2 companies that delivered packages for Amazon threatened legal action over drivers’ working conditions, and then Amazon cut them off, they say

Parcels are stored in a truck in a logistics centre of the mail order company Amazon.
Parcels are stored in a truck in a logistics centre of the mail order company Amazon.

  • CNN spoke to two business owners who used to run companies delivering packages for Amazon.
  • Drivers’ wellbeing plummeted in 2020 due to the number of packages Amazon expected them to deliver, the pair said.
  • They sent a letter to Amazon threatening litigation and demanding better working conditions, they said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The owners of two companies that delivered packages for Amazon said they threatened to sue the tech giant over drivers’ working conditions, per a CNN report.

Ryan Schmutzer and Tracy Bloemer, two business owners from Portland, Oregon, spoke to CNN about their experiences as Delivery Service Partners (DSPs) for Amazon. DSPs are part of Amazon’s massive delivery network, but their drivers aren’t directly employed by Amazon.

Schmutzer and Bloemer told CNN their drivers’ wellbeing deteriorated after the pandemic hit. This was partly due to the high number of packages Amazon expected drivers to deliver, as well as the tech giant telling drivers to cut the time it took them to collect packages and put them in their vans, the pair said.

Schmutzer told CNN some of his drivers quit mid-shift because the work was so intense.

Schmutzer and Bloemer also told CNN their profits shrank during the pandemic. DSPs are paid per route, and Bloemer told CNN that while her business had been allocated up to 70 daily routes in the past, Amazon cut it down to 40 routes per day in June 2020.

The two business owners asked a lawyer to draft a joint letter to send to Amazon in June of this year, warning they might litigate unless Amazon improved working conditions for drivers, they told CNN. The pair also asked for $36 million to make up for unspecified losses.

Specifically, they wanted a cap on their drivers’ delivery numbers, at a maximum of 150 stops and 250 packages per day. DSP drivers told Insider in August they were expected to deliver between 170 and 350 packages per shift. Amazon says it works with DSPs to set realistic expectations.

Amazon then terminated its business with Schmutzer and Bloemer, they said.

Amazon didn’t immediately comment on CNN’s report when contacted by Insider. A spokesperson told CNN that Amazon terminated contracts with Schmutzer and Bloemer after they threatened to end their business with it. This threat jeopardized drivers’ livelihoods, the spokesperson said.

“Our goal is to create great partnerships with our Delivery Service Partners and their drivers, and continue to use their feedback to make improvements. A number of impacted drivers have been hired by other DSPs in the area,” the spokesperson said.

On the number of routes, Amazon told CNN that demand varied year to year and by season, and that it worked with DSPs to manage this.

Amazon DSP drivers have previously spoken about how hard they have to work to hit their quotas. In April, Amazon acknowledged it was aware of drivers urinating in bottles in order to stay on schedule.

The drivers are closely monitored by Amazon’s algorithms, and in spring of this year the company installed AI-powered cameras inside delivery vans. Drivers told Motherboard last week that these cameras sometimes penalized them unfairly for things like adjusting the radio, checking their sidemirrors, or getting cut off by someone else on the road.

Amazon said it has seen a reduction in accidents and other safety violations since installing the Netradyne cameras in its delivery vehicles.

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A farm in Massachusetts said it spent $500 advertising on Indeed for a job running its short-staffed produce stand – and got zero applicants

A man walks by a "Now Hiring" sign outside a store on August 16, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.
Workers say they’re quitting their jobs in search of better pay, benefits, and working conditions.

The owner of a farm in Massachusetts said that he spent $500 advertising for a job vacancy on Indeed – but nobody applied.

The advert, which was seeking staff to work at an outdoor stand selling the farm’s produce and flowers from local florists, “didn’t yield anybody,” Hugh Manheim, owner of Manheim Farm in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, told The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

After being unable to find workers, Manheim temporarily closed the stand.

“We couldn’t find any people to work there,” he told The Gazette. “We’re still looking.” He did not say how much the job would pay.

Businesses ranging from ride-hailing apps and restaurants to hotels and delivery services are struggling to find workers.

