After finding out that Squish Marshmallows was opening a brick and mortar in New York City, I was freaking out. I've been following Katherine Sprung and her marshmallows on Instagram for a pretty long time, so news like this was super exciting to me, and probably to a lot of other New Yorkers who love sweets.

So I decided to interview Sprung, find out her origin story, and talk about the opening of her soon-to-be Squish Marshmallows store.

Spoon: On Instagram I see hundreds of people promoting their own foods like cookies, cakes, even ice cream. However, marshmallows are an oddity in the bunch. How did you come up with the idea to create a product and brand solely based on marshmallows?

KS: It sounds like a hippie answer, but they kind of found me. I had only made marshmallows for the first time a couple months before I wanted to turn it into a business. I stumbled on a recipe and figured it would be fun to try. There wasn't lighting or a magical moment after I made them, but something clicked, and I wanted to explore making them more.

I didn't want to do just plain marshmallows. That, to me, is boring. I wanted to do interesting flavors—some very accessible, some a little experimental—and  incorporate texture. That way, they're their own little complete dessert, and not just marshmallows anymore. 

Spoon: What methods did you use to build up your Instagram and social media presences?

KS: Honestly, it's all been pretty organic. When I first started using IG for the business about two years ago, it was a little tricky to find the "voice," or the visual image I wanted to create. I didn't know what my small following would be interested in seeing. You can look at so many different accounts, food or otherwise, and each have their own vision and direction.

Some show all the behind the scenes, some show people, themselves, or different methods of displaying the product. After I decided I only wanted to feature the product, for the most part, and stuck with that, engagement went up. And then just being out there, getting my product out there, gaining customers, doing fun partnerships and collaboration—it all just came together.  

Spoon: You have collaborated with some of New York City’s best sweet shops such as Ice and Vice and The Doughnut Project. How did these collaborations come into place?

KS: Well, the fun thing about joining the food industry is meeting the other people in it! Some of my best friends are also food makers/business owners and, if our products can share a common ground in a dish or item, then we go for it! Collabs are one of my favorite parts of the business—they're a lot of fun. 

Spoon: Will the store only be selling marshmallows or do you have plans to sell collaborations in store as well?

KS: The menu will stay primarily focused on the marshmallows! But, of course, I'll have coffee, hot chocolate, and then some other fun marshmallow-related creations, and a small curated offering of some of my friend's products as well. But I'm not getting crazy or too broad with my offerings, I want to keep it focused and niche, I don't want to be a diner of desserts (although that kind of sounds amazing... but a headache). 

Spoon: It must be exciting to open a store. Could you describe this excitement or anything else you are feeling toward the opening?

KS: Excitement, stress, nervousness. [Laughs.] Since it isn't open yet, there's a bit of a numbness since it doesn't feel real just yet. It's definitely exciting because I think of how this all started, and where it is now, which is a little nuts. I would have never imagined that I would start a marshmallow company, and a couple years later, open up a shop in NYC. It's still a bit surreal. 

Spoon: How did you turn your passion for food into a functioning, money-making business?

KS: I wish I could give you a super glam and cool answer, but really, just a lot of work. When I was a little kid, I loved helping out in the kitchen and making things. I've always loved the creative world.

When I was in high school, I wanted to go to culinary school, but stayed on track for a 4-year university and asked for a KitchenAid mixer for my 18th birthday instead. So a part of me always wanted to be in the food industry in some capacity. I didn't really know how or when so when this all came together, I figured, "OK, here's your foot in, make it count."

And of course, I couldn't have done it without the support of other people. My parents have been my number one supporters and encouraged me along the whole way. And then, my friends and customers who spread the word and share the product with their circles—it all helps. Between the emotional support and the customers, it all balances, and they're the ones helping to create the magic! 

Spoon: What do you find to be the hardest part of being an entrepreneur in the food world?

KS: I'm sure it's different for everyone, based on your background, experience, or lack there of, but for me, probably just entering completely uncharted territory. I've never had business partners, I had no formal food training, no business degree, and up until now, no employees. It's really just been me hustling with the marshmallows. [Laughs.]

You have to test out a lot of things, learn a whole new world full of tons of rules and regulations, and make a product that people like and are willing to buy.

But the most valuable thing, for anyone interested in getting into this space, is reaching out to people who are in the field. Some will become your friends, and others will serve as temporary or permanent mentors—but ask them tons of questions! You really can't beat getting information and suggestions straight from the source.

Plus, they've all been there and get the obstacles, woes, and hardships, so it's comforting and reassuring all at the same time.

Spoon: With the store, when is the opening date set?

KS: No set date, but most likely this October.

Spoon: What is the address of the storefront?

KS: East Village, address TBA. 

Thank you so much to Katherine Sprung for allowing me to interview you, and everyone, make sure to check out the Squish Marshmallows store when it opens!