Rochester Hills-based MI Sugar Shack offers up 50+ flavors of cotton candy.
By Alana Blumenstein
Photography by Morgan Heinzmann
Cotton candy is no longer just pink and blue — at least not if you’re Michelle Marinelli. As the founder of Rochester Hills-based MI Sugar Shack, Marinelli puts a creative spin on everyone’s favorite sugary treat, churning out more than 50 fun flavors from banana split and pina colada to maple syrup and eggnog.
Marinelli has always loved sweets. “My mom and my grandma love to bake,” she says. “I’ve been developing my sweet tooth for a long time.”
Before opening her cotton candy business, Marinelli worked in sports. While the career switch may seem like a big change, she says the two go hand in hand. “I still have to reach out to customers to sell the product. It’s a little bit of both worlds.”
When she decided to turn her passion for sweets into the a family business, the 44-year-old says she stayed confident in her vision. “You know when you’re ready,” she says. “You just have to do it.”
Marinelli’s daughter, Addison, 16, and son, Hunter, 14, became her partners. “I just pulled them in,” she says. She loves working with her kids and is grateful for the time they get to spend together. “It’s not every day that you get to work with your family,” she says.
Marinelli’s husband, Jim, has another job, but she says he’s also been a great help with the business.
In December 2017, the couple came up with the idea to make edible cookie dough, which, after partnering with Comerica Park, they sold at baseball games.
One day a client asked if Marinelli could provide cotton candy. She agreed without an idea of where it would lead.
As she played with the ingredients, she grew inspired by different colors and flavors. Before she knew it, she had come up with several fun ideas. “It just happened,” she says. Soon after, that experiment moved her to start MI Sugar Shack.
These days, Marinelli is done with cookie dough, opting instead to create cotton candy flavors like cake batter, cookies and cream and root beer float. (See the entire menu on the company’s website, MI Sugar Shack)
“Everybody just loves it,” Marinelli says, adding that people order the treat for weddings, graduation parties and birthdays.
Marinelli says that she is willing to create new flavors for customers at no extra charge (past requests include rainbow, unicorn and pumpkin spice). “It doesn’t matter how old you are,” she says. “It’s fun flavors for everybody, even adults.”
MI Sugar Shack products are available in stores throughout Michigan, including Sweet Spot in Mackinaw City, Market Fresh in Beverly Hills and Lucky Detroit in Corktown.
Jeff Weaver, the owner of Rooted, a Michigan-made retail store in Mancelona, says he’s enjoyed working with MI Sugar Shack.
Marinelli hopes to continue expanding MI Sugar Shack throughout Michigan. She adds that making connections with clients is part of the fun. “The majority of these people I would never have met before,” she says.
Wishing you could follow in Marinelli’s footsteps and start your own business? Marinelli says to have confidence and believe in your dreams. “If you fail, who cares,” she says. “Find your inner peace and what makes you happy.”
Especially if that means whipping up cotton candy.