Many say that their efforts to hire new workers are falling flat. The owner of a discount store in Maine said that he had a “help wanted” sign in the window but only received five applications in six months, while the owner of a taco restaurant in Texas said that most people who applied for jobs didn’t show up to their interviews.

Businesses have been cutting their hours, raising prices, and changing operations because they can’t get enough workers. In the case of the Taco restaurant, it even closed for good. Some businesses have said that people don’t want to work anymore, in some cases blaming it on unemployment benefits. But workers say they’re quitting their jobs in search of better pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Manheim opened his farm produce stand in May. He told The Gazette that his children had been working there but left because they had other jobs. He said his children brought in their friends as replacements, but that they’d all returned to college.

Manheim said that he enjoyed working at the stand, but that he had to be on the farm itself most of the day.

“I can only be in so many places at one time,” he told The Gazette.

Massachusetts has an unemployment rate of 5.0%, per preliminary August data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is almost double its pre-pandemic unemployment rate, but is well below the 16.4% it reached in April 2020, after companies laid staff off at the start of the pandemic.

The state’s labor force participation rate – the number of people employed or actively seeking employment as a percentage of its total working-age population – is 65.7%, per BLS’ preliminary August data. This is significantly higher than the US average of 61.7%.

Do you own or manage a business that’s struggling to find staff? Or are you a worker who quit your job – or the industry – over pay, benefits, or working conditions? Contact this reporter at gdean@insider.com.

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last

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Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the states struggling hardest to fill jobs in the US labor shortage, new research suggests

Now hiring sign
Businesses across industries are struggling to find workers.

  • Nebraska and New Hampshire have the most job openings per unemployed person, per CareerCloud research.
  • The data suggests businesses there are competing hardest for potential workers in the labor shortage.
  • Workers have been quitting their jobs in search of better pay, benefits, and working conditions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Vermont are among the US states hit hardest by the labor shortage, a report by careers site CareerCloud has suggested.

Nebraska had the most job openings per unemployed person at 1.8, per the research, which analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the job boards Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and CareerBuilder. This suggests that businesses there are competing hardest for a potential pool of applicants.

CareerCloud’s report ranked New Hampshire second on the measure, with 1.6 job listings per unemployed person, and Vermont third, with 1.59.

Hawaii, on the other hand, had just 0.41 job listings per unemployed person, the lowest number in CareerCloud’s ranking. This suggests businesses there have more potential applicants per job than anywhere else in the US.

Some businesses have said that people don’t want to work anymore, in some cases blaming it on unemployment benefits. But workers say they’re quitting their jobs in search of better pay, benefits, and working conditions.

As a result, businesses have been forced to assess the way they treat their staff to both recruit new workers and stop current ones from quitting. Some have been raising salaries and improving their education and healthcare provisions. Others are hoping that one-off perks, such as sign-on and retention bonuses and free iPhones, will be enough to lure in workers.

The District of Columbia (DC) had an even higher ratio of job openings per unemployed person than Nebraska, at 2.37, per the research.

Part of the reason why DC has such a high rate of vacancies could be because jobs are often filled by workers who live outside the area and commute in. The area has a total labor force of 408,800 people, of which 382,100 are employed – but 749,700 people are on payroll there, per BLS data.

DC has an unemployment rate of 6.5%, preliminary August data from the BLS showed. Its unemployment rate soared from 5.2% in March 2020 to 11.1% in April 2020, after the pandemic hit, and has been steadily declining since, per BLS data.

Businesses ranging from ride-hailing apps and restaurants to hotels and delivery services are struggling to find workers.

Schools are struggling to find enough teachers and bus drivers, too. Businesses across the US have been cutting their hours, raising prices, and, in some cases, closing for good because they can’t get enough workers.

