Friday, December 26, 2008

Stay Tuned for Some Big News!

Hi everyone,

This posting is going to be short and sweet, but I wanted to let you know that Theresa (mom) and I have been working on a big project, which is kind of my excuse for the infrequent blogging the past month or two.

The news is very exciting, although I can't tell you what it is just yet. Let's just say we like to strum up a little anticipation before we announce anything.

Hope you are enjoying the holidays! More to come soon, I promise.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Small Businesses in Today's Shaky Economy

I'll be avoiding the craziness this year. But good luck to all
braving the Black Friday crowds!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving all!

With the smorgasboard of turkey and trimmings behind us and Black Friday (also known as the craziest shopping day of the year) upon us, I have been thinking more and more about the state of the economy and how it has been affecting the small business owner. I'm sure you have heard the media and politicians go on and on about how the economic crisis (as it has officially been called at one time or another in all major newspapers, television news networks and online blogs) has had a negative impact on entrepreneurs of all kinds around the country.

I'm generally a glass-half full kind of person, but unfortunately, for the most part, I agree with the pundits and politicians on this one. Of most concern to us, since we are a growing business and will most likely need to expand our production capacity and our marketing plan in the future is the ability for small businesses to secure additional funding. This is typically done through a small business loan, but since the economy has gone beserk over the past few months, banks have been tightening up on credit.

The issue is that even before the economic crisis happened, it was pretty difficult to secure a small business loan from a bank, even if your business had great credit and you had good personal credit. If your company is just 2-3 years old, in many cases banks still consider you a start-up, which puts your company into a higher risk category for defaulting on a loan. Adding the economic woes on top of this scenario doesn't give small businesses, especially the newbies, much of an opportunity to prosper in a timely way.

I'm hopeful that this time next year, SBA loans will be on the rise, instead of declining as they are at the moment. Sorry if this sounds so pessimistic. I do actually think that things are looking up.
With a new administration in the White House come January 2009, I am curious to see what kinds of changes will be made to improve and encourage businesses to grow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tasty Travels

Can you believe that November is already here? It's amazing to think that in just a couple of weeks it will be Thanksgiving and then in another couple of weeks Hanukkah and Christmas. With the holidays just around the corner, our retailers have been stocking up on all sorts of specialty foods, including our products.

This is also a great time of the year to be doing product demos. I think in general, the best marketing you can do for a food product is to let people taste it. There are so many options at any one store and it's often really difficult to get your product to standout, even if it's something new. I think product demos are especially important for us because our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds are pretty unique products and provide us with the opportunity to talk to consumers about what makes them so special.

Sampling at the PA General Store in Philadelphia

After having done numerous demos these past couple of months, I have to say that many customers are surprisingly candid about what they think about our baked goods. Of course, we don't expect everyone to like our products, but when I started doing these demos earlier in the year and received some negative reactions, I would get a little flustered. I think my reaction was due to the fact that I'm naturally pretty non-confrontational.

But along the way I have learned that of course taste is subjective and I shouldn't take it personally. Plenty of people love our goodies and my mom and I really feel that the products we are making are nutritious, delicious and of the highest quality.

Visited beautiful upstate NY to demo at Chappaqua Village Market.

In just the past two weekends, I've clocked a total of about driving 800 miles! I don't know what I would have done without NPR and my carefully selected podcasts.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Goodies for Foodies

Recently, I stumbled across a wonderful site called OneGoodie, which I instantly fell in love with. There are two sections to OneGoodie- the first is called OneFoodie and the other is OneMommie. Everyday OneGoodie features one fun, interesting and unique product on each section of its site.

Earlier this week, OneGoodie actually featured our Cupola Clouds on their site! We were so excited about this. What's even better is that I was a OneGoodie fan and subscriber even before we worked with the owners of the site. For those of you who are foodies (and by foodie I mean anyone who likes to eat, drink, or for that matter think about food!), OneGoodie is also a great way to keep in the loop about innovative gadgets and delicious treats, not to mention great gift ideas as the holidays approach! Check it out for yourself here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cupola Cares- Share Our Strength Online Promotion

Did you know that 12.6 million children in America—that’s one in six—are at risk of hunger? From now through the end of the year, we will be donating a portion of our online sales to the non-profit Share Our Strength, which seeks to fight childhood hunger across the country in more ways than one.

