Professor by day, candy maker by night

Professor by day, candy maker by night

13 Dec 2016    By Kelcey Buck

When Sue Kemp was handed a toffee recipe during her student teaching, she never expected it to turn into what it is now – spending every night and weekend cooking to fill the onslaught of orders she receives for her business, Sweets by Suzanne.

It all started when Kemp, an associate professor of practice at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, was a first-year teacher looking for something to give as Christmas gifts. 

“It was a recipe that was given to me by my cooperating teacher when I was student teaching,” Kemp said. “She and her husband would make it for Christmas gifts for people. When I graduated, I didn’t have much money and was teaching. I thought, ‘What can I do? Well, I’ve got this recipe and I can cook, so why not try it.’ So I started doing that my first year teaching, and I’ve done it every year since then.”

After several years of making her toffee as personal gifts, Kemp decided to turn it into a business in 2009.

“People had always said the toffee was really good. They said they had stopped taking it home because they liked it so much and ate it all themselves, so I decided to give it a shot.”

She got her business up and running, then took some toffee to the From Nebraska Gift Shop, located at 803 Q St. in Lincoln. After tasting a sample, the store agreed to carry her candy, and the business began to blossom.

“It’s just built from there,” Kemp said. “I was with Grow Nebraska for awhile, then it was in a store in South Dakota. It’s been in Kansas. A fruit club is looking at picking it up. So the business has just kind of grown by word of mouth because I do no advertising.”

Sweets by Suzanne has also expanded in terms of the types of candy offered. Kemp credits her best friend with giving her a peanut brittle recipe and encouraging her to try it. When she did, it turned out so great she knew she needed to add it to her business. In addition to toffee and peanut brittle, Kemp also currently offers pretzels covered in chocolate and toffee.

Now, during the holiday season, Kemp spends her evenings and weekends in the kitchen, filling orders as quickly as she can. It takes about 90 minutes for her to make one batch of toffee, which fills 18 half-pound bags. Kemp estimates that she is currently making nearly 50 pounds per week.

She has adapted the original recipe by creating her own chocolate blend and nut blend, mixing it up to see what tastes good. Plus, Kemp offers special blends for people who have allergy issues with the walnuts, pecans and almonds she uses.

“I’ve cooked my whole life. I grew up cooking, but I never new how to make candy. My teacher who gave me the recipe said she and her husband would slave over the stove and it would take hours. That was initially kind of how it was, but over the years I’ve added my own twist to it. It’s a fun little diversion.”

In addition to visiting the From Nebraska Gift Shop, anyone interested in ordering some of Kemp’s candy can visit her website,

Special Education and Communication Disorders