Feature Story

January 30, 2018 | By Gopika Nair '18

Ohio Wesleyan student Liz Knowlton shares information about her toffee company at a recent Delaware Does Entrepreneur Gathering. (Photo by Gopika Nair ’18)

Sweet Inspiration

Meeting a Shark Motivates Ohio Wesleyan Student to Relaunch Candy Company

Growing up, Liz Knowlton ’19 and her father made pounds of toffee every Christmas to give as holiday presents.

At the time, Knowlton saw her great grandmother’s candy recipe as only a source of sweet treats for family and friends.

But today, the Ohio Wesleyan University student has turned the recipe into Sweet Lizabella’s, a company that produces classic toffee. The confection is made with four ingredients or less, is gluten-free, and is marketed to people “looking for a professional, elegant gift or an indulgent treat for themselves.”

An economics major from Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, Knowlton first toyed with the idea of creating a toffee business while at boarding school, where she made the candy for teachers and friends. After one of those friends offered her $500 for the recipe, she decided to create a company.

“I was a sophomore in high school and didn’t know the first thing about starting a business,” says Knowlton, now an OWU Economics Management Fellow.

Though she purchased the Sweet Lizabella’s name from LegalZoom and made business cards while in high school, she wasn’t motivated to run the new business. That changed last fall when she was among 20 OWU students selected to participate in a meet-and-greet with Daymond John, an investor on ABC-TV’s “Shark Tank.”

“Knowing I was going to meet such an entrepreneurial mogul [gave me] the spark to ignite my drive to go forward with Sweet Lizabella’s,” Knowlton says.

The knowledge gained and resources available to her as an OWU student also helped her successfully relaunch her business, Knowlton says.

OWU junior Liz Knowlton says meeting ‘Shark Tank’ entrepreneur Daymond John during his campus visit inspired her to relaunch her candy company. (Photo courtesy of Liz Knowlton)

“Professor Dan Charna has helped me a lot through the process whenever I have questions,” Knowlton says. “He is a great resource for entrepreneurial advice. Also, the entire econ department and Woltemade Center has been very instrumental in encouraging me along the way.” 

Armed with her classroom knowledge and John’s “Shark Points for Success,” Knowlton dove into the process of revamping her business, which she calls a “whirlwind.” She rebranded Sweet Lizabella’s in two weeks by creating a new logo and obtaining new business cards. 

Determined to find a niche in the Delaware community, Knowlton also approached Todd Daughenbaugh, owner of Fresh Start Cafe and Bakery, 24 N. Sandusky St.

“I was really nervous because it was my first real business pitch … but it worked out pretty well because Fresh Start Cafe and Bakery is currently the only storefront where you can purchase Sweet Lizabella’s in person,” Knowlton says.

During winter break, Knowlton also created a Sweet Lizabella’s website to let customers buy toffee online. A testimonial on the site proclaims the toffee has “a buttery smooth texture, a pillowy soft mouthfeel, and a traditional English toffee flavor. It’s so delicious that I want to keep it to myself, but so beautiful that I want to share it with everyone.”

In the future, Knowlton wants to open a Sweet Lizabella’s store.

“I feel like I would have to toy with the recipe and broaden the scope of what Sweet Lizabella’s can be before I’m ready for a physical location,” she says. “As of right now, I really want to heighten the online presence and sales because that would be the most lucrative and simplest form.” 

Knowlton shared information about Sweet Lizabella’s as a presenter at a recent Delaware Does Entrepreneur Gathering, a meeting allowing would-be entrepreneurs to share ideas with, and receive feedback from, community members and business leaders. Additional such gatherings are expected to be held every other month.

Learn more about OWU’s Department of Economics at www.owu.edu/economics and The Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship at www.owu.edu/woltemade.