I wrote about our partnership with Share Our Strength (SOS) earlier this year, but this non-profit does so much to fight childhood hunger through its numerous programs and events that I think it deserves another plug.

One of the major initiatives that the organization sponsors is the Great American Dine Out, where individuals can help out just by dining at participating restaurants across the country. The Great American Dine Out took place this past week, from Sept. 21-28. I was excited to find out that one of my favorite local restaurants here in Western PA, Passport Cafe, participated in the week-long event.

Here is a really moving promo that was created for the Great American Dine Out:

Although the Great American Dine Out is over, you can still help out! Here are a couple ways:
  • Keep an eye out for A Tasteful Pursuit, a touring dinner series sponsored by SOS that features some of the country's top chefs.
  • Operation Frontline provides knowledge and skills that help surround kids at risk of hunger with healthy foods where they live, learn and play, providing nutritional information and classes.
And of course, you can also do your part by purchasing some Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds through our online store!

Friday, September 12, 2008

C is for Cookie

I found this clip on YouTube and it made me remember just how much I loved Sesame Street. Plus, this is extremely relevant to our business! I'd like to think that Cookie Monster would enjoy our Cupola Cookies too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What's in a name?

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare argues that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I beg to differ.

I have to admit that transitioning over to our new company name has been a bit of a chore. It is no small thing to update product packaging, marketing materials, the company website and inform retailers, customers and business contacts about the fact that we are changing our company but I think in the long run, it will be worth it!

Having only been in business for a year, I think were lucky to find out when we did, that the branding for our products was much stronger than our old company brand- Amandari Co. It's interesting because we thought this company name would resonate much more with customers than it actually did. But instead, it was Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds that everyone seemed to remember! So after lots of contemplating and quite a bit of debate, we decided to rename our company Cupoladua Oven. Cupoladua Oven is easier to remember, easier to spell and goes along nicely with the names of our current products. We love our new company name.

Be sure to check out our new website, And keep an eye out for Cupoladua Oven branded items at a fine establishment near you!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Treasure Island Foods and Julia Child

Due to my blogging dormancy, some of you may be wondering what we've been up to lately. Just wanted to let you know we're still baking our Cupola Cookies & Cupola Clouds and boy, have these last couple of weeks been busy! We were were silly to think that after the Summer Fancy Food Show, things would calm down.

One exciting development as a result of the Show was that a large local specialty food chain in the Chicago area called Treasure Island Foods placed orders for both our Cupola Cookies & Clouds. Treasure Island Foods is literally a treasure trove of specialty and international foods. The first store was opened in 1963, and since then has grown to 7 locations, in neighborhoods like Lakeview, Hyde Park and Lincoln Park.In fact, the culinary legend Julia Child once called Treasure Island Foods "The Most European Supermarket in America."

Treasure Island Foods- Elm Street Location

Last weekend, we set out for Chicago to do a marathon of product demos at 6 of the 7 stores. I think that product sampling is really key to making those first initial sales- especially since our products aren't like the typical chocolate chip cookie or cheese straw. They've got such a different texture and taste. To be honest, I've always been a fan of the "try before you buy" mentality- I think it just makes for happier, more satisfied customers.

Because our products are brand new to Treasure Island Foods, we received great product placement in each location, and for the most part, our demos were situated in a high traffic areas of the stores.

One really important thing we learned though- product demos on Saturdays and Sundays are best after 11 a.m.- before 11, most people are not really in a chatty mood, are quickly popping into the store for just milk or bread, or consider it be wayyyy too early to be eating cookies or cheese snacks.

Speaking of Julia Child, did you hear that in her earlier years, she secretly worked for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA)? I had no idea she was a female James Bond! You can read about the role she had with the OSS here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gluten-Free Does Not Mean Taste Free

Today I thought I would talk about something that is becoming increasingly more prominent when it comes to diet, health and lifestyle: gluten-free foods.

Just a couple of years ago, "gluten-free" used to be something that you would only find on packages in select health and natural food stores. Now, it seems that just about everyone is familiar with the term "gluten-free" or perhaps knows someone that is on a gluten-free diet, whether by choice or because they have an allergy to wheat or its derivatives. And now you can find gluten-free baking mixes, crackers and other products in a variety of retail locations, from groceries and convenience stores to coffee shops.