Here’s how many job listings there are per unemployed person, according to CareerCloud’s report

  1. District of Columbia 2.37
  2. Nebraska 1.80
  3. New Hampshire 1.60
  4. Vermont 1.59
  5. Utah 1.45
  6. South Dakota 1.44
  7. Idaho 1.29
  8. Montana 1.21
  9. North Dakota 1.20
  10. Georgia 1.12
  11. Alabama 1.10
  12. Oklahoma 1.08
  13. Virginia 1.04
  14. Wisconsin 1.04
  15. Kansas 1.03
  16. Indiana 1.02
  17. Minnesota 1.01
  18. Iowa 0.99
  19. Kentucky 0.99
  20. Massachusetts 0.98
  21. North Carolina 0.97
  22. Missouri 0.96
  23. South Carolina 0.93
  24. Maine 0.91
  25. Tennessee 0.89
  26. Arkansas 0.86
  27. West Virginia 0.84
  28. Michigan 0.81
  29. Oregon 0.80
  30. Wyoming 0.78
  31. Ohio 0.77
  32. Washington 0.75
  33. Delaware 0.74
  34. Maryland 0.73
  35. Florida 0.70
  36. Alaska 0.68
  37. Rhode Island 0.68
  38. Pennsylvania 0.67
  39. Colorado 0.64
  40. Texas 0.61
  41. Mississippi 0.60
  42. Illinois 0.59
  43. New Jersey 0.59
  44. Arizona 0.56
  45. New Mexico 0.53
  46. Louisiana 0.52
  47. Connecticut 0.51
  48. Nevada 0.50
  49. California 0.45
  50. New York 0.45
  51. Hawaii 0.41

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last

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Popular Boppy baby pillows recalled by federal regulators after 8 infants suffocated while using the products

Boppy Nursing Pillow
The US received eight reports of infants who suffocated after being placed on their back, side or stomach on the lounger.

  • The US has recalled infant loungers made by The Boppy Company after 8 reports of infant suffocation.
  • The reported deaths occurred between December 2015 and June 2020.
  • A Boppy Co. spokesperson said the products were not marketed as an infant sleep product.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US has recalled popular newborn lounging pillows after eight reports of child suffocation.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Thursday a recall on 3.3 million products sold by The Boppy Company.

CPSC recalled three Boppy Co. products: the original new born lounger, the preferred newborn lounger, and the Pottery Barn Kids lounger. Loungers sold for $30 to $44 at retailers like Target, Pottery Barn, and Amazon.

The agency received eight reports of infants who suffocated after being placed on their back, side or stomach on the lounger pillows. Infants can suffocate if they roll, move, or are placed on the lounger in a position that obstructs breathing, per The Boppy Company’s website.

The reported deaths occurred between December 2015 and June 2020.

The Boppy Company sells a variety of products for newborns, including the best-selling breast feeding pillow on Amazon.

A Boppy Company spokesperson said in a release the product was not marketed as an infant sleep product and warns against unsupervised use.

“Boppy is committed to doing everything possible to safeguard babies, including communicating the safe use of our products to parents and caregivers, and educating the public about the importance of following all warnings and instructions,” the spokesperson said.

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Chick-Fil-A removed from plans for an upcoming Kansas City airport wing after opposition from LGBTQ commission

chick fil a pandemic
People walk past Chick-fil-A in New York City.

  • Chick-Fil-A was cut from a list of restaurants proposed for Kansas City’s planned airport terminal.
  • The news comes after the city’s LGBTQ commission urged the city council to act.
  • Chick-Fil-A has previously donated to charities known for opposing LGBTQ rights.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Plans to open a Chick-Fil-A store at an upcoming wing of Kansas City International Airport have been canned, following opposition from the city’s official LGBTQ commission, local news sites KSHB and KCUR first reported.

The city’s LGBTQ commission sent a letter to Kansas City Council on on Monday, urging officials not to open a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in the new airport wing. It cited the company’s links to groups known for opposing LGBTQ rights.

Vantage Airport Group, the company recommended by the city’s aviation authority to run services at the upcoming terminal, scrubbed Chick-Fil-A from its list of proposed restaurants “to promote an inclusive environment,” a spokesperson for Vantage told Fox News.

“We heard and respect the strong community reaction to the proposed Chick-Fil-A participation in the program. We have collectively made the decision to remove this brand from our concessions plan for the new terminal at KCI. Vantage strives to promote an inclusive environment at all our airports,” the group told Fox News.

