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At home in candy land

Sweet & Sassy Treats provides decadent desserts

There are a lot of things that motivate people to make a change in their lives. For Kelli Lutz of Ironton, Ohio, that thing was a cotton candy machine.

“I’ve always been really fascinated with cotton candy. Just the way it looks, the way it smells, how pretty it is and how it’s presented,” Lutz said. “The kids today don’t get to see the cotton candy made like it was. And I have such good memories of that.”

Those memories came flooding back when Lutz received a catalog in the mail with a cotton candy machine in it.

“I thought, how can I do this? And I kept going to it every day,” she said.

After a year of looking at the catalog on her coffee table, Lutz decided to finally buy the machine when she received a trade show invitation from the same company.

“I was on the way home from the show thinking, what did I just do?” she laughed.

What Lutz had done was make her first move toward starting her own in-home business — Sweet & Sassy Treats, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

“I just started with the cotton candy machine. Then I came up with a name,” Lutz said. “I didn’t want just sweet. People tell me I’m sassy or sarcastic so I like to incorporate it all. So I just got the name and went from there. It just kind of took off.”

After more than 30 years of working in a wide variety of jobs, Lutz was ready for the change.

“I’ve had so many 9 to 5 jobs and so many jobs all my life. But this is what I want to do and I love it. And I don’t regret it,” she said.

However, she quickly realized that she couldn’t just do cotton candy. After researching trends on the coasts, she discovered cake pops, or cake bites, as they’re called without the stick. They’re balls of cake and icing dipped in chocolate, which Lutz decorates according to the customer’s theme. She’s made graduation caps for graduation parties, turkeys for Thanksgiving, snowmen for Christmas and, of course, hearts for Valentine’s Day. Lutz’s most requested flavor of cake pop is the red velvet cake with her homemade cream cheese icing.

Lutz is also known for making chocolates and chocolate suckers in fun shapes. For a mother-daughter tea, she made items you would find in a purse, including lipstick, keys, cell phones and credit cards. If she doesn’t have the mold in her extensive collection, Lutz can find it.

Her creations have been a part of a number of major events in the area, including the Oscars Red Carpet Event and the Spring Gala for the Paramount Arts Center, Railroad Days, and events for Hope’s Place and The Dressing Room charities.

Although she’s enjoying going to these events and meeting people, Lutz’s dream is to own her own fun boutique.

“I would still do events, but I want people to have a place to go where it’s like, ‘Oh I can’t wait to go. I can’t wait to see what she has today.’” Lutz said. “Just a fun place where they can get away and feel like a kid. Some place that’s not so stressful.”

But until her boutique dream becomes a reality, Lutz is focusing on booking more events, including weddings. Plus, Facebook has given her customers from all over the country.

“After an event it’s like this high and it’s like, ‘oh my gosh, I love what I do’,” Lutz said. “And I really do.”

Listening to Lutz talk about her business and her love of people, it’s hard to believe that her new endeavor actually came out of a dark time in her life. Her daughter was preparing to move away to college, her mother had recently passed away and she had just gone through a bad break-up.

“I don’t know if it was so much depression as just helplessness. You know, frustration,” Lutz said. “I just found myself, like, either I’m going to crash and burn and sit here and get under the covers or I’m going to do something fun and creative and just get myself out of this. This has really helped me.”

“There are days I still have my insecurities. I still think I don’t want to go to this event and talk to these people. Who am I? But I just push. When push comes to shove, I just shove. I just go for it.”

Lutz said there are still friends and family who tell her she should find a real job and put her criminal justice degree to good use. But they don’t realize that Lutz has already found her calling.

“I love it. I’m having fun. I love meeting people. I love watching how God intervenes and connects people,” she said. “I pray about every situation and everywhere I go. That I can make a difference somehow and not just go with how much am I going to sell tonight? I just want to make it a good experience for people where they feel comfortable, where they’re happy, where they love my product and have a good time.”