Why are gluten-free products and the gluten-free diet such an interest to me? Because our Cupola Cookies & Cupola Clouds just so happen to be made with ingredients that are naturally gluten-free. When we created the recipes for our baked goods, my mom and I didn't intentionally set out to create gluten-free products. We knew that we wanted to make things that were wholesome and nutritious, but the idea that our baked goods could possibly be considered "gluten-free" is a welcomed surprise. At the moment, we don't have "gluten-free" on our packaging because we intend to get certified/ recognized by an organization which will help us ensure that our products contain the minimal amount of gluten (those that have gluten-free status may contain a very minute amount, measured in parts per million). This is particularly important for those who have Celiac Disease.

Celiac Disease is defined by the Celiac Sprue Association as a genetic disorder in which eating certain types of protein, called gluten, sets off an autoimmune response that causes damage to the small intestine. Gluten is found in wheat, barely, rye and to some extent oats. People who have an allergy to gluten can become very, very ill if they consume anything with wheat or its derivatives.

For the past couple of months, I've been doing an extensive amount of research on gluten-free diets, Celiac disease and the pretty robust community that has formed around those who abide by a gluten-free diet.

While the number of gluten-free products out there is growing, the options are still somewhat limited. We think it would be great to add our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds to the variety of foods that our gluten-free friends can enjoy.

We'll be sure to keep you updated on our quest for gluten-free status over the next couple weeks!

A couple of related links to check out if you want to find out more information about Celiac Disease or gluten-free products:

Celiac Sprue Association

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The 2008 Summer Fancy Food Show- Diary Style

One word to describe our experience at the Summer Fancy Food Show: SUBLIME. Before the show, we had hoped that we would be well received by attendees, but nothing quite like this.

Since I didn't have time to blog during the show like I planned, I thought it would be neat to do a snapshot of our show experience.

Friday June 27

10:00 a.m. Arrive at Javits Center in our van and start to unload our stuff by hand. I have never actually been inside the Javits Center and it is massive. The first floor where our booth is located is cavernous, much like an airplane hanger.

1:00 p.m. Successfully unloaded the contents of our van and have made our way to Brooklyn where we are staying at one of my best friend's apartment while we are in town. So much more affordable and comfortable than a teeny tiny hotel room in Manhattan.

3:00 p.m. I head back to the Javits Center to start setting up our booth while my mom, Theresa and my dad, who has accompanied us as a moral supporter and extra pair of hands, figure out how our signage will hang from our booth. Ah, logistics. I make a quick stop at Pinkberry for some delicious yogurt and raspberries.

5:00 p.m. After a couple more hours of setting up, I head to the West Village to meet up with some friends for dinner. Saturday is a big day- have got several meetings with distributors and retailers as part of NASFT's 1 to 1 Business Builders Program.

Saturday June 28

8:00 a.m. Back at The Javits. Ready for our meetings with potential distributors and retailers. This is a great opportunity to pitch our Cupola Cookies & Cupola Clouds to some of the specialty food industry's best.

11:00 a.m. Go back to our booth to help my parents finish setting up. Impressed with the ingenious, Macgyver-like method they have come up with to hang our signs.

4:45 p.m. Done for the day! Tomorrow is the official first day of the show, which will be attended by distributors, retailers, brokers, individuals in food service and members of the press.

Sunday July 29

10:00 a.m. The show has begun- hurrah!

1:00 p.m. I think they like us! I mean, they like our Cupola Cookies and Clouds. At the show, each person has a badge. If an attendee is interested in a particular company or product, they can ask to have their badge scanned by exhibitors. Our badge scanner has been working quite a bit today, which is a good sign.

I could go on, but to spare you from eye strain, Monday and Tuesday's events followed suit very similarly to Sunday's events.

The Today Show coverage we received encouraged even more attendees to visit our booth, since they were really curious about our Cupola Clouds!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Debuting At The Summer Fancy Food Show

Hello all! As we speak, I am writing from my friend's lovely apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, where we have been staying as we exhibit at the 2008 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York.

We received some wonderful national media coverage from the WEEKEND TODAY SHOW while we've been here exhibiting!