Insider contacted both Vantage and Chick-Fil-A for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Chick-Fil-A has come under attack over its donations in the past. As Insider’s Kate Taylor previously reported, prior to 2012 Chick-fil-A made significant donations to socially conservative and Christian organizations known for opposing LGBTQ rights through its WinShape Foundation.

In 2012, facing backlash after now-CEO Dan Cathy said that he was against same-sex marriage, the company said it would stop most of these donations.

But in the years that followed, it continued to face pressure from activists over other donations, including to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Both organizations have been criticized for their historical opposition to same-sex marriage.

In November 2019, Chick-Fil-A said it would cut donations to these charities too.

In July, its CEO, Cathy, came under fresh scrutiny over personal donations to the National Christian Charitable Foundation (NCF). The Daily Beast reported that the NCF was bankrolling organizations fighting against the Equality Act – legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

At the time, Insider’s Kate Taylor reported that the company itself had not donated to the NCF in more than a decade. Chick-Fil-A declined to comment on the report around Cathy, however.

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The best deals for getting your flu shot this season

coronavirus flu shot
An advertisement offering free flu shots in New York City on August 21, 2020.

  • Retailers are offering incentives for customers to get vaccinated against the flu.
  • Some of the best deals include coupons for up to $20 off purchases at select stores.
  • This year, health experts are worried patients with the flu could overwhelm hospitals already full of COVID-19 patients.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Retailers are making it easier than ever to battle cold and flu season this fall by offering incentives to get vaccinated.

Last year, because of the precautions many Americans took related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the flu season reached “historical lows,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as only 155 people were hospitalized during its peak.

This year, health experts are worried patients sick with the flu could once again overwhelm hospitals as doctors and nurses are still helping patients fight severe cases of COVID-19. The CDC also says it is safe to receive the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.

The best way to fight the flu is by getting the flu vaccine at the start of the flu season which goes from mid-fall to late spring, according to the CDC. Luckily, flu shots are free with insurance, and some pharmacies and clinics even offer free flu shots without insurance. This year, some retailers are also offering gift cards and coupons to customers who get their flu shots at their pharmacy locations.

Here are some of the best flu shot deals:

Albertsons

Albertsons pharmacies are offering 10% off grocery purchases up to $200 with any immunization.

CVS

CVS Pharmacy is encouraging customers to get vaccinated there by December 31 by offering a $5 shopping pass on any purchase of $20 or more when you shop in stores.

Fresco y Más

Fresco y Más is offering a deal where customers can get $20 off their groceries if they get two immunizations. Fresco y Más pharmacies are offering $10 coupons if customers get their flu shot in store, and another $10 if they get another immunization the same day.

Harveys

Like Fresco y Más, Harveys is offering $10 coupons if customers get their flu shot in store and another $10 if they get another immunization the same day.

Rite Aid

Customers who get the flu at a Rite Aid pharmacy will receive $5 off any purchase of $25 or more, through September. 30.

Target

Target pharmacies, which are operated by CVS, are also offering customers a $5 off $20 or more coupon when they get their flu shot.

Walgreens

Walgreens is offering $5 in Walgreens Cash to receive a flu shot there. With each flu shot, Walgreens will also donate $0.23 to a United Nations vaccine fund.

Winn-Dixie

Customers can get up to $20 off their groceries if they get vaccinated at Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie pharmacies are offering $10 coupons if customers get their flu shot in store and another $10 if they get another immunization the same day.

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The owner of a Texas taco restaurant that closed down in the labor shortage says larger companies poached his staff with $5,000 pay rises

A waiter sets a table outside Hugos restaurant on Merrion Row in Dublin, where they will reopen for indoor dining on Thursday July 29.
Some restaurants have raised prices, slashed hours, and limited services because of the labor shortage.

  • A Texas taco restaurant shut because it couldn’t find enough staff in the labor shortage, its owner said.
  • Staff were poached by bigger companies and job applicants didn’t show up for interviews, he said.
  • Restaurant staff have been leaving the industry in search of better wages and benefits.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A taco restaurant in Texas closed down after being left with just three kitchen workers, its owner told Insider.

