Wake Up Call

Considering a Career Pivot? Candace Nelson, Founder of Sprinkles, Is All the Inspiration You Need

Secrets of the sweet life.

By Isabelle Eyman

You know the daydream: quit your demanding (re: life-sucking) day job, pursue your passion, and spend each day cosplaying as a romantic comedy protagonist. In this particular example, I’m envisioning Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated, wowing viewers and Steve Martin alike with her French-trained culinary prowess and lighter-than-air croissants. And while that may sound like a pipe dream for some, for Candace Nelson, it was her reality.

Following the dot-com bust of the early aughts, Candace left her job as an investment banker to pursue pastry making—opening a custom cake business in San Francisco. And while that simplified synopsis of her pivot might have seemed like a step back, Candace was only just getting started.

Fast forward twenty years, and she’s now a widely recognizable, highly successful entrepreneur. Alongside her husband, Candace opened Sprinkles Cupcakes—the first-ever cupcake bakery—as the world clung to the Carrie Bradshaw-endorsed treat. With a book, food television stardom, and other ventures under her belt (and always, it seems, in the works), Candace isn’t anywhere near slowing down.

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Candace Nelson on the Ups and Downs of Entrepreneurship—and the Routines That Have Helped Her Build a Successful, Sustainable Career

So how does a single person maintain such momentum, retain such creativity, and amass so much success? It’s clear from our interview, that Candace is laser-focused on the routines that support her and keep her moving along this upward trajectory. From non-negotiable workouts to starting her day off with a nourishing meal, Candace knows the habits that keep her inspired and feeling her best.

We loved learning from Candace the ins and outs of what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur—and we can guarantee, there’s a life-changing nugget of wisdom for everyone. Read on for Candace Nelson’s morning routine and her proactive approach to getting things done.

Tell us about your career and starting a business. What has life been like as an entrepreneur?

There are so many highs and lows in entrepreneurship, but there is truly nothing more rewarding than dreaming up a vision for the world that doesn’t yet exist and bringing it to life. It was scary to break from the corporate path and strike out on my crazy new cupcake idea. I wasn’t raised in an entrepreneurial environment so I never imagined myself starting a business—I simply had an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. I was fortunate to have a husband and partner who believed in and supported me from the very beginning.

I am constantly trying to be less reactive and more strategically proactive with my day.

What has been your biggest learning over the past year?

I’ve been blown away by the number of DMs I’ve received from female entrepreneurs reading Sweet Success. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the book resonate with my intended audience. But it also reaffirms for me just how hungry startup founders are for support, guidance, and community.

In a few words, how would you describe your personal style?

Understated, effortless, chic. I live in denim and love to be comfortable but cute. Details are also very important to me. I enjoy quality and simplicity but with a little edge or surprise, whether it’s unexpected detailing or a pop of color.

What does a typical day look like for you?  

I just released my new book, Sweet Success in November so my promotional schedule continues to include a lot of panels, keynotes, book parties and signings, TV and print interviews, podcasts and mentorship work with the young women of Step Up Network. But a more typical work day involves a mix of Pizzana meetings related to new locations and business initiatives, marketing, PR and social media, creating content for my personal brand and meeting with founders who are fundraising. I also moonlight as a part-time chauffeur and cheerleader for my sons and their sporting events. 

What time is your wake-up call?

I need a lot of sleep—8 hours—so I am not up at the crack of dawn. My husband does breakfast for the boys in the morning (he’s a dream) and I typically roll out of bed at 7:30 with just enough time to make coffee and check a few things on my phone before driving my son to school.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

Grab a pair of my Caddis glasses and check my Oura ring score. 

What does your morning routine look like? What rituals set you up for success?

I love the idea of a lengthy morning routine, but the reality is I just don’t have much time in the morning because I’m not an early riser. I do spend a few minutes with my eyes closed before getting out of bed to set some intentions and gratitudes for the day. Once up, I will hydrate with water (with electrolytes) before making coffee, glance at my calendar for the day, and take my son to school.

