KIDS IN A CANDY KITCHENThe students that started Bluff Park Sugar are learning how to operate a business, one piece of candy at a time.
By Heather Jones Skaggs
Photos by Dawn Harrison
Who knew a sweet tooth would lead to a small business experience for some young Hoover students who were, as they say, “looking for something to do?” Reid Bearden and Ben Stocks started searching with – what else – YouTube. “We had the idea to make something on our day off,” Ben says. “It took about a week to figure out what we were going to do until it clicked while we were watching a candy-making video.” The duo thought they would just make a single batch of candy with friends and share it with their family, but the sweet stuff snowballed into a business with the additions of friends Mattie Buford, Katelyn Ragland, Joey Bearden and Mary Ingalls Dwyer.
The candy-makers formed Bluff Park Sugar, and they are in high demand. In the kitchen, Ben, Reid and Joey start the candy-making process with three steps.
- COOKING: “First, we mix together the sugar, corn syrup and water in a pot. Then bring it to a boil and let it cook until it reaches the hard crack stage, or roughly 310 degrees Fahrenheit. After it has reached that stage, we put in the flavoring and food coloring while it is still very hot in order to boil out the water in them, because water makes candy sticky,” Ben says. Flavors include cherry, root beer, caramel apple, coconut and pineapple.
- PULLING: “We fold the freshly cooked candy onto itself to make it cool enough to pull. As we are pulling, we are trapping millions of tiny little air bubbles making it lighter to the naked eye. This creates the lighter or darker colored candies,” Reid says.
- CUTTING: “Once the candy is pulled into long strips, we take a blade and make many cuts into the strip, with about an inch (of) space between each cut. We wait for the candy to harden until we can easily break the candy along the cut lines,” Joey says.
“I love watching the candy being pulled and stretched,” Katelyn, the head of sales for the young entrepreneurs, says. Reid, Mattie and Ben agree, and find that step in the process to be relaxing and also a good way to work out frustration.
On the business end of Bluff Park Sugar, Katelyn and Mattie say the group is gaining some perspectives on how an actual business works and developing skills and goals for the business.
“I want to learn how to run and manage a business on a small scale,” Reid says. “We also want to venture into different ways and techniques in making candy for the future.”
“We want to have fun making candy and selling it as well as learning business skills and other skills to help with college and when I have a job in the real world,” Ben says.
Bluff Park Sugar is venturing into some new aspects of their candy-making for the holiday season. “Everyone’s sweet tooth comes out for the holidays,” Katelyn says.
“We are looking at ribbon candy and candy canes,” Reid says. Mattie and Ben say they are excited to try peppermint-flavored hard candy and giving candy canes a try.
Treats from Bluff Park Sugar have been sold at booths at Sweetspire Gardens and Park and Crest Market. “It has been really positive so far,” Mattie says. “We’ve been really successful at the markets and had a few large party orders.”
The kids are also doing personal orders as well, and the response from the candy customers is A+. “Everyone loves the candy, and they are very impressed that we have created this business at such a young age,” Katelyn says.
“Overall, I think that people who try our candy instantly fall in love with it,” Reid says.
Ingredients have also brought another positive aspect to the candy for Sugar’s customers. “I also hear it is nice having the peace of mind that so few ingredients are used in our candy, all of which you can pronounce, and we’ve found that people enjoy that,” Ben says.