Building a Socially Responsible, Organic Retail Food Brand

Rosé, sangria, cider, chai tea, strawberry daiquiri, rum and pina colada …

Do those flavors incite images of a high-end wine bar, a cozy coffee shop or a beach bar in the tropics? Guess again. Those are just some of the unique flavors Oscar William’s Gourmet Cotton Candy spins onto paper cones for weddings, fundraisers, corporate events and other gatherings.

Who they are

Oscar William’s is a family owned and run business, started in 2013 by Tasha Holland-Kornegay. However, the idea to sell cotton candy in unique and unusual flavors came from Holland-Kornegay’s 14-year-old son, Kyree. Her husband designed the small business’s name, logo, and signature outfits. Today, the family still works to develop new flavors. They include chili pepper, root beer float and banana pudding, and they travel to sell their cotton candy for their community.

In the beginning, Holland-Kornegay didn’t have a plan or a budget. She just wanted to raise whatever funds she could for her nonprofit, Partners Against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (PASTD).

“During my graduate studies, I worked at the American Sexual Health Association, answering questions on the national STD/HIV hotline,” says Holland-Kornegay. “I began to realize the seriousness, and alarming rate of the HIV/AIDS epidemic within countless communities throughout North Carolina. I was wracking my brain one day on trying to figure out ways to raise funding for HIV/AIDS awareness after writing grant [proposal] after grant [proposal] with little success.

How they did it

She launched the cotton candy company with less than the $1,000 she had in the couple’s bank account. For the first few years Oscar William’s was just breaking even. But, thanks to guerrilla marketing and social media, their business has now grown to becoming profitable. They still give 10 percent of the profits they make to PASTD.

Learning to market Oscar William’s was enjoyable, says Holland-Kornegay, and community was key. If it weren’t for the community she built around her brand, she says, the company wouldn’t be as successful they are today.

“Hitting the streets, we went out and offered the product to the public. Lots of networking; sending out emails to let others know about us,” she says. “[We] created a buzz in the neighborhood and offered lots of sampling.”

In addition to local area events and promotions, Holland-Kornegay built a group of followers on Facebook. Oscar Willam’s leverages it to recap events, give fan shout-outs and survey new cotton candy flavors.

Facebook took notice and included Oscar Willam’s as part of their Facebook Stories series.

“Our business has a community business feel,” says Holland-Kornegay. “The people invested in our mission and our product. My advice for other entrepreneurs is to make sure your customers feel connected, share your stories with them, and let them in on the process. Let the community grow with you and your business.”

Their cotton candy business is profitable now, but it took the Holland-Kornegay family persistence, patience and diligence to grow into what they are now. “You can be scared, but you can’t let fear hold you back,” says Holland-Kornegay. “Take a deep breath and DO IT!”

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