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Northeast candy shop becomes viral hit after link to US zoo

TIKTOK, fried egg candy and a tropical bear called a kinkajou made a Northeast candy seller an overnight viral hit after he skyrocketed his autistic-run small business into internet stardom .

When Covid-19 put him on furlough, Simon Nova from Gateshead decided to channel his free time into starting his own online business.

Originally an artisan baker for eight years, the North East resident was looking for a way to incorporate his passion for taste and creativity into a business.

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He said: ‘My original plan was to have a bakery, but that involves thousands of pounds in ovens and workers.

Instead, the determined baker decided to try his hand at selling candy with an online store. And so, The Bonnebon Confectionery Company was born.

Determined not to sell old candies, he is committed to providing the best quality. “I looked through eleven different brands of fizzy cola bottles before choosing this particular one because it tastes the best,” he notes.

After starting the business, the newly established entrepreneur took to social media to market his business, with a presence on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

Simon Nova, owner of The Bonnebon Confectionery Company. Photo: BONNEBON CONFECTIONERY.

One day, Mr. Nova was browsing TikTok when he came across a video of an American woman giving candy to a tropical bear called a kinkajou.

The exotic animal, also known as the “honey bear”, is native to the rainforests of Central and South America. With a diet consisting primarily of high-sugar fruits, kinkajous are the only ones capable of digesting sweets.

After the kinkajou obsession began, the Gateshead man messaged Alex, the head keeper at the Kinkatopia Zoo in Boca Raton, Florida, asking if he could send some UK candy to the kinkajous.

“I didn’t expect anything. I just thought it would be nice to see them eat my candy,” Simon said. He sent a box of his products to Florida, and one morning a few weeks later Simon woke up to 1,600 notifications.

L'Écho du Nord: some of the sweets offered by The Bonnebon Confectionery Company.  Photo: BONNEBON CONFECTIONERY.Some of the sweets offered by The Bonnebon Confectionery Company. Photo: BONNEBON CONFECTIONERY.

In the three-minute clip posted to TikTok by the Kinkatopia account, three million people viewed the original video. Suddenly, Simon’s small business in Newcastle caught the eye of the world.

Before becoming a viral sensation, Mr Nova received a handful of orders a month and only offered delivery within the UK. Now requests are coming in full force from potential customers in America and as far away as the United Arab Emirates.

After a visit to the post office and a quick call to his e-commerce provider, EKM, Simon began planning how he would grow his business from the backroom of his home to shipping around the world.

The Bonnebon Confectionery Co. is now doing ten times more business than before, and Simon has made running his online business a full-time job.

The Northern Echo: With the help of a Kinkajou, Mr. Nova found TikTok stardom.  Photo: ONLINE.With the help of a Kinkajou, Mr. Nova found TikTok stardom. Photo: ONLINE.

Simon is open about something that makes his business different from others in his industry; The Bonnebon Confectionery Co. is a company proudly run by people with autism.

As an autistic person, Simon found the typical nine to five jobs challenging. “There’s a stigma around autism,” Simon said. “I’m a normal person, I just have slightly different sons upstairs.”

Simon is open on his company’s social media about how his autism affects his daily life as a business owner. He says it was difficult at first to be so candid about his life, especially overcoming concerns about how people online might scrutinize him.

The Northern Echo: Mr. Nova is now trying to use social media to break into new markets.  Photo: BONNEBON CONFECTIONERY.Mr. Nova is now trying to use social media to break into new markets. Photo: BONNEBON CONFECTIONERY.

However, social media put Simon in front of an overwhelmingly supportive audience. He regularly receives messages from autistic people and parents of autistic children who say following Simon’s success gives them hope for the future.

In the future, Simon hopes to continue to grow his business and eventually design and manufacture his own line of candies for The Bonnebon Confectionery Co.

For now, he says you may be looking for a collaboration with Kinkatopia. Simon and Alex offer a “Kinkajou Mix”, so fans of the videos can order the same candies that kinkajous enjoy.

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