We were lucky to have been selected as one of just a couple products to be highlighted in a show segment that aired this past Sunday, June 29th called "The Next Big Food Fad."

This is the last day of the show, and I don't think there will ever be enough time for me to blog about the whole experience, but I am going to try and provide some highlights- this was definitely one of the most interesting, fulfilling, exhausting and worthwhile experiences I have ever had. Although we have been working in the specialty food/ natural food market for the past year now and I have been doing lots of research and studying, this trade show has been an incredible resource for us- we have made numerous business contacts and have had the chance to showcase our product among some of the best in the world!

I tell you though, I have a new found respect for anyone working at trade shows in any capacity. Heck, even attending a show the size of the Fancy Food Show in NY is a challenge! The Javits Center is a massive space.

I am going to do a follow up post with more details about our show experience later this week, but suffice it to say that so far, we have been having a very exciting, productive and delicious time here in NY!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Whole Foods Goes Local

Under the big top at Whole Foods Pittsburgh's local farmers' market

Look at this- three blog posts in three weeks! This must be some sort of personal record. I'm getting better about blogging regularly, despite the fact that this month has been our busiest to date, I think.

Yesterday was the first day of the local farmers market that Whole Foods Pittsburgh sponsors throughout the summer and into the fall. And we are one of the vendors! We were thrilled when we received an invitation to participate in the market.

Market Details-

When: The 3rd Wed. of the month from now until October. The market runs from 4- 7 p.m.
Exact Dates: July 16th, Aug. 20th, Sept. 16th, Oct. 15th
Where: The parking lot in front of Whole Foods Pittsburgh
Vendors: Everything from fresh produce (fruits and veggies), fresh baked breads, pastries, Cupola Cookies & Clouds (shameless plug here) and even handmade crafts such as purses and pottery!

Why you should come: Because this is where you'll find some of the freshest, most delicious foods that Pittsburgh has to offer. And by buying local you're minimizing your carbon footprint and your purchases are that much more environmentally friendly. If you're not in the Pittsburgh area, just visit a farmers' market near you. I guarantee that it will put you in the mood for summer- almost as much as strawberry picking!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Sweet Smell Of.......


Yes folks, that's right. Strawberry season is in full swing here in Western PA. With only two weeks left until the 2008 Fancy Food Show, we have been incredibly busy. I don't think I've felt this swamped since finals week in college. And even that's less pressure, since you don't have a P&L statement hanging over your head.

We've been pulling crazy 18 hour days- this includes all the baking we've been doing to fill orders, plus making samples for the show, not to mention the business/ administrative activities (sales calls, returning e-mails, etc.). Something tells me these hours are pretty normal for most entrepreneurs and small business owners though. And I really think my body is adjusting to getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep (but drinking those cups of coffee doesn't hurt either!).

Despite the our busy schedule, we've managed to enjoy the warm weather and abundance of fresh produce in our area. Earlier this week, my mom and I went strawberry picking on our way back from the kitchen.

There is a charming family farm that we always pass on the way home. The farm grows a variety of fruits and veggies, and right now its strawberry patches are overflowing with thousands of tiny red hearts- the color of ripe, sweet strawberries.

Yesterday I made homemade shortcake from scratch. I took some of the strawberries we picked and coated them in just a little bit of balsamic vinegar and then threw them on the grill. The result was a delicious strawberry compote that was both sweet and tangy. We had some chocolate and vanilla ice cream to top off dessert.

Sometimes all you need to recharge a bit is some fresh air and something yummy in your tummy.

Hear an interesting NPR story on strawberries here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

June = Busiest Month This Year

These past couple of weeks have been a complete whirlwind! I can't believe it's almost been a month since I've posted anything- shame on me.

I have lots of updates- some good, some not so good, but these developments are definitely proof that the business is chugging along.

First the not so good (but I wouldn't necessarily call it bad) news:

We didn't place in the sofi Awards this year. If you remember, the sofi Awards is a competition sponsored by the National Association for Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) and honors some of the finest products in the specialty food industry. Ah well, can't win them all right?

