Coconut, mango-chile and lavender: you won’t typically find these cotton candy flavors anywhere but in Durham, and they are taking off because of Wonderpuff and its owner, Jackie Morin.
Wonderpuff is a black-owned, eco-friendly business that is just one of the local dream businesses that the nonprofit Helius has helped make a reality through its work.
As the daughter of two small business owners, I think the work Helius does for the community is needed for people needing help getting a business off the ground.
I discovered Helius because it’s based in ReCity, located at 112 Broadway Street in Durham, with numerous other community organizations working to “rewrite” Durham’s story. Helius provides free mentoring and coaching to people building businesses out of necessity to support themselves and their families.
Morin is one of these “necessity-driven entrepreneurs” for whom Helius helps to “level the playing field.” She moved to Durham four years ago, and worked with Helius to get her organic, artisanal cotton candy company, Wonderpuff, started in June 2017.
Her inspiration for the business idea was simple.
“People,” she said. “I wanted to create a product and atmosphere that was joyful to be around.”
Morin said before she started her business, she was feeling overwhelmed.
“I was very sad about the world and [felt] helpless,” she said. “I was seeing a lot of injustices happening to people who look just like me. I wanted to bring more happiness into our community.”
Morin said she wanted to inspire people to shop local and to support businesses of color.
“Why buy candy from China,” she asked, “when you could have it made in your own backyard?”
Morin started to work with Helius because she needed a plan for her business and the right tools to navigate her business. One of the obstacles she faced while trying to get started was there was not much capital available to her. Helius helped her overcome this obstacle by giving her advice on her target market and showing her how to be the best in her field of business.
Morin and her husband, Rem, used some of the money that was given to them for a wedding gift to invest in their first cotton candy machine, which helped to launch their cotton candy-making career.
Wonderpuff prides itself on the versatility of its cotton candy flavors. People have used its wide variety of flavors for products like baked goods, churros, drinks and even body scrubs.
Wonderpuff doesn’t have a storefront just yet, but they do provide cart and catering services. In September, it was the featured PopUp business at the American Tobacco Campus off Blackwell Street in Durham.
For Morin and Wonderpuff, the business is all about “spreading love and unity through sugar.”
“We focus on unity and community because we want people to know we are a reflection of them,” Morin said.
Having a cotton candy business makes people feel sweet in their spirits, Morin said. She added she wants people to look at her and her husband, and know black communities are not the negative stereotypes society teaches.
“Wonderpuff adds an extra sweetness to the culture,” she said.
Now people from all around the Triangle support their business. Due to her hard work, dedication and the help she received from Helius, Morin works her business full-time and hopes to open a brick-and-mortar store soon.
“Business is amazing,” she said. “Wonderpuff aligned my faith back into humanity.”
The Helius Foundation provides small businesses and necessity-driven entrepreneurs with free business training and coaching, and access to low-interest microloans.