As many of you know, you always have a ton of ideas bumping around in your head. Many designers find themselves taking on side projects and those sometimes take on a life of their own, becoming a full time gig. In this Sidelines column, find out how one designer’s school project turned into a side project that has blossomed into a successful Etsy shop. Be sure to pick up a copy of the March issue of HOW, the International Design Annual, for inspirational stories and projects from around the globe.
It was a routine design-school assignment, to create packaging for a fictional store, that inspired Michele Howley Boudreaux to make her first batch of lollipops more than 18 years ago. Today, her handcrafted lollipops are a bona fide business through her Etsy shop, Lollipops by Mihow, where you’ll find inventive, gourmet flavors like “Grandma” (lavendar and lemon) or “Rise and Shine” (maple syrup and bacon).
Boudreaux started experimenting with her own custom flavors in 2009 when several of her friends were pregnant. She whipped up some anti-nausea lollipops—lemonade-and-ginger-flavored—dubbed “The First Trimester.” She featured this flavor on her blog, and the interest to purchase these lollipops was overwhelming. Boudreaux set up her Etsy shop almost immediately and hasn’t looked back since.
While Bourdreaux still does some logo-design work—including, most recently, the logo and identity for the Webby Awards—she channels most of her creativity into her candy confections. “I am shocked at how much I pull from my design background when making lollipops,” Boudreaux says. “I treat the creation of each lollipop in much the same way I approach designing a logo.”
For her, the concept behind a design—whether it be graphic or gastronomic—is everything. She points to one of her flavors, “The Double Dog Dare,” as an example. From its name to its Pop Rocks-and-cola flavor combo, everything about it invokes the nostalgia of youth—and the childhood lore that if you consume both at once, your stomach will explode.
Of course, each lollipop must also look the part. “Each must be visually stimulating,” Boudreaux explains. “Beautiful, glasslike candy paired with bright or contrasting spices or other accents are stunning.” That’s why you’ll find unique elements like edible flowers embedded into the candies; she loves incorporating the unexpected into her work. “This is particularly why I like designing logos so much,” she says. “Great logo designers often bury visual or conceptual ‘Easter eggs’ in their designs.”
That spin on creative flavor combinations has proved to be a recipe for success for her lollipop business. During her busy season, which runs from September through February, she’s busy around the clock to keep up with all her made-to-order sales. It’s even inspired her to get a pastry-school degree and extend her sweet-toothed experimentation into making wedding cakes and cupcakes.
Looking to the future, Boudreaux says she hopes to combine all these edible endeavors. “I would love to open a physical, brick-and-mortar storefront,” she says. Maybe she’ll finally get that candy store she dreamed of in college, after all.
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