Dylan Lauren, daughter of legendary fashion designer Ralph Lauren, bet on herself when she first presented her idea for the world’s largest candy store. Now Dylan’s Candy Bar is one of New York City’s hottest spots, merging fashion, art, and pop culture with candy.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I always knew that I wanted to create and run my own business. Between enjoying the leadership responsibilities of being a team captain or class president at school, and also watching my father Ralph Lauren build a fashion empire, I loved learning about business and entrepreneurship.
The idea for me to be able to express my creativity and base a business on my lifelong love, candy, was exhilarating! My close friends and family truly encouraged me to dream big, follow my gut, and do what I loved. I feel lucky to have been able to do that and make people and customers happy with what I’ve created.
What advice do you have for young women considering starting their own business?
Embrace your inner strength, be confident in yourself and your ideas, and follow your gut. Surround yourself with supportive and trustworthy people that believe in you and have strength in the areas you may not. This will set you up for bigger successes, and allow you to focus on what you love.
Also, remember to schedule time for loved ones, hobbies, fitness, and recharging BEFORE you overbook yourself to ensure a balanced life.
You are in a unique industry, were there any roadblocks along the way? How did you learn from them?
When I first presented my idea in 1999 for opening the world’s largest candy store, which would be 15,000 square feet and three floors of candy, most people (especially businessmen) thought I was nuts. They couldn’t visualize it because the concept didn’t exist, nor could they understand how pieces of candy could amount to paying the rent. Most of them had only seen candy in penny candy stores, supermarkets, and small kiosks.
I learned that, as a creative type, I had to physically construct showrooms and storyboards (before Pinterest and other fancy apps existed) to bring to life what was in my head and convey the experience I wanted to provide of merging fashion, art, and pop culture with candy.
I also knew rent in NYC, where I was sure I wanted to open the first flagship, would be steep. I had to come up with various streams of income, beyond selling over 7,000 confections, so I added non-edible, candy-themed lifestyle items like clothing, jewelry, tech, stationary, art, and books.
To make it even more experiential and lucrative, I conceptualized a candy-themed party room, dessert cafe, candy cocktail bar, corporate gift and personal shopping department, nostalgic museum, E-commerce and much more. All of this required me to turn to friends in the finance world to help me create a business plan and clarify my mission for this new business.
The challenge in this was and still remains being able to run a variety of diverse and complex businesses under one roof. Another challenge is expanding and evolving the Dylan’s Candy Bar brand successfully with smart and trustworthy staff and operators who understand local dietary trends, food regulations, and great customer service. I have learned that surrounding myself with loyal and enthusiastic people who understand my vision, and have talents and strengths in areas I do not, is crucial.