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Air Force veteran starts candy company which helps those with OCD

A portion of the proceeds goes to autism charities

Ellen Laguatan, owner of the OCD Candy Company. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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In 2002, when retired Master Sgt. Ellen Laguatan, owner, OCD Candy Company was still serving in the Air Force, she used to keep a jar of candy on her desk. Due to her Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, she kept the candy color coordinated and organized. Her co-workers' favorite activity was to shake up the jar when she left her desk. One particular Friday, it really got to her as it was done right before she left for the day. She could not leave until it was properly organized and she was looking at sorting 10 pounds of candy. "It was in good humor but irritating. I shouldn't have to do this. I'm not the only person who eats their candy this way. There should be an OCD Candy Company. That was my light bulb moment and 10 years later I made it happen," she said.

Laguatan launched the OCD Candy Company in 2012. She carefully selected the candy, packaging and quantities to fit any common OCD tendency. She knew she was retiring in 2017 and wanted to be her own boss. She spent the next six years working seven days a week building a viable business to make sure her retirement plans came to fruition. Today, the OCD Candy Company is a successful small business located in the heart of Tacoma's Antique Row.

Serving in the Air Force gave Laguatan skills she would use in her business and was also a good fit with her OCD.

"I come from a military family and knew from a young age that this was what I wanted to do," she explained. "As a person with OCD, the military life was very satisfying. The structure and routine played well with my need to organize. The military taught me discipline and invaluable leadership skills. They are skills I use every day. Many of my military jobs involved working with, and for, a ‘customer'. There is nothing a civilian customer can do or say that will rattle me. Even better, my military bearing and senior NCO stare-down has served me well with unruly or unwanted individuals."

Laguatan spent 30 years in uniform performing duties as a fuel systems repairer for the F-4 and F-16 aircraft, and in other roles. Her last position with the military was working computer repair, crypto systems and program management for the Western Air Defense Sector in Washington state.

When Laguatan first started her candy company, she intended to donate to an OCD charity. Once her company opened, she noticed a trend.

"People were coming into my shop saying a friend or coworker told them about my candy. I found out from talking with these people that they were parents, caregivers and teachers of children with autism and that many autistic children have OCD tendencies. They said the children found my candy to be calming. I decided at that moment to switch my focus to autism charities. I have worked with people in the military that have autistic children and chose to donate to the charities they utilized which are Autism Speaks and the Autism Society. I have also hosted an autistic artist in my shop," she said.

You can visit Laguatan in her shop, which is located in downtown Tacoma's Antique Row at 9th and Broadway and St. Helens. Her store is in one of the buildings that is referred to as The Mercantile.

OCD Candy Company, 754 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.376.7851,

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