Sprinkling joy of baking into entrepreneurship: Candace Nelson offers advice for future entrepreneurs


Photo credit: Meredith Ho

Sprinkles founder Candace Nelson speaks to upper school students about her entrepreneurial journey. Sophomores Ivy Woolenberg and Ella Dorfman hosted a Q&A during FLX block May 5.

By Meredith Ho, Senior Reporter

Bright pink cupcake ATM machines have become iconic sights throughout Los Angeles, drawing the attention of passersby and cupcake enthusiasts. Candace Nelson, who invented the cupcake ATM and founded what she calls the world’s first cupcake business, Sprinkles, was invited to speak about her journey as an entrepreneur at Archer May 5. The event was open to upper school students and was held in the library during FLX block.

In addition to founding Sprinkles, Nelson co-founded Pizzana, which has multiple locations across Los Angeles. She is also one of the hosts of “Cupcake Wars and the author of “The Sprinkles Baking Book.

Sophomores Ivy Woolenberg and Ella Dorfman hosted a student Q&A and then opened the session to the audience for questions. Nelson answered questions about her process of becoming a well-known entrepreneur and talked about the challenges she faced throughout her career.

Dorfman enjoys baking and said she looked forward to hearing about Nelson’s business ventures and what got her involved.

“I also want to hear about how her unique experience with being a woman in business has shaped her ability to create an incredible business and how that identity really has shaped her perception of the world,” Dorfman said.

Through founding Sprinkles, Nelson wanted to share her passion for baking with the world and elevate a normal cupcake into a giftable, elegant baked good. Not many people believed in her plan, but she eventually opened her first cupcake shop in Beverly Hills in 2005. Nelson said she didn’t expect anyone to come at first, but people were lining up after Daily Candy featured Sprinkles in their newsletter.

“I wanted to pursue joy instead of working at a job and getting a paycheck,” Nelson said. “That’s when I took a big sharp left turn from my established corporate career path and decided to go to pastry school instead of business school … that was the first time in my life where I embraced risk.”

Woolenberg has a small business called Baked with Love by Ivy, where she bakes and sells desserts. She said Nelson’s talk was a powerful way to give students insight into a career path that they’re interested in.

“Nelson has been one of my role models for a long time. I watched her shows growing up,” Woolenberg said. “Having another woman in entrepreneurship that is willing to try a lot of new things in her field … is very special.”

Freshman Lily Savage attended the event and said she enjoyed hearing how Nelson built her business independently.

“She is a very inspiring woman … she definitely paved the way for so many bakeries and a lot of women in entrepreneurship,” Savage said. “I really enjoyed hearing her story, and she’s such a joyful presence.”

At the end of the Q&A, Nelson shared advice with upper school students on what makes someone unique, specifically discussing her creativity with Sprinkles.

“All the things you’re worried about that make you different than everyone else … are your superpower,” Nelson said. “Those are the things you’re going to lean into later in life, and that’s what’s going to set you apart. Sometimes you can’t find that power quite yet in high school, but it comes.”