When Cloe Lane thinks back on her childhood, she has vivid memories of a particular puffy, sugary confection. Whether she was at Santa Monica Pier, Dodger Stadium or Disneyland, she often found herself clamoring for a stick of cotton candy.
“It’s always been my favorite treat,” she said. “I was surprised no one had really thought to put a modern spin on how people enjoy it.”
That’s where Bon Puf comes in. Lane, a 22-year-old Santa Monica native who graduated from Pacifica Christian High School, now runs her own artisanal cotton candy business using natural and organic ingredients.
Bon Puf has made slow but steady progress since it launched a few years ago, and it came full circle last month when Lane returned to her alma mater to discuss her experiences as an entrepreneur and serve her product to current students.
Lane turns out flavors like mango with chile salt topping, caramel dusted with sea salt, coconut and watermelon featuring a coconut chip crumble, and vanilla with a crushed candy cane topping. She sells her cotton candy from a cart at public and private events, and she’s working to develop pre-made cotton candy to expand her business in the coming months.
It’s all part of an evolving journey for Lane, a daughter of graphic designers who was homeschooled until she enrolled at Pacifica. The idea of a cotton candy business, which she bounced around as a senior at the Santa Monica private school, gained momentum during her gap semester after graduation. She then started taking general education classes at Santa Monica College, but she soon realized that she wanted to be able to devote her time to her company.
“It was going so well, and education is something you really have to hunker down and focus on,” she said, adding that she hopes to go back to school eventually. “I was excited where Bon Puf was going.”
Bringing creative energy to her new pursuit, Lane has relied on her parents for guidance on organization, finances and client correspondence. She said they also instilled in her the value of a healthy lifestyle, a tenet that she incorporates into her selection of ingredients that don’t have artificial flavoring.
“What’s been really fun is that because my product is natural, more parents are open to Bon Puf,” she said. “I’ve had a great success in people being way more open to what I offer.”
Lane certainly found a receptive audience at Pacifica, from which she graduated in 2012. She returned to the campus at the request of her former math teacher, Kevin Kirchner, who runs the school’s Minchin Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The interdisciplinary program is meant to help students develop their business skills through collaborative projects and partnerships with Silicon Beach companies.
“I was honored to be given the chance to give back a little bit,” Lane said. “I just told the students my story and tried to encouraged them in their own endeavors.”
Lane, who in 2014 made Zagat’s list of 30 culinary rock stars in Los Angeles under 30, said she is now pulling in a profit and able to support herself.
“I’m so incredibly thankful for that,” she said. “I owe that to the people who hire [Bon Puf] and believe in what I’m doing.”