To put a more positive spin on things, the NASFT received thousands of entries for the competition this year, so it's not like we were the only ones that didn't place. And although a sofi Award is definitely great exposure and a wonderful tool, it has made us that more determined to make the most as first-time exhibitors at the NASFT Summer Fancy Food Show at the end of the month. But if you're curious about the products that were selected, feel free to check out the finalist lists:

sofi Awards Finalists Part 1
sofi Awards Finalists Part 2

Second, the good news (note how the good news outweighs the not so good news!):

1) Whole Foods Pittsburgh- The store is officially carrying our products! Look for them in the cookie/cracker aisle. In fact, last week the store had a local tasting event. Our contacts at the store were kind enough to invite us to participate. I have to say that handing out samples at the store and talking to customers was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had since we've started the business. I know it may sound silly to some, but ever since my mom and I started our business last year, we have dreamed about seeing our product on the shelves at Whole Foods. This is a milestone for us. Now we're playing the waiting game to see how they sell at the store.

2) TABLE Magazine- A couple months ago, this Pittsburgh area publication dedicated to celebrating food culture and lifestyle interviewed my mom and I for a story about our business. The article is wonderfully written and has just been published in the Summer 2008 issue of the magazine.

3) Plans for the Summer Fancy Food Show are coming along- Maybe a bit slower than we had hoped because there's so much to do, but we did already print several of the large signs we will use in our booth. Now if I could just remember all the different rules and stipulations the Jacob J. Javits Center has about unloading freight and setting up our booths, not to mention fees......

4) Education on Exporting- I have been up since 3 o' clock this morning. But with good reason I tell you! My mom and I were invited by the PA Department of Agriculture to attend an introductory workshop on exporting. The event was located in Central PA, so we had to leave at 4 a.m. to get to the site on time at 8.

We both agreed that driving the couple hours was definitely worth it though. We may not have the capacity or resources to export our products right now, but the workshop provided us with an overview of the benefits and risks in selling products abroad. As I glanced at a handout provided in the workshop packet, it was funny how my eyes immediately gravitated towards the phrase "trade show in Paris." I promptly told my mom that I would be more than happy to shoulder the burden of making similar trips for our business if the time comes. I received a roll of the eyes in the return.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


parmesan pink peppercorn cupola clouds

A couple weeks ago, I went down to Washington D.C. to visit my friend Serena on business- she is one of the most talented and passionate photographers I know, and she had agreed to take some photos of our products to be used on our website and marketing pieces.

This weekend made me realize two things 1) Food photography requires a great deal of patience and attention to detail 2) My friendships run deep and I have a wonderful, supportive and talented group of friends.

Serena, along with my other friend Shannon and I all lived in New York together for three years and I can honestly say that my experience as their roommates was a great one- you know you have a good thing going when your roommates surprise you with frozen yogurt after work or you spend countless hours watching the Food Network or HGTV with them.

Serena has been building her portfolio for several years now and has extensive experience photographing everything from landscapes to people and has worked in black & white and color. Having traveled internationally over the past couple years, she has taken some stunning photographs in countries such as Morocco, Lebanon and France. Our apartment in New York showcased some of the best photos she had taken in the city and I think they could have easily made their way into one of the galleries in Chelsea.

Although she hadn’t done a lot of food photography, Serena previously worked in production on the set of some commercial shoots for food and beverages, so she had the chance to see the kinds of lighting/ set-up/ styling techniques that were used.

For a day, we converted the apartment she shares with one of her good friends (who we also went to college with and who is also incredibly kind) into a studio. It was interesting to see my friend, the photographer in action again and this time I got to play the role of food stylist, prop manager and production assistant. Serena knew when additional lighting was needed, when certain shadows needed to be blocked and when to switch out the lenses on her sophisticated SLR digital camera.

I’ve always heard that working with friends may not be such a good idea, but I think this is a generalization. The photos from the shoot are exactly what my mom and I had in mind. And with Serena giving creative input on the fly, we took some additional shots that were very artistic and further enriched our collection of photos. The image above is from our photo shoot, as well as the images below, but feel free to check out our updated website, for more photos. To see Serena’s other work, log on to her website at

coffee beans


cinnamon sticks

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chicago, Chicago that toddling town

We just got back from a great, really productive trip to the Global Food & Style Expo in Chicago. I think I may have mentioned this before, but this is a trade show produced by the National Association for Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), Organic Trade Association (OTA) and the National Association for State Departments of Agriculture. The Spring Fancy Food Show was part of this event and since we are going to be exhibiting at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June in NY, we thought we should get a better idea of how the show is laid out, what the booths look like as well as the overall ambiance in the convention center.