Paul Horton, the owner of Taco Crush in McKinney, about 30 miles north of Dallas, said that larger companies had poached some of his staff by offering much higher wages, or benefits.

“I know we lost half a dozen that were offered an extra $5,000 a year to go somewhere else,” he said.

“Or even just benefits – being a small, independent business, I can’t compete with wages on bigger companies, let alone offer them any kind of benefits,” he added. He didn’t name the bigger companies that he said poached his staff.

When asked what he paid staff, Horton said it was a “reasonable wage,” without elaborating.

Restaurant staff have been leaving the industry in search of better wages, benefits, and working conditions, causing some restaurants to raise prices, slash hours, limit services, or close for good.

The US labor shortage has hit other industries, too, with some business owners blaming a lack of desire to work. Workers, meanwhile, say they don’t need to take low-paying jobs in such a competitive labor market.

Horton said that some of his new hires would drop out within a couple of weeks of starting. Each new hire meant more training – as a result, the food quality dropped because the trainees sometimes made mistakes, he said.

Horton said that it became “literally not safe or viable to keep maintaining operations” after he lost all but three of his kitchen employees.

Horton said that when he started drawing up a schedule, he realized these employees would each have to work 80- or 90-hour weeks, and that even then, service would be slow.

“At a minimum just to cover the shifts, we needed six, but to operate effectively and efficiently, we needed eight or nine people,” he said.

Horton said that he’d spent thousands of dollars advertising on job boards such as Indeed, but that only around 10% of job applicants replied to him after he tried to arrange an interview.

Of those who he scheduled interviews with, only between 5% and 10% turned up, he said. Other restaurants have also said that some applicants weren’t coming to interviews.

“You can’t be choosy anymore,” Horton said. “You’re basically hiring anyone that would show up.”

An Oregon McDonald’s is calling on 14-year-olds to apply for jobs, while a restaurant manager in Virginia said she hired people with bad attitudes because she was so desperate for staff.

Do you own or manage a restaurant that’s struggling to find staff? Or are you a hospitality worker who quit your job – or the industry – over pay, benefits, or working conditions? Contact this reporter at gdean@insider.com.

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last

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A renowned luxury brand teamed up with an LA bootleg label to create a ‘Vaccinated’ hoodie that celebs and fashion insiders are clamoring for

Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli wearing "Vaccinated" hoodie on beach in front of palm trees
Pierpaolo Piccioli, the creative director of Valentino.

  • Valentino is releasing a $690 sweatshirt with the word “Vaccinated” across the front.
  • It’s a collaboration with an LA company called Cloney, which originally produced a bootleg version.
  • The approach is noticeably different than how Nike dealt with MSCHF’s “Satan shoes.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Luxury fashion designers have dealt with knockoff companies recreating their wares for years.

But in today’s world, high-end wares are almost as likely to be repurposed into a statement-making shoe, or sweatshirt.

Such is the case for Valentino, the 60-year-old Italian fashion house known for its dramatic gowns and ubiquitous Rockstud heels. The company’s serif branding, “V” logo, and penchant for the color red are highly recognizable in the fashion world – so much so that, according to The New York Times, a Los Angeles-based company called Cloney repurposed the branding onto a simple black sweatshirt emblazoned with a single word: “Vaccinated.”

The sweatshirt caught the eye of Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, who bought one and wore it in a post on his Instagram account along with a caption that read, in part: “Getting vaccinated is not a choice.”

The sweatshirt was an instant hit among Piccioli’s followers, which include the likes of actress Zoey Deutch, Instagram fashion chief Eva Chen, activist and TV host Janet Mock, and fellow designer Marc Jacobs. According to the Times, Piccioli bought five more sweatshirts, the last of Cloney’s stock, and distributed them to friends, family, and Lady Gaga.

A post shared by Lady Gaga (@ladygaga)

Now, Valentino is working with Cloney to produce luxe versions of the design which will retail for 590 euros, or about $690. According to the Times, all of the proceeds will go to UNICEF to support the COVAX program, a World Health Organization initiative to supply vaccines and supplies to countries that need them.

