Growing a brand may be serious business, but when that business is gourmet cotton candy, how can you not have a bit of fun doing it? “If it’s not fun and silly, why bother? You got to be fun and silly because life’s too short,” says Stephanie Poltack, founder and president of Sillie Puffs in Manchester.
After losing her job as a holiday photographer at 23 malls, Poltack ventured into the sweet treat business in 2004 when her husband brought home a cotton candy machine. She says she knew she wanted to be different, so she began testing flavors and created her tie-dye brand. Sillie Puffs has 59 flavors that range from the classic pink vanilla and blue raspberry to more unique flavors like pickle and Dr. Pepper and such holiday favorites as pumpkin pie. Poltack also sells a new line of roasted nuts, called Sillie’s Nuts, which come in 14 flavors.
The nostalgia of cotton candy draws a variety of customers, but to Poltack’s surprise, her biggest fanbase is adults. “They see the different flavors, and I tell them the ways they can enjoy cotton candy as an adult,” she says. “You take your cotton candy, stuff it into a glass, pour ice cold vodka over it and the vodka melts the cotton candy, and the cotton candy gives the vodka the color, the flavor and sweetness. Then I always say drink it down and repeat responsibly.” Sillie Puffs even has customers from different states that follow them to events just to buy a bag of the colorful confections, Poltack says.
Sillie Puffs’ main source of revenue is sales at fairs, expos, car shows and the like. When the pandemic hit and many events were cancelled, Poltack refocused the business to sell wholesale. Prior to the pandemic, Sillie Puffs was in three stores, but is now in 17, including Calef’s Country Store in Barrington, Manchester Craft Market and Harvest Market in Wolfeboro.
Poltack says sales have gone up about 40% since 2019.
Sillie Puffs cotton candy often retails for $4 to $6. Poltack says a store-owner once told her Sillie Puffs “has wings because it flies off the shelf.” She says 2021 will be Sillie Puffs’ best year so far due to wholesale sales.
Poltack says she is always coming up with new flavors to keep customers interested. Sillie Puffs recently teamed up with a local hot sauce business, Smokin’ Tin Roof in Manchester, to make a spicy mango habanero cotton candy. Sillie Puffs even created a bacon flavor cotton candy for a rib festival.
Poltack says she and her husband often work 15 to 16 hours a day, making, packaging, labeling and distributing the cotton candy. For more information, visit silliepuffs.com.
Written by Lilly Badeau, a student at University of NH-Manchester and a participant in the Young Reporters Project, a joint venture of Business NH Magazine and UNH-Manchester.