Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ah, Sweet Smell of Success - Decorated Sugar Cubes

My philosophy has always been that you can sell anything. All you had to do was find something you wanted to sell for more than it cost to make it. So, let me tell you about my first home-based business.

I decorated sugar cubes. Yes, you heard me, I decorated sugar cubes. I wanted a business that could be done from my home.  And, with caring for a 15-month-old toddler, taking care of hubby and home, and, another baby on the way, there was a limit to how much energy could be devoted to a business.

A Cup of Tea, A Lump of Sugar,  and Inspiration

I had had some success decorating birthday cakes for family and friends. Some were so pretty, it was hard to eat them! My friends were constantly asking me when I was going to start a real business decorating cakes at home. Then, one day during a visit with my next-door neighbor, as she added a small sugar cube to her tea, inspiration hit. 

Everyone enjoys having pretty tables for luncheons, parties, and weddings, I thought. Almost everyone can decorate a cake. I would have to be different and offer something unique to the ladies of my town. Instead of just one design on small petit fours found in bakeries, I would offer seven designs per box, using holidays, special occasions, or a client’s theme. Choosing square cubes rather than rectangular, each box would contain exactly 25 exquisitely decorated sugar cubes.

Decorated Sugar Cubes, a Craft Fair, and Publicity

My most expensive home business purchases included a set of miniature decorator tips, boxes for packaging, and professional business cards. (This was pre-computer days!) I sketched several thematic designs, created a flyer explaining my new home business, and stuck them under windshields at the malls. The designs were not only unique, they were realistically executed and, before long, my little business began to generate a small but nice income.

One day, during a visit, my pushy neighbor said I should exhibit at an upcoming local craft fair. (Am I not swollen with child?, I thought...) "Well, why not", I said. So, that is exactly what I did. This resulted in two very interesting follow-up visitations.

In the first instance, because my craft was so unusual and the Craft Fair people were overheard discussing a category for me by the local reporter/editor/Avon Lady (this was a very small town), I was interviewed about my home business for the Sunday edition of our local paper.

Imagine my surprise that Sunday morning to find a picture of my toddler watching me decorate sugar cubes at my kitchen table, with an accompanying article that covered the ENTIRE front page of the Sunday’s Food Section. (My husband, in passing by, less-than-graciously offered that he had seen a synopsis of WWII in less space; but, it could have been that he hadn’t had his coffee, yet.) Serendipitous advertising, for sure, that brought me a solid high-end clientele.

Second Visitors More Ominous in Sugar Cube Business

The second instance provided visitors that were a little more formal and ominous – and (I quickly ascertained from their proffered cards), that they were from the, uh, Vice Squad. Did I mention this took place in the late sixties?  Or, that I offered a variety of flavors, in addition to my beautiful decorations? This option, they informed me, was the focus of their surprise visit, and could we have a little talk...

Busy raising my family, I gave little thought to the dark side of the sixties -- psychedelic drugs, colorful vans, or, for instance, the part sugar cubes played in that scenario. Let's just say, as it turned out, these Vice Squad gentlemen held a more au courant view. Point of fact, they had come for random sample boxes of my packaged sugar cubes to take back to forensics for a “flavor” breakdown. I told them that they’d have to pay for anything they wanted to take.

Oh, my! Well, ever thirsty for knowledge, imagine my joy when I was gratuitously instructed on the powers of local law enforcement. Free of charge! They were able to clear up my misconception about what does and does not have to be paid for when you’re under the spotlight, so to speak. But, holding my heavy-with-second-child tummy whilst declaring my innocence and explaining all the hard work I'd been through, they proved the better person (in spite of their superior position) -- and graciously paid for their two sample boxes.

Within two days, I was cleared of all suspicion and my little niche business flourished for another four years before my husband was transferred. Decorated sugar cubes! Whodda thunk it...


  1. I have to admit that I´ve never heard of decorated sugar cubes :-) and I would never have guessed it could be a success :-) :-) :-)

    I was laughing when I read about the Vice Squad :-) :-) Good thing they turned out to be that nice :-)

    Have a great day now!

  2. I've never heard of decorated sugar cubes but they sound awesome!! Too funny about the vice squad ;-) xx

  3. The vice squad...awesome ;)

    Do you have any pictures of the cubes?

  4. You really don't see sugar cubes around much, anymore. Don't know why. If I had an extra half hour in the day, I'm sure I could squeeze them in; right.

    Yeah, you don't often get the Vice Squad looking for sweets. Geez, and expecting them for free!