we’ve worked on and done a lot of r&d on this is edible, the FDA says it’s edible, you can eat it spread the word, and it looks prettier than that other stuff. And so once we really put the knowledge out there and stood behind that not only did the Baker’s like transition over to prison powder, but now we’re putting it in cocktails and champagne. So now we’re we have like so many different ad groups, we’ve got bakers, entertainers, cocktail enthusiast, like all these different sections, but they all have the same thing in common. They like pretty things. So I have a theory that, you know, people who subscribe to makeup skincare fashion, also are probably the type of people who want glitter in their champagne. Right? Right. So like, target those customers. Yeah, so it’s kind of this like, all enveloping it’s like, you know, we’re not just simple. Humans are multifaceted. We have so many different interests. But if you look at someone’s interest and how they all tie together, you can kind of get an accurate picture of like, what they might like. I think that’s fair to say. So that’s kind of where we steer our ship in terms of product.
Mike Malatesta 41:39
Well, I I am definitely gonna have to get some prison powder. Because that that way, it’s so fun. Yeah, it could be some something that you can only get if you come to our house.
Lisa Stelly 41:48
Yes, exactly. It’s it’s such a wow thing. Like when people see it for the first time. They’re just like, holy cow. Like, can I drink this? Is this actually drinkable? And then they taste it? And they’re like, Wait, there’s, it’s like not greedy. There’s nothing and just tastes like nothing? And I’m like, I know that’s the magic of it.
Mike Malatesta 42:05
Right. So. And your you mentioned a couple times DDC. So your Are you only selling ecommerce? Is that the only way to? Are you mostly trying to get into stores as well?
Lisa Stelly 42:18
Mostly yes. That was not retail was not our first. I don’t want to have anything, right. I’m the type of person like I’m not going to buy something unless I understand exactly what I’m getting. I’m not going to pay for a service unless I know exactly what it’s gonna get me and I have a clear path of how this is going to benefit us. Same goes with any type of new business venture, like I’m not gonna throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. Like we need to have a serious plan that is super outlined. And in our best interest, right? Because we’ve had I mean, every retailer under the sun has come to us, you name them. I’ve never reached out to a single retailer. Everyone has reached out to us over the last four plus years. And we’ve always said no, because I want to hold up the integrity of the brand. I don’t want to go to cheaper prices. I don’t want to compromise our quality to make it fit with them. So we just been really thoughtful about it. And our goal was always to grow our DTC presence first and establish that before we got into retail because it’s a lot harder to start with retail and then go DTC because it’s like, man, we’ve got, you know, it’s like, it’s literally like trying to turn a cruise ship around. It’s like know
Mike Malatesta 43:36
who you are. All kinds I know.
Lisa Stelly 43:39
So it’s like we built this whole organic following in this brand loyalty in this community. And as well as our DTC hires, which are totally difficult, like way more difficult to hire than anyone who’s done retail because retail has been around longer, right. So there’s a lot of people who have specialized in retail for decades, DTC not so much. So it’s really hard because it’s a newer ballgame. Right. So it’s, you have to basically, we’ve stopped out the DTC still staffing it out and then hopefully in the next year or so, I can’t say but we do have plans to have a retail model. But that’s all I can say about it.
Mike Malatesta 44:27
Okay, fair enough. And are you What about manufacturing I’m so I’m assuming that you’re using contract manufacturers that you have to make your product that we
Lisa Stelly 44:36
do. Okay, we have so many different products. So it’s the thing like even our sprinkles, like one jar of sprinkles has up to 16 different types of sprinkles, and probably like I would say the ratio is like 1/3 it like you split it in thirds, like everything in the bottle probably comes from three or four manufacturers. Like so we get all of our raw individual ingredients and colors. And we built out a food processing system in our warehouse, where it’s like, it’s essentially like a giant kitchen with no ovens or stoves. And it’s, that’s where we process like, I go in and I say, Okay, we need a red, sprinkle, blend. So I’ll make the sprinkle, blend. And then mathematically, we’ll transition it to like a large recipe. And then all of our people like blend them together in huge batches. And we fill them in our filling machines. And so it’s literally like we’re doing, we’re getting the raw materials somewhere else. And we’re blending them ourselves. Now our product that’s already like ready to go. Those are all from different manufacturers.
Mike Malatesta 45:44
Okay. Yeah, really smart. So you’re really controlling the IP on the, on this recipe, right? Because you’re,
Lisa Stelly 45:52
well, that’s why no one else can do what we do. Because you have to give up a lot of quality. Like, if you’re just going to go to China and say, Make me a sprinkle blend that looks like mermaid. It’s not going to be curated, it’s not going to be that pretty. It’s going to be like, not great. And that’s why people love us is because everything is so curated and has such a personality. It’s like not generic in any way, shape, or form. And there was customers that they appreciate that.