My mom and I were talking on the 8 hour, toll-ridden drive back to Pittsburgh and we were both really happy that we made the trip. Now we know just how much we're going to have to step up our game in NY!

I kid you not when I say that the show floor is a foodie's paradise- thousands upon thousands of feet of artistically displayed foods & beverages and almost every booth enticing you to try a free sample. And it is really hard to to say no. Really, really hard to say no, especially when it's delicious stuff like pheasant pate, organic fair-trade chocolates and Italian blood orange juice.

There was so much to see, but I think we did a good job of covering ground. If you ever go to one of these types of events though, the term "pace yourself" really applies. As delicious as they were, I'm pretty sure I overkilled on
the samples.

Another highlight of the show was a keynote by Bobby Flay. Having eaten at Mesa Grill and Bolo (if you go, the dessert tapas are a must!) and being an avid Food Network viewer, it was interesting to hear him talk about his experiences as a chef, restaurant owner and entrepreneur. He was refreshingly honest and charming. To sum up his talk: do what you love, love what you do- not for the prospects of fame or fortune (i.e. to get your own television show), but because you are passionate about it and you really care.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It Looks Like.....

. . . . . a Peep!

. . . . . a frowny face.

If we collect enough these funny looking cookies,
I just may start a museum.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ushering in Spring and The Sewickley Farmers Market

Our stall at the Sewickely Farmers Market.

This past Saturday was the first day of the Sewickley Farmers Market. It was a beautiful day- sunny, blue skies and air that was cool, crisp and refreshing. Spring has definitely announced its arrival in Western Pennsylvania, and not a moment too soon! I was all but ready to throw out my long johns in protest of the frigid weather we've had for the past four months.

The Sewickley Farmers Market is located in the parking lot of St. James Parish, which is located very close to downtown Sewickley. If you've never been to Sewickley before, it is a charming, picturesque suburb of Pittsburgh that include some really beautiful Victorian homes, impressive mansions and a main street so cute you might think you were on a movie set or in Cape Cod. In fact, the 1995 film "Houseguest," starring Sinbad, was set in Sewickley and much of the film was shot on location. Sure, this seems a little obscure, but who doesn't love Sinbad?

Back to the market. Since it is early spring and we have been having pretty cold weather, many of the farmers that sell their fruits, vegetables and flowers at the market haven't been able to harvest their crops just yet, so there were only five other vendors there this past weekend. But we were pleasantly suprised by the good turnout, despite the fact that not all booths were present. There were lots of people walking their dogs, riding bikes and running errands, who stopped to try a sample or pick up a box of our cupola cookies or cupola clouds. The individuals we spoke with were also very supportive of our initiative to donate 10% of our sales proceeds to the anti-hunger non-profit organization Share Our Strength.

Over the next few weeks the Market will begin to fill out a bit and I'm sure we can expect to get even more visitors at our booth!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Farm to Table: A Recipe For A Healthy Pittsburgh

Last week, my mom, Theresa and I attended a conference held downtown called Farm To Table, which aims to bring together local farms, businesses and individuals that support sustainable agriculture and the local food movement in the Pittsburgh area. We had never been to this event before, but thought it would be interesting to attend, since we are part of the small business community here and also sell our baked goods at a local farmers market.

The conference was set up in a hall where attendees could visit the exhibitor booths. Exhibitors included local farms, food purveyors and organizations involved in nutrition, health and wellness. Since this is only the second year for the event, the number of exhibitors will probably grow in the coming years. It was nice that the hall was set up like an indoor farmers market, so you could mosey from booth to booth.

I think what we enjoyed most about the conference though, were the seminars that were held throughout the event. With the regular cost of admission, we were welcome to attend any of these talks, with topics that ranged from the importance of organic foods to sustainability and the consumer.

My favorite seminar was called "Steps Towards Developing a Sustainable Business,” and was given by the Director of Sourcing and Sustainability for Eat n’ Park Hospitality Group, which owns and operates a food service company as well as a large number of restaurants in the region.

