“It had nothing to do with school,” said the first-year culinary arts student at NAIT. “I just wanted a nice lollipop with cool flavours and you can’t really buy those in Canada.”
With the help of her mom, Kerry, Mercedes started experimenting with different flavours and colours with the goal of creating complex and sophisticated lollies that would appeal to adult consumers.
“They’re not supposed to be a basic red or grape lollipop,” Mercedes explained. “It’s supposed to have a different flavour and make you go ‘oh, that’s really nice to look at.’”
Turns out, the McKinlays weren’t the only ones who wanted those lollipops.
As a manager of entrepreneurship at ATB, Kerry knows that a key part of any business idea is market validation, so she and her daughter started offering the lollies to their family and friends. After receiving positive feedback, they were encouraged to start selling them locally, and Sumptuous Lollies was born.
Add in a family connection, a supportive leader and what the McKinlays figured was a shot in the dark, and their small side business was suddenly thrust into the spotlight.
When Kerry’s brother, who runs a video and photo company out of Las Vegas, heard about Sumptuous Lollies, he suggested that the McKinlays get in touch with the folks who put together the gift bags for awards shows to see if they could get their product some more exposure.
“I sent an email and didn’t think I’d hear back,” said Kerry.
She received a response the same day, with a proposal to include Sumptuous Lollies in the gift bags given to performers and presenters at the 61st Grammy Awards, taking place Feb. 10.
While Kerry was trying to figure out how to come up with the required funds, she happened to bring some lollies to work with her. She offered a few to her director, Ryan McGregor and the two got to talking about Sumptuous Lollies and the opportunity available with the Grammys. When he found out that the entrance fee could potentially hold Sumptuous Lollies back from getting into the Grammys, Ryan spoke to his own leader Wayne Kryzalka, managing director of entrepreneurship at ATB. The two decided that ATB would sponsor the entrance fee—and cover the cost of production materials.
Kerry and Mercedes were blown away. But Ryan said it was just the right thing to do.
“If we support our clients as much as we do, why wouldn’t we support our team members the same way?” he said.
A lollie for the A-listers
With the entrance fee taken care of, Kerry and Mercedes needed to come up with a lollipop that was fit for the who’s who of the music industry.
They settled on a gorgeous candy that features 24-karat edible gold leaf, champagne and rose petals.
“We know we wanted something that’s flashy, in your face, something that celebrities would be attracted to,” Kerry said.
“That’s why we had to put gold in it!” Mercedes cut in with a laugh.
Small beginnings, big plans
When local media caught wind of the story, the small side business suddenly got a whole lot bigger. And after this weekend’s Grammy Awards, it’s likely things will get even busier.
“I need another 24 hours in each day,” Kerry said. “The response from everybody has been amazing.”
The McKinlays plan on riding this wave of unexpected success. After all, it’s a great stepping stone for Mercedes, who dreams of one day opening her own restaurant. And for Kerry, the first-hand experience running a small business helps her stay even more connected to her customers.
“I recently had a meeting with a client and he was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with his business,” Kerry said. “I could relate, and I told him my story.”
“Right away, his answer to me was, ‘it’s so nice to talk to someone who really understands, not someone who just says they understand,’” she added.