Mike Malatesta 46:23
Yeah. Okay. So let’s, if you don’t mind, let’s back up a little bit. And I’d like to know how you became who you are. How we sort of got from 2016 on what about how did you become who you are?
Lisa Stelly 46:43
Well, I’m, I’m from Louisiana. So I actually grew up on the Bayou. My parents literally have a bayou in their backyard. Okay, and my whole family’s like in the medical industry. My dad’s a pharmacist, all my sisters are pharmacists. And I basically grew up playing a ton of sports, big tomboy, but also very girly. So whenever I decided to go to college, I went to pre med I was going to be a pharmacist and following the family footsteps. And after like a year, I was really unhappy there. I was in North Louisiana in Monroe, where they film Duck Dynasty. So it’s like, as you can imagine, it’s like the worst town ever. It’s so boring there. There’s nothing to do. And I just always felt like I was meant for a greater purpose. Call it instinct, call it intuition. I just felt like cosmically connected to something that was not there. And so I moved to Baton Rouge in hopes of being in a better town went to a different college. And after about a year there, I was really bored. Again, I made really good grades. I’ve always been pretty academic. But I was just not fulfilled. I was like, I don’t want to be here. Like, I don’t want to be doing this. I don’t want to just like get a job and go to work and get married and have kids. And so I decided to move to LA. And when I came to LA, I started modeling, and I had a really successful career there. And yeah, it was really nice, because I got to just finally break out of the hole like academia, sports, academia, sports, and it was like, for the first time in my life, I felt really free to explore who I was, and like, what my true interests were versus like, what does everyone in this town just do? And so, you know, I met new people I was, you know, involved in learning about different cultures, you know, like, where I’m from. Everyone is the same religion, everyone’s you know what I mean? So, it was such an exploratory thing for me to be able to just, like, learn and soak things up and learn about things that I like to wear fashion and I traveled a ton. And so that’s kind of like, where I really learned about myself and who I was. So yeah, but I, I’ve always been interested in, curating like, for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved like, anything having to do with design, like I love interior design, decorating, like, sometimes I just go buy flowers and like, arrange them in a certain way. Like, that’s just how my brain works. So it’s very, and then my whole family is like entrepreneurs, like my dad has owned pharmacies since as long as I can remember. And when I was a kid, I worked at his pharmacies, you know what I mean? Like I was the cashier. And so like, I learned a lot about business. And, you know, I It always made more sense to me to own my own business because like, that’s what I had seen modeled. And so it just took me a while to figure out what that business needed to be
Mike Malatesta 50:01
okay. And when you move to LA was it just sort of the classic, you know, pack up the car and drive? And did you have a place? Did you have friends there? Did you have a place?
Lisa Stelly 50:11
Yeah, no. Well, I had I had a boyfriend at the time that I was dating in Louisiana, but he lived in LA. So I went to visit with him. I went to visit his family over Thanksgiving. And when I went there, I was scouted by a modeling agency. And they were like, just go on a casting. And I went, and I booked it, and I made like, $2,000. And I was like, I’m rich guys. Like, sorry, this is the most money I’ve ever seen in my life. I was looking at a check for $2,000. And I was like, That was so easy. I just like, smiled. And so and then they were like, Okay, let’s send you out on a commercial. And I booked the commercial. And I got like, I got like, 40 grand, literally, within the first like two weeks of being there. And I was like, Mom, Dad, I’m sorry, but I’m quitting school. I’m richer than you now. Basically, like, you can’t even imagine being like, 20 years old, it was nuts. And so I was really lucky, I never had to have a job like waiting tables, like, I got an apartment, set my car out. And my parents were like, okay, like, if you’re happy, you know, the school agreed to let me go and like a year hiatus and come back and still have my scholarship. So I did that. And I had just such a fantastic time. I mean, I was just bopping around living the life clubbing, just working, modeling and getting paid so well. And it was just like, such an incredible experience to go from, like, schoolwork in Louisiana to now it’s like, you know, living the life in LA. I don’t live that life anymore. I can tell you, I have three kids. And it’s not as glamorous as it looks on the internet. But, you know, I managed to just like, I think the most important thing was just like meeting a lot of people. You know what I mean? And like, understanding how different people grew up and like what other people were interested in. And like I said, like, you just kind of have to be a sponge. Like I’ve always loved to learn. That’s always been really important to me. But long story short, I did not go back to Louisiana and finish and get my degree.
Mike Malatesta 52:14
So that’s where that was gonna go. Yeah,
Lisa Stelly 52:17
yeah, I was like, Sorry, guys. I’m not coming back. Like I’m good.
Mike Malatesta 52:21
Before you move to I had had modeling been something that you considered or was no life. So that was a brand new thing. When you got there.
