Sometimes kids say the darndest things.
That’s what happened two years ago when Tasha Holland-Kornegay was looking for a one-day fundraising idea for the HIV/AIDS nonprofit she founded. Her then 14-year-old son Kyree suggested making cotton candy.
“Kyree said, ‘Why don’t you sell cotton candy and why don’t you do it fun? We can do fun flavors, Mom,’ ” Holland-Kornegay remembers.
So mother and son set up shop at a festival in their hometown of Apex, introducing the fun of cotton candy to the crowd.
“The people jumped right on it and were very positive about it,” Holland-Kornegay said.
And at that first event she wore a red bow tie for HIV awareness, which helped get the conversation going about her nonprofit, Partners Against Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
“No one really wants to talk about HIV and AIDS, but the cotton candy helped open up a little bit and we sold out,” Holland-Kornegay said.
Customers asked them whether they would consider coming to birthday parties and corporate events with their cotton candy and they decided on the spot that the answer was yes. They left the one-day fundraiser and headed home to create Oscar William’s Gourmet Cotton Candy.
They set out to continue making cotton candy in the fun flavors Kyree wanted, and included in that line-up are flavors such as banana pudding, Grandma’s cider and coconut.
Holland-Kornegay and her husband, William Kornegay, eat a vegan diet and she takes great care with the ingredients used in the cotton candy. The treats are organic, kosher, gluten-free and contain no artificial flavors or colors.
And along the way, the entire family has learned how to elevate cotton-candy making into theatrical art, spinning the sugar and constructing the perfect cone in the air. From the start they wanted to sell a complete cotton candy experience.
“We were doing cotton candy so I thought no matter what I want it to be fun and I want it to be inviting for everyone,” William Kornegay said. “I’m a big kid at heart so I thought about kids. I wanted something colorful so that when kids walk by it they can’t walk by it.”
The red bowties became part of the company’s everyday uniforms, and the family created a kid-friendly logo to represents Oscar William’s.
“We decided to make a stick figure and go from there,” William Kornegay said. “We went from stick figures to “OW” so that his body represents his name.”
And who is Oscar William?
“My uncle had just passed; he was my favorite uncle,” William Kornegay said. “He always called my dad Oscar William but his name is William Oscar, so we did it as tribute because it was kind of funny at the same time.”
No one is sure why the beloved uncle chose to call his brother Oscar William, but his preference lives on in the family business.
William Kornegay quit his marketing job to work full time on the business, doing everything from spinning the sugar to making the bubblegum pink cotton candy carts they take to parties, weddings, festivals and other events.
Holland-Kornegay works as a mental health therapist, but is also a spinner and marketer for her company. Ten percent of cotton candy sales go to her nonprofit.
Mom, dad and son can be found wearing their bow ties and serving up cotton candy at events across the Triangle. They believe that the power of Facebook has helped them spread the word about Oscar William and grow it so quickly. And they think that one day they might like to have a store or take the company national.
“We have had calls from all over the country,” Holland-Kornegay said. “And we don’t want to tell them no.”
With two short years of cotton-candy making under the bow ties, life is sweet for this family that wanted to raise money for charity, and ended up spinning a new chapter in their lives.