Describe your morning beauty routine from start to finish:

Candace’s beauty routine is easy and elegant. With a few key products, she’s able to craft an effortless look that weaves seamlessly into her busy morning.

  • She starts with Retrouvé products mixed with the Georgia Louise Ionic Wand with Vitamin C. 
  • After that, Candace applies Relevant One and Done Sunscreen.
  • As for makeup, she finishes things off with Saie Dew Blush Liquid Cheek Blush, concealer and highlighter from the much-buzzed-about brand, Merit. Tower 28 lip gloss for a little color and a few swipes of her brow brush to tie the look together.

What do you eat for breakfast?

I usually intermittently fast through breakfast, so it’s just a coffee with collagen and a little almond or cashew milk. If I am eating breakfast, it’s Greek yogurt with berries and some hemp seeds or gluten-free granola sprinkled on top. On the weekends, I sometimes treat myself with a dark chocolate Fonut, which is a baked gluten-free donut from a local LA bakery. It doesn’t sound all that decadent, but trust me it is. When I’m traveling, I rely on Kroma porridge.

What will we always find in your refrigerator?

Organic blueberries from the farmers market. Cashew milk by Elmhurst, Japanese sweet potatoes, fresh gluten-free pasta and pesto, and lots of alcohol-free beverages. (I did a deep dive during Dry January to find my favorites!)

What are your morning rituals?

I skim the many sources of news and inspiration in my inbox—especially Morning Brew, the Information and Newsette.

What are your favorite books? 

What’s always on your nightstand?

Caddis glasses, a silk scrunchie, a variety of conditioning lip glosses, photo books from past girls’ trips, a TBR stack of non-fiction, and the latest Cherry Bombe magazine. 

Do you work out in the morning? 

Sometimes. Living on the west coast, mornings can be busy with Zoom meetings and just replying to emails from people in other parts of the country. I often feel behind when I wake up because the rest of the country has a head start, so I often get some work done first and then work out midday. My amazing trainer, Kadee Sweeney will guide me through a pilates and strength training session. Or I power walk—either on the treadmill or in my neighborhood to get some sunshine. Workouts are typically an hour, but on a more leisurely weekend I will include some stretching and rolling and go 90 minutes.

What’s your daily uniform?

I’m obsessed with Nili Lotan jeans. I have a wardrobe of them at this point but my favorite is the high-waisted Anna style. I love sweaters and have been loving sweater vests this season. My favorite labels are Lisa Yang, La Ligne, and G Label. I’m also obsessed with Marfa Stance vests and coats and love changing out the collars in different colors and materials.

If you had one extra hour every morning, how would you use it?

Journaling, specifically about my intentions and priorities for the day. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to spend most of your time putting out the daily fires that pop up rather than working toward larger, longer-term goals. I am constantly trying to be less reactive and more strategically proactive with my day.

What are one or two things you do every day to live a more present and joyful life?

Family dinner and sharing our failures and learnings from that day.

If you could pin your success down to one thing, what would that be?

Integrity—in word and action. Do what you say you’re going to do and do the right thing.

Sentence Finishers:

I never leave the house without: my Horsenbuhs sunglasses.

If there were more hours in the day, I would: read more fiction and journal more!

Healthiest morning habit: a big bottle of water mixed with lemon DripDrop electrolytes.

Worst morning habit: grabbing for my phone almost immediately.

One thing I want to be known for is: building beloved brands.

The one thing I fear the most: is getting complacent.

When I feel that fear, I: learn something new or take on a creative challenge.

The book I always recommend is: Essentialism.

One trait you need to succeed in life is: self-awareness.

Bath or shower? Shower—it’s quicker!

And what’s your favorite shower/bath product? When I’m not doing media, I try to nurture my hair by air drying and wearing it natural/curly. I love Tracy Ellis Ross’s line Pattern for curly-haired girls.

Looking for more morning routine inspiration? Dive in and discover the rituals that keep Camille grounded.