But the “Vaccinated” sweatshirt also capitalizes on the pandemic-themed fashion trend that began cropping up early last year. Fashion labels like Erdem and Fendi introduced luxury face masks and hand sanitizer holders, respectively, and a company called Cala recently introduced another way to prove your vaccination status: with a simple white t-shirt complete with a plastic pouch for your vaccine card.

As the Times points out, however, Valentino could have sued or ripped off the design altogether. But by collaborating, it’s taking a vastly different approach to fashion trolls than Nike did earlier this year, when it filed a lawsuit against MSCHF over its so-called satan shoes.

The shoes were a collaboration with rapper Lil Nas X that involved tricking out a pair of Air Max 97s with “666” in red ink and a drop of human blood to the midsole. Nike alleged that it had suffered “significant harm to its goodwill, including among consumers who believe that Nike is endorsing satanism.” Nike and MSCHF later settled the suit for an undisclosed amount with MSCHF issuing a voluntary recall of the shoes.

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I used TikTok to take my cotton-candy business online. I’ve made $165,000 in sales since March – here’s how.

Emily Harpel, 29, is a cotton candy maker based in Ohio and owner of Art of Sucre.
Emily Harpel founded her business, Art of Sucre, in 2016 after being inspired by Pinterest.

  • Emily Harpel, 29, is a cotton candy maker based in Ohio and owner of Art of Sucre.
  • After gaining over a million followers on her business’ TikTok, she launched an ecommerce shop and has made over 6 figures since March.
  • This is what her job is like, as told to freelance writer Judy Brumley.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Emily Harpel, a cotton candy maker and small business owner based in Ohio. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When I was planning my wedding, I saw cotton candy being used as favors on Pinterest. I thought it was a cute idea, but was disappointed in the options: pink or blue with no distinguishable flavor. Every other dessert, like cake pops and sugar cookies, had been given an Instagrammable upgrade, and I just couldn’t let cotton candy be left out.

I was planning to get my masters in clinical and mental health counseling, but since the program I applied to was full, my enrollment got deferred for a year. After my husband and I got married in March of 2016, I decided to withdraw my application and launched an LLC for Art of Sucre by May.

We chose the name during the 20-hour car ride home from our honeymoon. After a lot of Googling we landed on “sucre,” which means sugar in French.

I had zero experience and no equipment, so I bought a machine and taught myself by watching YouTube videos.

Emily Harpel Art of sucre cotton candy
Harpel says she taught herself to spin cotton candy by watching videos online.

Cotton candy is just flavored sugar. You pour the base into the hot center of a cotton candy machine where it melts into a liquid and spins. The spinning creates a centrifugal force, which pushes the sugar to the top. The sugar goes from a solid to a liquid then back to a solid, and you catch it on a cone during that in-between phase when it’s nice and fluffy.

Once I had the technique down, I started to create my own fun flavors.

For the first four years, I spun cotton candy at all kinds of events and celebrations.

I went to birthday parties and weddings, helped celebrate bat mitzvahs, and worked with professional sports teams, like the Cleveland Browns and Cavaliers. I even spun cotton candy for VIP ticket holders at Elton John, Ariana Grande, and Travis Scott concerts.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I knew I needed to figure out how to make my business more COVID-friendly. I spent a lot of time consuming TikTok videos during quarantine and had nothing but time on my hands, so I created an account for Art of Sucre and started posting in July 2020. We hit one million followers in October, and that’s when I decided to transition from events to e-commerce.

Our biggest challenge with e-commerce was shipping and packaging logistics, because cotton candy is delicate.

Emily Harpel
Art of Sucre’s original flavors include champagne, orange bourbon, and piña colada.

We shipped prototypes to Australia, Canada, and Arizona to make sure they could survive any trip.

The online shop finally launched on March 15, 2021 with six original flavors (sugar cookie, bubble gum, piña colada, orange bourbon, champagne, and watermelon) and our best-selling shimmer glitter bombs. Our pre-spun pouches start at $12 each and the shimmer glitter bombs (puffs of cotton candy wrapped around glitter that floats when dropped into a liquid) sell for $22.

