A “Sweet” Choice For America

Sep 5, 2012

If entrepreneurship had a face, it would look a lot like Nila Nicholas’.

In just a few short weeks, the Charlotte-based “candy stylist” has rocketed from a modest local presence all the way to the stratosphere: Her work is being included in 100 gift bags President Obama will bestow on his personal friends in honor of the Democratic National Convention.

Nicholas designs custom candy buffets, sweets tables, and delectable favors for parties and events. Pick a theme or a color scheme, and she’ll fashion a mouth-watering spread.

When she learned the DNC was coming to town, she registered as a vendor. And she started envisioning boxes of red, white and blue candies, filled as thoughtfully as mosaic works of art. Then she did some experimenting and came up with an inventive twist: large marshmallows – with patriotic slogans, flags, maps and more – that she prints with edible inks right on their sweet, puffy skins.

Why candy? “I’ve always been a sweets fanatic,” Nicholas explains. “Gummies are my weakness.” Maybe her background in business administration had something to do with it, but when she enjoyed a candy buffet at a friend’s wedding, she saw an opportunity that appealed to her own sense of good taste.

Recently, she brought her candy samples to The Boulevard at South End gift boutique. They were an instant hit, remembers co-owner Jennifer Branham. The store features art, jewelry, home furnishings and more by local artisans, and food products are a luscious new addition.

So when representatives from Charlotte Center City Partners and the South End business community visited the shop looking for unique items the A-list guests would receive, Branham recommended Nicholas. Working with a team of helpers, soon Nicholas was sending 100 packages of two marshmallows each on their way to culinary stardom.

Not everyone has the stamina – or the inventory – to hand-sell wares to throngs of people non-stop for four days, but Nicholas is going to do it. It’s the biggest event she’s ever worked. During the DNC she’ll be sharing space with cupcake purveyor Tami Jewell of Jewell Treats, whose goodies can be found year-round at a kiosk in SouthPark Mall.

One price of success is that Nicholas won’t be able to attend the concerts, parties and other community events. She’ll be busy selling her pretty and palate-pleasing creations, while drumming up business for the event services business she’s launched, Curlicues and Confections.

Welcome to the intersection of art and commerce in Charlotte. What could be sweeter?