Work, family, a social life 鈥 really, we鈥檙e all just trying to find a way to balance it all. And if you鈥檙e an aspiring #girlboss, finding time to chase your dreams and turn them into a reality can be a stressful gig. But for Portland鈥檚 QUIN candy shop founder and sugar extraordinaire, Jami Curl, finding a way to make it happen was a matter of harnessing the power of creativity and passion and combining it with hard work to watch the pieces fall into place. Jami was dubbed 鈥渢he new Willy Wonka鈥 by Bon Appetit, and we sat down with her to talk Portland, motherhood and, most importantly, candy鈥 all of the candy.


B+C: Let鈥檚 just get this out of the way. You have one of the most SHE鈥橲 SO LUCKY jobs out there. Why candy and how did you make this dream job a reality?

JC: Let鈥檚 start with how I made it a reality: a ton of hard work and zero fear of failure. I am a really hard worker and find it very easy to give up personal time in order to work. I am not a picture perfect model of balance, and I am not the type to talk about my 鈥渟elf-care鈥 or 鈥渕e鈥 time or any of that. That said, the job I have is no ordinary job 鈥 I don鈥檛 have that struggle because my job IS my passion project. Essentially I get to do what I love AND it鈥檚 my job 鈥 I am so fortunate to have it be this way.

That said, it didn鈥檛 happen by luck. And it didn鈥檛 happen at lightning speed. I fell in love with candy while I owned, operated and worked at my busy bakery. One day instead of working on a new cookie, cake, scone or some other baked good, I decided to make candy. I applied all the same style and technique I brought to my baked goods 鈥 and the result was a caramel that tasted so different than normal candy. After caramels, I tackled lollipops and the rest just sort of fell into place. I made candy and grew the candy business while still running and working at my bakery. I did this for many months 鈥 building up QUIN so it could take off 鈥 and when the moment was right, I sold the bakery and put everything I had into QUIN.

B+C: Your all-American sweets are made with some of the best ingredients out there. Talk to us a little bit about the importance of using high-quality goods to make your product.

JC: Candy can be made very easily with cheap ingredients. There are all sorts of fake additives and ingredients on the market that make candy easier to produce 鈥 fake milk products that emulsify with fake sweeteners, stabilizers and shelf-life extenders, phony flavors and cheap artificial colorings. Reading these sentences 鈥 it鈥檚 all just so gross to me! We make candy with fresh cream, real butter, pure cane sugar, fruit, nuts, chocolate, color derived from beets and turmeric, flavors that come from REAL food. As a baker, I used fresh, real ingredients, and it would never ever cross my mind to make candy any other way.


B+C: Portland is a foodie paradise. What鈥檚 it like to be a local business in the city?

JC: I am very focused on building a business that isn鈥檛 just for Portland. I appreciate and am very thankful for the bounty of incredible ingredients right outside our doors, and I would never take for granted the fact that many people in Portland seek out and spend good money on quality food, treats and drinks 鈥 Portlanders were our first customers and they are who helped QUIN get her start. I am thankful for the farmers who grow beautiful fruit that we put in our candy; I am thankful for Portlanders who like to buy candy made with real ingredients, but I am even more thankful that we are able to put our candy in boxes and ship those boxes across the world.

B+C: It鈥檚 obvious you love what you do. Can you share how you keep that passion alive and continue to stay creative?

JC: My job is so varied that I rarely have time to get bored. I am part candy maker-upper, part marketer, part boss, part writer, part negotiator, part strategic thinker. There are small and large parts of all of these roles that I love so, so much. And because I am always doing something different, I rarely feel stalled or stagnant or without ideas. It鈥檚 really the opposite 鈥 I never, ever find enough time to tackle all the crazy stuff I dream up.


B+C: So, you鈥檝e got a cookbook coming out in March 2017. What can we expect there?

