Forging a Candy Empire - Pauline McCarthy of Island Treasures

Pauline McCarthy, an Iceland immigrant with “Irish blood, Irish culture, and Scotland accent,” has contributed to Iceland something that Icelanders themselves had somehow overlooked: a national candy. Sporting product names like Puffin Eggs, Lava Pebbles, and Horse Doo Doo, Island Treasures allows the finest attractions of the island nation to be tasted from anywhere in the world.

How is one woman transforming the candyscape of an entire country? At Startup Iceland, we discovered the answer: the perfect storm of passion, an unmet market demand, and raw necessity have collided.

Necessity: Chronic health issues have made it impossible for Pauline to work a traditional “job.” With sons to care for, she decided to turn her fundraising talents (she’s created lots of cash for charities) inwardly to see what she could create for herself.

Market demand: According to Pauline, despite a thriving tourism industry, nobody was making Icelandic souvenir candy. A ridiculous oversight for an industrious people notorious for finding and exploiting every possible economic cranny!

Passion: “I love candy!” – Pauline

Pauline’s interview is one of our longest, and it’s brimming with gold nuggets for entrepreneurs. She’s clearly got what it takes to create a souvenir candy empire, so listen up founders!

Most impressive to us has been her willingness to hit the streets with her prototypes. “I stopped tourists on the street and said, ‘Hi, I’m doing some market research for souvenir candy, would you be interested in buying souvenir candy?’ ‘Yes, but we haven’t seen any!’ ‘That’s why I’m starting this company!’ And they actually tasted the stuff and said, ‘wow, this is really good!’”

Her boots-on-the-ground approach is paying off in the form of attention-grabbing products that tourists are loving. As she clears the production and supply hurdles that are typical for any expanding product-focused company, more tasty “Northern Lights” will find their way to the far corners of the world.

If you ever find yourself needing a pick-me-up true entrepreneur’s story, this is one to bookmark.

Underwriter: Promogogo

Interviewer: Thubten Comerford
Article: Eric Inman

Producer: Hrefna Helgadottir
Video Editor: Jacob Curtis

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