Sept. 29, 2023

How a UCalgary alum built a candy empire

Inspired by a family of candy-store owners, Alyssa Tilston added a unique spin with The Sugar Cube by putting her store on wheels
Alyssa Tilston poses in front of a display of candy.
Alyssa Tilston Samantha Lafleur

Wearing a purple outfit to match her truck, Alyssa Tilston greets each of her customers with a bright smile.

Inspired by her family in Eastern Canada, themselves owners of candy stores, Tilston, BComm’12, decided to take the traditional candy store idea and put it on wheels, creating the sweetest candy truck around and establishing her candy empire, The Sugar Cube.

“Here in Calgary, we only have a certain amount of good weather seasons for walking traffic, so I thought, why not bring the candy to the people instead of having the people come to the candy?” says Tilston.

Tilston got to work right away after her graduation from the University of Calgary, working part-time in marketing and spending the rest of her time working on The Sugar Cube. After some time on the road attending events with the truck, demand grew and more people became eager to see The Sugar Cube.

This prompted Tilston to create more ways for people to get their hands on the sweet treats including corporate gifting, a monthly candy subscription, handmade cotton candy (with the option to infuse it with booze) and The Sugar Cube’s signature candy advent calendars. And, of course, true to its name, many of these offerings are packaged in large cubes, called CandyGrams.

Alyssa Tilston in her purple candy truck greeting customers.

Tilston greets customers at a charity event.

Samantha Lafleur

In the 10 years since it started, The Sugar Cube has built quite the following within Calgary and is quickly expanding its reach across Canada. Tilston hopes to eventually sell to the United States and then, eventually, the world.

Running The Sugar Cube does not happen without challenges, especially over the past few years. Tilston says the business hurdles that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic and the recessions have required The Sugar Cube to be extra flexible.

“You have to always pivot, always be on your toes; you never know what is coming at you day to day, but also year to year.” 

Tilston says her experience at UCalgary gave her a boost in connections: “It helped me to meet a lot of my peers and have that cohort of people in the industry and a lot of them turned out to be entrepreneurs too, so even keeping touch with those relationships.” 

Because nobody is ever disappointed to get a cube full of candy, Tilston gets a lot of joy from her job. “You know you can be having a really tough day dealing with all sorts of problems, but then you deliver candy to somebody and see how it brightens up their day, it makes it worth it, for sure,” says Tilston.

You can find all of The Sugar Cubes’ offerings on its website.

The Sugar Cube is just one of UCalgary’s many alumni-built businesses. To see more, or to add a business not currently represented, visit our Alumni-Built Directory.

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