Since March, we’ve sold over $165,000 worth of cotton candy. That number doesn’t include sales from custom orders, which is my favorite thing we offer at Art of Sucre.

A father once asked if I could top mannequin heads with cotton candy hair for his daughter’s bat mitzvah. After I spent three hours spinning the hair, the mannequin heads – which had sunglasses on – were walked out on silver platters and devoured in seconds. We’ve also created custom shimmer glitter bombs using edible black glitter and silver stars for a galaxy-themed wedding, and pouches of pre-spun cotton candy that were half black and half white for a Cruella de Vil party. The possibilities are endless, and we’ll try anything the customer can imagine.

I used to have one person who would help with events – now I have a team of 15, including one full-time employee.

Emily Harpel
Harpel has a team of 15 to help produce and package cotton candy for the ecommerce site.

We keep our six core cotton candy flavors in stock and drop limited-edition releases throughout the year. We’re also working on some fun holiday treats and getting ready for the New York City Wine and Food Festival in October.

I still pop into the studio to spin cotton candy, but now most of my days are spent doing admin work. My full-time employee and I have a morning meeting around 10 a.m. before I take calls with suppliers, potential collaborators, and our design team. I create content for our TikTok, Instagram, and website in the afternoon and, after everyone else heads home, I test and develop new flavors.

Sometimes I feel guilty to have found such great success during a time that’s been so challenging for so many people, but as a small business owner and employer, I’m thankful for the growth we’ve experienced this year. It’s really special to see how something as simple as cotton candy can bring so much joy to people’s lives.

Judy Brumley is a freelance writer from Kentucky. She has written editorial and branded content stories across all verticals for brands like InStyle, Parents, PEOPLE, and Romper.

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In leaked memo, Lululemon announces Mirror CEO Brynn Putnam will immediately step down from the connected-fitness brand

brynn putnam
Mirror CEO and founder Brynn Putnam.

  • Mirror founder and CEO Brynn Putnam is stepping down, effective immediately.
  • The announcement was shared in a memo sent by Putnam and Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald on Tuesday.
  • Putnam will stay on as an advisor through July 2022 and assist in identifying her successor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Brynn Putnam is stepping down as CEO of Mirror, the Lululemon-owned connected-fitness brand she founded in 2016, as first reported by CNBC.

In a memo sent to employees on Tuesday, Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald and Putnam announced she will stay on as an advisor to the company through July 2022 as it searches for a successor. Putnam’s resignation is effective immediately, according to the memo also shared with Insider by Lululemon a spokesperson.

“Sharing this now allows us to ensure a smooth transition as we identify the next CEO of Mirror, working with an external search firm to find the right candidate to drive the brand’s next phase of growth,” McDonald and Putnam wrote in the memo.

In the interim, Putnam and McDonald wrote that the company “is in very good hands” and will be led jointly by three current Mirror executives: Tess Hales, head of customer; Olivia Lange, head of operations; and Kristie D’Ambrosio-Correll, chief technology officer.

Lululemon acquired Mirror in June 2020 for $500 million, in the midst of the digital fitness boom that took off during the pandemic as Americans sought out alternative methods to work out at home. Over the past year, the company has installed Mirror pop-in shops within 150 Lululemon stores in the US, with the aim of reaching 200 by the end of 2021.

“We’ve set up really beautiful little workout spaces featuring the Mirror and weights and Lululemon mats and accessories,” Putnam told Insider in November 2020. “You can really get a nice workout experience in-store.”

Though Lululemon does not disclose Mirror sales or total number of subscribers in financials, McDonald told investors on recent earnings calls that the company has increased marketing spend to raise awareness of the brand, which is competing in an increasingly saturated connected fitness space.

“We’re monitoring how macro factors currently impacting the cost of digital marketing are creating some pressure on customer acquisition costs at Mirror,” McDonald told investors last month.

Lululemon expects Mirror to deliver between $250 million and $275 million in revenue in 2021.

Are you a Mirror employee or someone with a story to tell, contact this reporter via email at bbiron@insider.com or by encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 768-4706.

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