Lisa Stelly 52:29
It was in, you know, apparently, it’s all about how you look. So I was like, alright, yeah, they were like, you’re tall. I had short brown hair. And at the time, like, nobody had short hair, really. And so I look different. And so I just booked a lot of jobs kind of based on that. Look at the time, it was a long time ago. Like 15 years ago. So yeah, just you know, like I said, I really believe in the universe. So I believe in like, cosmic paths. And like, intuitively, it felt like the right decision and like, it led me to that which led me to this and like, it’s, it’s all just kind of trust your gut. And like, my gut, told me that it was the right decision to make, just like my gut told me that this business was the decision that I needed to make. So
Mike Malatesta 53:17
and I saw somewhere that you were in Green Day videos, right? So that sort of nothing meaning Green Day video, so I wanted to Yeah, that was just there. I don’t know if you’d like them as banned or not. But they’re like, my favorite band. I listened to them almost all day long in my headphones, just Are you serious? Quietly just over and over and over again, all this stuff?
Lisa Stelly 53:39
I mean, I’m not not a fan, but like, I’m not really like a rock fan at all. So um, but yeah, I did like three Green Day videos. I did a ton of commercials. Like if you saw commercial between, like 2016 and 2018. No, sorry. Oh, my God, I got my decades mixed up. If you saw commercial between 2006 and 2008, or 2009. Yeah, I was in like every commercial, it was wild. And that was at the time whenever they were paying, like everything was union like National. So you just get royalties off of everything. Like everyday it was just like a stack of checks. And so they don’t pay that way. They don’t pay that well, anymore. I’ve heard from friends, but you know, the media landscape has changed, which also has affected businesses massively. Like back then there was only TV commercials, like we didn’t have YouTube ads, Instagram ads, Facebook ads, all these things. So you also have to be really nimble in sort of navigating the media landscape because boy, is it changing, like, month to month.
Mike Malatesta 54:44
And do you miss that or is this I guess no, that’s a dumb question if you miss it, but what what? You know your business has got you very excited. I can tell you know, just from talking to you, was for you equally as excited doing that. work, or was it? No? Okay? And it wasn’t no, right. It was just,
Lisa Stelly 55:05
it wasn’t ever my own. And also back then, like modeling was so much more sketchy than it is now like, okay, there was no there like I found like social media didn’t exist. So like I encountered a lot of really sketchy situations where I was not comfortable, I did not feel safe and like no one ever knew about it, right? It’s like, so now people have to be accountable for their behavior towards women. And back then it wasn’t that way. So no, I don’t miss it. Because also I was, you know, I don’t want to offend anyone who’s like, in their early 20s. Like, I was a little girl, you know what I mean? Like, still mentally, I didn’t have my family out here to protect me. And so I don’t miss that at all. Because also it was very, there’s a lot of rejection in that arena. So you have to have I think that’s the reason I develop really thick skin is because you just get so used to rejection. Like it’s really hard to offend me. I don’t I you know, I was used to people just being like, oh, no, you’re too short. Or we don’t like your jawline, or your ears are not right for this. Like literally the craziest stuff. So you just, you just get used to it. And you like learn how to not take it personally. So I think that that’s helped. That is probably like my one big good takeaway other than success, financially. I learned how to like have thick skin.
Mike Malatesta 56:34
That’s a fantastic takeaway, Lisa, because I just wrote something about this, that B being offended is a personal choice. No one can really offend you unless you decide to be offended. It’s impossible, because it’s somebody else saying something that has nothing to do with what you decide to believe about yourself.
Lisa Stelly 56:55
Exactly. I think also we’re taught that like, we should be offended by certain things. But if you look at it from the lens of like, did that person mean to be offensive? That’s a totally different question. If someone purposely Furley is trying to offend you. Well, that’s That’s an insult. Someone’s insulting you intentionally. That’s a different story than like, someone didn’t mean to offend you. You just got to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Mike Malatesta 57:21
Yeah, good clarification. Well, Lisa Stanley, this has been so much fun getting to know you and talking about all these different things. I congratulations on your success and fancy sprinkles is sounds like it’s going to be everywhere. It’s definitely going to be in my house. Because I am going to check out some of the products Yeah, so I want to try some I want to be pretty
Lisa Stelly 57:42
yes, they’re great on ice cream are sprinkles are so good on ice cream. You’ll never be able to eat like regular sprinkles again.
Mike Malatesta 57:49
Do you? Is there any other way you want any people to connect with you? I gave your Instagram and your website at the beginning and sir.
Lisa Stelly 57:55
Yeah, I mean, my personal Instagram is at Lisa Sally. Um, but you know, we have fancy sprinkles, Instagram and which is really fun. It’s like a rabbit hole of addiction to go down. It’s just so fun to watch.
Mike Malatesta 58:09
Okay, I’ll make sure I put both of those in the show notes. Lisa, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. I really
Lisa Stelly 58:15
Yeah, you too. Thank you so much, Mike. Have a good one. You too.