JC: I DO! It鈥檚 so exciting. It鈥檚 called Candy is Magic 鈥 Real Ingredients, Modern Recipes, and it is full of every single one of QUIN鈥檚 greatest hits. In addition to candy, I cover ice cream and cake, and I include tons of ideas for how to use candy in other recipes. It鈥檚 a total adventure and a perfect distillation of how my mind works. I love to do more than one thing with an ingredient 鈥 for example, there鈥檚 a recipe for something I called Chocolate Magic Dust in the book 鈥 that magic dust can be used to make chocolate caramels, chocolate lollipops, chocolate ice cream, chocolate milk, hot fudge AND chocolate marshmallows. It鈥檚 like a big huge giant sweet game of connect the dots; I really can鈥檛 say enough about how fun it is.

Writing the book was an incredible experience 鈥 I wrote it myself, did all the creative direction. I have had my hand in every part of the creation of the book from art direction to writing. It is perfectly me.


B+C: In addition to owning your own business, writing a cookbook and just being an overall busy badass, you鈥檙e a mom too. Can you share some tips on how you manage your day *and* your sanity?

JC: I must say that I have a very, very good kid. He鈥檚 a great listener and he鈥檚 very supportive 鈥 we鈥檝e never struggled to see eye to eye on things 鈥 he鈥檚 a total gem of a human. He鈥檚 a busy guy 鈥 he鈥檚 been taking ballet since the age of three, he鈥檚 in a choir and takes various voice lessons and acting classes 鈥 and all of these things come from him. He has the same kind of drive that I have; it doesn鈥檛 come from external pressures, he seems to be internally driven to do the things he loves to do. Because of this, the day to day is really pretty easy (I don鈥檛 have to force him to practice and I鈥檓 never dragging a crying kid to a commitment).

Of course, there are moments when I think I鈥檓 going to go completely insane 鈥 when I鈥檝e got a work commitment and then something pops up on Theo鈥檚 schedule, or I can鈥檛 stay at work as long as I鈥檇 like because I have to get Theo at school. Or I鈥檝e worked a long day and then I spend 60 minutes in traffic trying to get Theo to dance class and we end up being late anyway. For the most part, I follow a very detailed schedule and system, but when either of those things gets interrupted, I can turn into a very unhappy/cranky/upset person. So I do what I can to stay on schedule and try to sneak in some work after Theo鈥檚 bedtime (and before he gets up) each day. But, for real, scheduling to the minute is KEY.

B+C: I feel like I鈥檓 about to ask you to pick your favorite child but what鈥檚 the one can鈥檛-go-on-living-without piece of candy at QUIN?

JC: I love Dreams Come Chew. They are fruity, chewy candies in flavors like cherry, strawberry, lemon, tangerine, fruit punch and pineapple-coconut. I love them because they are super fresh tasting, super smooth and have just the right amount of tartness. (Fruit Punch is my favorite flavor of the bunch!)

B+C: Finally, there are a ton of aspiring artisanal #girlbosses out there. What advice do you have for them?

JC: The first thing is that I think it鈥檚 totally okay to just be a boss and not a girlboss. While I understand the boss lady/girlboss movement, I think it鈥檚 great to embrace and recognize that one can be a boss AND a woman and not have to qualify her achievements with the girlboss hashtag. I like to just be the boss, full stop.

The other thing I like to tell women (or anyone who has a dream they are trying to make work) is that the only person who鈥檚 going to care as much about what you鈥檙e doing as you do is YOU. You have to care for your dream, project, business, idea better than anyone else. No one (not even your mom!) is going to love your vision like you do. Embrace that singularity (even if it might sound lonely) and live it every single day. It鈥檚 not that you鈥檙e the only person who cares, but at the same time it is exactly that: YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON WHO CARES AS MUCH AS YOU DO. You can鈥檛 expect anyone else to care for your dream the way you care for your dream.

And once your big dream is off the ground and things are going great and you are on cloud nine every day because things are working, you still have to love it all and care for it all better than anyone else. You can鈥檛 ask an employee to do that for you (and you really shouldn鈥檛 want to!).

Tweet us your favorite candy shop @BritandCo!

(Photos via QUIN)