5 things to know about Smarties, the women-led and family-run candy company celebrating 70 years in business

@AmeliaJean | Twenty20

On Oct. 31, kids and parents across the country are busy hitting the streets in search of sugar. For Smarties, one of the oldest family-run candy companies in the U.S. with 70 years in the business, Halloween marks the biggest sales day of the year, Inc. reports. And it runs a tight ship in order to make the holiday a success.

The maker of the candy wafer roll was founded in August 1949 by Edward Dee, who had immigrated with his family from London earlier that year. Originally launched as Ce De Candy, Inc., the founder changed the company name to Smarties Candy Company in 2011. These days, the company has two factories in Union, New Jersey, and Newmarket, Ontario, which produce over 2 billion Smarties rolls every year.

Here are five things you might not know about the maker behind one of the most iconic Halloween treats.

A trio of cousins leads the company

Smarties is currently led by Dee's granddaughters: sisters Liz Dee and Jessica Dee Sawyer, and their cousin Sarah Dee. In an interview with Inc., the three co-presidents say it wasn't clear they would all go into the family business.

According to a Q&A with HuffPost, Liz studied at Wesleyan University and later earned a master's degree from New York University in media and culture communication; Jessica studied art history at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Sarah holds a degree in management and marketing from Emory University.

By the 2010s, however, the three came back from their various career paths to Smarties to serve as executive presidents. The three were named co-presidents, taking over from their fathers, in 2017.

This makes the Dee cousins the third generation to run the Smarties business, the first all-women leadership team for the company, and fifth generation of candy makers within their family. According to Harvard Business Review, just 10% of family businesses remain active and privately-held long enough for a third generation to lead them.

That's a particularly notable feat in the $10 billion candy industry, where the top four public businesses (think Mars and Hershey) make up 65% of the U.S. market, according to market research firm IBISWorld.

Liz Dee, Co-President, Smarties
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Everything revolves around Halloween

Oct. 31 is the Smarties version of Black Friday — "It's by far the most important holiday for us," Liz tells Inc. — and the company starts prepping for its biggest day of the year a full 11 months prior.

That means in November, retailers begin ordering from Smarties to prepare for the next year's trick-or-treating event. Smarties will start production for Halloween batches in spring, which are then shipped through summer.

Smarties also ends its fiscal year on Halloween and hosts a company-wide lunch around that time to celebrate the end of its busy season.

Workers get a pretty sweet perk

Flexible scheduling is important for the family-run business, and the presidents make it a priority.

"As a company, we pride ourselves on our family-friendly hours, encouraging us to spend more time with our families than a more traditional or corporate environment," Sarah tells HuffPost.

And maybe the sweetest perk of all: In preparation for Halloween, Smarties workers are gifted 30 pounds of the candy to share with family, friends and trick-or-treaters.

The company's 95-year-old founder still stops by the office

Edward Dee celebrated his 95th birthday in October, near the 70th anniversary of the Smarties company founding. But he still drops by the New Jersey factory multiple times a week to check in on how business is going.

"He could have retired years ago, but instead he still comes into the office nearly every day because he genuinely loves what he does," Liz tells Guest of a Guest.

Various members of the Dee family have always been a fixture at the office. Liz, Jessica and Sarah share with Inc. that they often Rollerbladed around the factory floor when they were kids in the 1980s. Sarah and Jessica also each have two kids under the age of 5 who often frequent the Smarties headquarters.

Smarties has an unspoken 'no-spouse' rule

The company's current presidents are all in their 30s and will likely be at the helm for some time to come. As for how the company leadership will change in the future, the Dees are comfortable keeping it tight-knit.

"I suppose we have an unspoken 'no-spouse rule,'" Sarah tells Inc. "It keeps things uncomplicated."

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