The most delectable edible cutlery you’ll ever have the pleasure of tasting! Think of every flavour imaginable, and then some! If you’re looking to be environmentally conscious and feel rewarded by a sweet treat for it, then TUF Candy have the perfect solution for you. Made with love in Ontario, this startup offers single use edible spoons & shot glasses perfect for any occasion. What’s truly astonishing about this company is its founders: Lyn, Liyan and Daniel – all full time undergraduate students with a passion for sustainable development and business (talk about hitting the trifecta!!)
We sat down with co-founder Daniel to dish some deets on these sweet treats.
What made you gravitate towards improving the food and waste industry? And within that – looking at confectionary?
So all 3 co-founders absolutely love food. Especially Liyan – she’s a food blogger on the side too! In terms of the actual idea, Lyn came up with it quite some time ago. She was sitting at a kitchen table and her mom was washing a plastic spoon. So Lyn asked “Why would you wash a plastic spoon?” and her mom explained she didn’t want it being thrown away into a landfill. Right then and there, Lyn started thinking about beneficial ways we could create a single use spoon, something biodegradable. Originally, we were thinking about chopsticks, but once we started refining the idea, eventually through customer interviews and validating the product, we ended up with spoons and shot glasses!
Yeah! We noticed your startup focuses a lot on being eco-friendly! Why was this an important factor for you to consider when building your product?
The initial driving force behind the idea was Lyn, so we built it right from the start. On top of that, all three co-founders grew up around being environmentally friendly thinking about how to make a better impact, so it’s something we’ve always been conscious about. Now, even when we go to conferences and events, we’d see tonnes of plastic cutlery being thrown away, so it really validated what we all anticipated as a big problem. A crazy amount of waste is generated – it also helps that it’s a bit of a marketing tactic as well. Lots of people want to know how to be environmentally conscious.
What were some of the challenges you faced while building TUF Candy?
So the biggest challenge was knowing what to do at such a young age – it’s really hard to know what needs to be done to build a business – starting to actually do things, prioritizing and developing prototypes, marketing, manufacturing, and testing those – figuring out what you need to know. So that’s where mentors really helped us. The support that we’ve gotten from them is immeasurable. Another challenge was learning not to totally fall in love with your idea; Be willing to change quickly when something isn’t working – and that’s not necessarily something we did in the first few months of building TUF Candy. Learning to be flexible is really important.
Speaking of flexibility – how did you manage your time so well? Between being a full time student, managing a business and volunteering – it must be a tricky balance.
Support from your co-founders and mentors – talking about what works and what doesn’t work. Another crucial factor is just putting time aside when you have it to figure out how to relieve stress in ways that benefit you. Overall, it’s definitely just a learning process. So there’s definitely a balance there.
You’ve mentioned the importance of mentors, who would you say has been an inspirational mentor to you?
Lucas Chang – he’s the co-founder of Y2 Labs; that’s where the original idea was created actually, a couple years ago. He’s been with us from the start – he’s been a huge motivator throughout this whole process.
People think it’s hard starting a business, but we know it’s hard to maintain it too! What keeps you going on days when you see difficulties in running Candy Cutlery?
One of the biggest things is the team – getting together and brainstorming a solution or even trying different things. Talking through problems with the whole team is what motivates all of us. I think Lucas was the first one to mention this quote to me, but I’ve heard it often: “It takes a community to build a startup”, so we’re definitely grateful for the advice of mentors and our network.
We couldn’t agree more! None of FoundersBeta would be possible without it’s community and founders like yourself! There’s a whole support system behind great ideas!
What’s your favourite utensil from the products you offer? What flavours to they come in!
I like the spoon a lot – just because it’s very versatile. I quite like the spoon. In terms of flavor, in the past, we’ve offered cotton candy, lemon, lime, pina colada, rum, strawberry, vanilla, mint, peppermint, the list goes on! Our current flavours for the spoon are: mint, strawberry, vanilla and coffee, and for shot glasses we have lemon and vanilla!
For our young professional audience who are also aspiring to build a successful product, what are 3 key pieces of advice you’d give?
What’s something you’ve done outside of your education and professional work that you feel has contributed to it?
Definitely taking time for myself, staying active and resting when appropriate. Mental health is important, especially when you’re the ones who drive things forward. If you burnout and need to take 3 or 4 days off – that ends up costing you more in the long run rather than taking an hour and a half each day and going to the gym.