A chocolate a day keeps the semester scaries at bay

Zac Coughlin started his dessert shop on the East Coast. Wanting to build an experience around food, Coughlin strives to give his desserts unique textures and colors. (Photo courtesy of Zac Coughlin)

Zac Coughlin, a junior majoring in communication, has launched a new business with a sugary twist. 

Zac’s Sweet Shop is the latest online venture that delivers unique and custom-made treats at your doorstep. Featuring a wide array of cookies, truffles and cookie pizzas, customers can customize their dessert experience by selecting items that go into their boxes.

Although the website just launched, Coughlin started the company when he was 13 years old in his home town of Pittsburgh. While looking at potential desserts to bring for a party, he realized that none of the desserts offered were unique. This led to Coughlin wanting to make something special for his friends.

Coughlin said he purchased basic ingredients like strawberries, chocolate and pretzels and put his own unique spin on it, both through visuals and taste. That difference was how Zac’s Sweet Shop was born. 

“I just wanted to take them to another level … Everyone was like, ‘Where did you buy these from?’ And I was like, ‘I made them,’” he said. “And then weirdly enough, a month or two passed by, and it was just kind of like a fun hobby in a sense but also like, I thought I was potentially onto something. Like no one was really doing chocolate dipped desserts like that and stuff like color schemes … Even Godiva didn’t do anything in terms of that much color.”  

Zac Coughlin’s interest in sweets and baked goods began when he was 13 years old. The original shop was a family and friend initiative, which he then expanded to the USC community. (Photo courtesy of Zac Coughlin)

Eventually, Coughlin believed he might be onto a growing business. Coughlin saw that there was an opportunity to make dessert an experience for people rather than just another dish  to consume. 

Coughlin said he did a lot of research into the types of dessert he could make. He knew that if he was putting all this effort into his work, he had to make sure he did it right the first time.  

“I convinced [my mother] to let me start it,” he said. “It was a family and friends business for years.”

Once the business started gaining popularity in his hometown, Coughlin decided to take what he thought was a much needed break while at USC. During this time off, he had the opportunity to explore different interests. 

One of those interests was social media, which her explored through Reach, a student social media organization where he learned the ropes of how to market a brand online. 

Although there were many initial difficulties with establishing his business in the USC area, Coughlin said he was able to apply what he learned in his classes and through Reach to make it a reality. The demand for his desserts from previous customers, along with advice from important people in his life, helped him realize that he needed to make the jump and make Zac’s Sweet Shop happen. 

Coughlin also threw himself into his coursework, as he knew that the topics discussed in class were directly relevant to his business and  would help him succeed.  

“I took two years off of it to really focus on school and see if the sweet shop was still something I really wanted to do,” Coughlin said. “It’s not like I didn’t want to do it by any means, but I was just literally across the country for college.”

Cosette Rinab, a junior majoring in public relations, is a fan of Zac’s sweets. She said she has been an avid supporter of Coughlin and has encouraged him to pursue his passion of making desserts. Rinab has seen the business take off from seeing Coughlin running it at school to experiencing the final product that it has become. 

“There’s nothing like this online right now,” Rinab said. “I mean, not only is it a very fun, colorful new dessert shop, but it’s so innovative in the way the website is so interactive. Like you can design your own cookie pizza by dragging the toppings on. It’s really something like I’ve never seen before.”