Leeds Candy Works sweet shop owners' TikTok success leads to £1.4m turnover

From millions of TikTok followers to millions of pounds in the bank. When Leeds couple Ryan and Sophie Taylor shared their first video on the social media platform they could have never predicted the boom it would have on business.

By Rebecca Marano and Abbey Maclure
Sunday, 17th October 2021, 11:45 am
Sophie and Ryan Taylor, from Lofthouse, are the owners of Candy Works, a confectionery brand. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Sophie and Ryan Taylor, from Lofthouse, are the owners of Candy Works, a confectionery brand. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The entrepreneurial husband-and-wife duo, who are from Lofthouse, first came up with the idea for Candy Works while out of work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Inspired by American start-ups who were using the app and spotting a gap in the market, the parents-of-two decided to take a chance and try it for themselves.

Armed with £400 worth of sweets and pick ‘n’ mix, the couple took to TikTok to share their first few videos.

The sweets being packed at Candy Works. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

It wasn’t long until the pair’s videos had gone viral and they were flooded with orders.

Ryan, 34, a former sales director, said: “The first couple of videos that we posted pretty much went viral and off the back of that we got 1,000 orders overnight.

“We were just working in the spare bedroom of the house for the first week and only had £400 worth of stock so we had to rush out and get suppliers”.

Sophie, 29, added: “It was a bit of a whirlwind

Pictured Ryan and Sophie Taylor with the Candy Works team. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“We knew that we wanted to go big but we weren't prepared for how fast it was going to take off.”

What seemed to differentiate the store from other sweet shops, was the range of goods they imported in from abroad.

The company offers a range of Chamoy sweets that are popular in Mexico, American sweets such as Candy POP popcorn and Funfetti cereal, and import Spanish sweets straight from a supplier called Vidal Sweets, which is based in a town Sophie moved to aged 13.

However, the couple credit their marketing on TikTok for their rapid growth.

Sophie, who grew up in Hunslet, said: “It was like the old school sweet shops were a bit stuck in the past.

“No one seemed to catering it towards the younger generation and no other sweet shops in the UK were using TikTok whereas we spotted that as a new and upcoming thing.

“The pick and mix options also seemed boring and I knew that there were a lot of sweets in Spain specifically that were amazing but we weren't getting in the UK so we started importing them in.”

Ryan added: “Sophie is the face of it on TikTok and she posts videos daily.

“We've got 1.2 million followers now and have two or three a week times a week that go really viral and get over a million views.”

Since launched in November 2020, the couple have gone on to turnover £1.4m and now employ 12 people.

In recognition of their success they also won the Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2021 award.

Looking forward, the couple hope to expand the business into a worldwide brand - and also pass on their entrepreneurial spirit to sons Frankie, seven, and Teddy, four.

Sophie said: “With TikTok, it was the right place, right time but I also think our mindset from the start has to be a global brand, not just a sweet shop.

“If you type in pick and mix on Google we're the third ones that come up so we're already doing really well. It would be great to be the biggest online sweet business not just in the UK but in the world.”

Ryan added: “Our goal has always been to be the biggest and the best.

“We’ve always wanted to do something for ourselves and we’re trying to teach that to our boys too.

“We want multiple warehouses, up and down the UK, employing a lot of staff and to keep growing.

“We want to be recognised worldwide.“