Auntie Anne did not make it to the premiere of My Spy Movie, but a student from USC did! Zachary Coughlin arrived at the venue with the custom pretzels from his online dessert company, Zac’s Sweet Shop, last month.

Around the same time, Zac’s Sweet Shop was added to Beyoncé‘s list of Black-owned businesses located throughout the United States.

As unemployment rates continue to rise throughout the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses are faced with a number of challenges. For Zac’s Sweet Shop, plans to expand to hosting in-person baking classes and pop-up events will have to wait until the pandemic is over.

“I’ve been working on creating a strong e-commerce platform and pushing gifting and care packages, more than ever, everyone needs a sweet pick-me-up right now!” Coughlin said in an interview conducted via Instagram direct messaging and email.

Coughlin said that having his shop included in the directory Beyoncé created to help guide customers interested in supporting the Black community makes him even more proud of his identity, community and mission.

“It was awesome to sit next to so many other amazing and hard-working entrepreneurs,” he added.

Irvine resident San Lee was gifted a Truffle Zac-Pac when his friend decided to make a purchase after seeing Zac’s Sweet Shop on Beyoncé‘s website.

“It is vital to support our local businesses at this challenging time,” Lee said.

Growing up in a predominately white family, Coughlin experienced the complexity of being biracial.

“You don’t always know who you fit in with, who will accept you and how people will perceive and understand you,” he said.

As a business owner, Coughlin found a meaningful way to help out his community by providing jobs, making donations and bringing people joy with desserts.

“Being able to give back to a community (Black Lives Matter) I am part of means a lot,” he said.

Zac’s Sweet Shop now donates $1 to Black Lives Matter for every dozen of sweets purchased.

“I do respect people [who] have a community respect and also involve in the voice of the people,” said South Pasadena resident Eddie Wang, who was also given a package of Zac’s truffles.

When the pandemic is over, Coughlin said he wants to bring his shop into new communities, especially those that are meaningful to him and a part of who he is. As he waits to be able to hold in-person events, Coughlin is considering hosting virtual baking classes.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Coughlin is optimistic about the future of his shop.

“I always remind myself why I started this when things get tough - I didn’t start Zac’s [Sweet Shop] to make a lot of money, I started it because I wanted to make people happy through my sweets,” he said.