SMITHFIELD – Katie Sterling wanted her kids to earn their own spending money, so she encouraged them to set up a stand and start selling cotton candy near their home.
The budding entrepreneurs – four of them from ages 6 to 13 – created their own unique flavors of cotton candy with multiple flavors and set up shop near their home.
“My kids kept wanting to buy things, so I told them they needed to earn their own money,” she said. “I told them to take our cotton candy machine, make some and see if they could sell it.”
They had a cheap machine on a stand they rolled in near their front yard and went to work. It ended up doing well; they sold almost everything they made.
“A neighbor suggested we enter our children into the Logan Children’s Entrepreneur Fair in 2019,” she said. “They did very well in that, too.”
From that moment Floss Cotton Candy was born.
The Sterlings came up with their own recipe for cotton candy after many tries and fails, added a bunch of different flavors and they found out what worked well for packing in plastic tubs.
They went through a bunch of cotton candy machines before coming up with one that worked with their recipe. Besides the tubs, they recently invented a round Floss Cake. It’s the size of a regular birthday cake.
“My kids were reading the Tuttle Twin series by Connor Boyack, who helped pass legislation in Utah protecting child business,” Sterling said. “That’s when my kids decided to grow their business from the side of the road stand to a business shipping 100 cases of cotton candy out a month.”
As it turns out, Utah is one of the best states for kids to sell lemonade, baked goods, cotton candy or anything else.
The Tuttle Twin books, which talk about having an entrepreneurial spirit, flipped the switch for the Sterling children. It was time to go big or go home.
Armed with a degree in Mommy Science, it became Katie Sterling’s goal to help her kids learn to become entrepreneurs. That’s when Floss Cotton Candy went from a kid business to a family one.
“We had our accountant draw up the LLC and I had to get the Utah Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on board and get a commercial kitchen space,” she said. “Lee’s in Smithfield gave us a trial run to see how it would sell. It surpassed all expectations.”
The name of the brand Floss Cotton Candy came from the children’s father Kip Sterling’s trade. He is an endodontist, or root canal specialist. They found a friend who helped with the graphics.
After being successful at Lee’s Marketplace stores the product got picked up at Broulim’s, Kent’s Market, Artisan Mercantile in Blue Square, and several mom and pop shops.
“Did you know that cotton candy has the least amount of sugar of any treats?” Katie Sterling asked. “It’s mostly air.”
The Sterling children work about three to four hours a day during the summer, and during the school year they work about three to four hours a week.
Today, they have a crew of friends that help make and package their products.
“I think it’s been a great educational experience for my kids,” Katie Sterling said. “I’m glad we did it together.”
She said it taught them that they can take an idea, work with it and make it successful while making money.
“This experience taught them how to contribute to society by earning their own way,” Sterling said. “They got to see how to do things despite the COVID setbacks.”
The Sterling children learned to preserver with resilience. They learned about business, economics and the list keeps going.
“I want them to find something they have a passion for and make a business out of it and be successful,” Sterling said. “It would be nice if other people would let their kids learn to work hard and not just let them watch a screen.
“I think teaching kids to have work ethic is important for them,” she added. “Make a pitcher of lemonade, let them sit there for five hours and make $5. Let them interact with humans.”
It’s not about the money, it’s about teaching life skills and to be successful, Sterling said.