064 | Infusing core values in hiring with Rosie O'Neill, Sugarfina

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Rosie O’Neill is the co-founder of Sugarfina, a luxury candy boutique that features the finest sweets from artisan candy makers around the world. Rosie and her fiancé Josh Resnick launched Sugarfina in July 2012. The idea for the company was inspired by their third date — when they watched the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and they were left wondering why their wasn’t candy boutiques for grown ups.

Rosie was named to Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People” list, and Goldman Sachs’ “100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs,”. She is disrupting the sweets space with an innovative approach to confections and retail.

Before candy, Rosie played with dolls for 7 years as Director of Marketing for Barbie at Mattel, where she led a global business unit that sold more than 50 million Barbie dolls annually. She received her MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a BA in Communication Studies from UCLA. Her favorite candies are Champagne Bears, Peach Bellini and Sparkle Pops.

On today’s episode, Rosie shares her start up story as well as lessons she learned as they scaled Sugarfina into the large brand it is today — with wholesale and retail channels, a bustling online shop, 50 retail locations and a range of licensing collaborations. Rosie offers some really great suggestions — including the importance of self-care, why we need to be careful about which opportunities we say yes and no to and things she looks for when hiring members of her team.


  • Her favorite Sugarfina candy right now & the most popular flavors with customers

  • How much she loves getting to dream up & invent different candies

  • Rosie’s background prior to Sugarfina

  • Her transition to entrepreneurship & how she decided upon luxury candy

  • The hurdles at the beginning & how she navigated that

  • How her previous position at Mattel helped her start & scale Sugarfina

  • What her early goals were for the business

  • The experience of adding brick & mortar stores very quickly

  • Her first hires & what she looked for in an employee when she first started hiring

  • Whether or not she fears hiring people who one day might become a competitor

  • The fact that they did not have a business plan when they first started & why she thinks it can be beneficial sometimes not to have one at the start

  • Moments and decisions that propelled her business forward

  • The criteria she uses for deciding to pursue an opportunity or not

  • How she cultivates a positive work culture

  • An important lesson Rosie has learned through her entrepreneurial journey

  • Rosie’s advice on creating your product & getting your product to market

  • How she decides when to discontinue a product

  • What’s next for Sugarfina

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“It’s like we get to play Willy Wonka because we dream up and invent all these crazy, fun flavors and cute shapes and fun colors, and then we get to bring them to life.” – Rosie O’Neill

“I had always in the back of my head wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but I thought I was going to do it in my fifties. It came way, way, way sooner than I imagined, but I think sometimes you just have those moments of luck where everything kind of comes together and you just don’t overthink it.” – Rosie O’Neil

“It [Sugarfina] is a dream and I love it but it’s also the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever done and just exhausting at times.” – Rosie O’Neil

“I’m really proud of the fact that as we have grown, we have always been able to deliver on that quality and that amazing customer experience, but everything under the surface has just been chaos and a mess.” – Rosie O’Neil

“I’m always kind of looking at what’s coming up but it’s important to take a moment and look back on how far we’ve come and it’s pretty cool.” – Rosie O’Neil

“We love to bring in people who one day want to start their own company but they’re not quite ready and Sugarfina can be a learning environment for them.” – Rosie O’Neil

“I want to make sure that we have an environment where people want to stay because they’re continuing to grow, and learn, and feel empowered.” – Rose O’Neil

“I am all for people going out and starting their new company if they want to, but stay with us as long as you can and really get to know all the things you’re going to need to know to start a business because it’s hard.” – Rosie O’Neill

“I think sometimes you got to just go for it and be willing to put out something that’s not perfect and then learn and continue to perfect.” – Rosie O’Neill

“You really need to create a culture where people feel connected to the big picture and like they’re really making an impact.” – Rosie O’Neill

“I don’t care if you have hours that are slightly different than a normal working day, I just care about the output of your work and that’s how I’m going to look at things.” – Rosie O’Neill

“We have a no assholes policy.” – Rosie O’Neill

“You really have to take care of yourself because there is an endless amount of work to do when you run your business.” – Rosie O’Neill

“Get your product out in front of the real world as quickly as you can.” – Rosie O’Neill

“Even though there’s all these great data analytics and all these tools, you can’t lose touch of the human connection and I think a lot of companies let that fall by the wayside and you really have got to prioritize that.” – Rosie O’Neill


Website: Sugarfina | Instagram: @sugarfina | Facebook: @sugarfina | Twitter: @sugarfina | Pinterest: @sugarfina

Connect with Katie Hunt

Katie Hunt is a business strategist, podcaster, mentor and mama to four. She helps product based businesses build profitable, sustainable companies through her conferences, courses and coaching programs.

Website: prooftoproduct.com  |   Instagram: @prooftoproduct

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