Even though our company is technically not a foodservice business and we don’t operate in the restaurant industry at the moment, it was really informative to hear specifically how a large company working within the food industry is making strides to become more and more sustainable. And hopefully, once our company gets a bit bigger, we could apply similar initiatives to our day to day operations. Some steps, such as implementing energy efficient lighting, are things we can do right now. I also learned just how innovative those Europeans are when it comes to using resources as smartly and efficiently as possible. They have even come up with a way to harness methane from farms and use it to generate energy (fuel and electricity).

All in all, an environmentally enlightening experience.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

sofi Awards

Hello everyone! Apologies for the spotty blog entries recently. We have been really busy with the launch of our improved, more natural cupola cookies and our brand new savory snacks, cupola clouds. Our days have been spent touching base with numerous retailers and sending them samples of our products. The response has been positive overall, but with the Easter holiday upon us, many of our contacts at the retailers where we would like to get on the shelves have been quite busy.

Since cupola cookies and cupola clouds are now available in custom-printed boxes, which are simple but more visually appealing, higher quality and more shelf-friendly than our previous packaging, we are able to approach a lot more retail locations than we were in the past. So far we've reached out to more retailers in PA, OH, NY, VA, MA, NH and FL.

But today, I wanted to talk about the sofi Awards, because they have been on my mind a lot lately. Up until last year, the sofi Awards used to be called the Product Awards. The competition is sponsored by NASFT (National Association for the Specialty Food Trade and is the specialty food industry's premiere product competition (The Oscar or Tony Awards for the specialty food industry if you will). This year, there are over 32 different award categories, such as Outstanding Pasta Sauce, Outstanding Salad Dressing and Outstanding Chocolate.

It's pretty interesting to see what products and companies have won awards in the past. NASFT features this information in the Product Awards section of their site. I warn you though, that you will work up an appetite as you check out the award winners and finalists.

Each year NASFT receives about 2,000 entries for the competition, so the competition, in the words of Christian Siriano, winner of this season's Project Runway, is FIERCE! But we think our cupola cookies and our cupola clouds have that something special, so we're going to enter them into the competition this year. Whether we place or not, I think it will be a good experience for us and we'll learn a lot about our products and how they measure up to the competition.

On your mark, get set, eat!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Blogging About Blogs

I thought it would be ironic, and kind of fun to do a post about blogs on this blog. Since I've started blogging, I've paid a lot more attention to blogs in general. If they're written well, blogs can be witty, entertaining, while still providing good information. The thing that I love about blogs is that they can be as personal or impersonal as you want them to be. Some people blog with their hearts on their sleeves, others censor themselves a bit more, but all blogs provide bloggers and readers an opportunity to say what's on their minds.

The only downfall to finding a blog that you like, is that as a reader, they can be addictive. I'll be the first to admit that I read a mixture of blogs- most are related to food (naturally, I'm a bit biased towards this particular genre), but others are about current events, pop culture or the arts.

One of the best things I think I've gotten out of starting this blog is that it makes me stop every so often and reflect on what we've been doing with the business. I think this is important, especially with how busy we've been lately. As a kid, I attempted numerous times to keep a journal or diary of sorts, but was never dedicated enough to making regular entries. In fact, I think I still have a slew of bubblegum pink and Barney purple notebooks, each with just two or three entries. A testament to my lack of commitment as an 8-year old, really. Since I've started this blog in July 2007, I've done my best to update it with new post and articles at least every other week.

A blog is a great space to discuss, to inform, to vent and to applaud. If you think you might want to start a blog, here are some links to a couple sites that will help you set one up for free:


I also thought I'd share a couple of the food blogs that I've been following: a constantly updated collection of great recipes, peppered with entries about specific foods and eating. I love that each recipe has a little bit of a narrative or background story to go with it.

- started by a 20-something foodie from Pittsburgh who moved to New York and chronicles his eating, dining and cooking experiences in the Big Apple. his mom chimes in from time to time with a post or two.

Happy Blogging!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Boxes are the best!

Earlier this week, our long awaited boxes arrived from the printers! Considering the fact that neither my mom nor I have had any previous experience designing packaging and neither of us have any formal training in graphic design, we think the boxes turned out quite well!

From start to finish, the whole process of designing and producing our new packaging took about 2 months. Here are some pics I took so you can check out the finish product for yourself. Now that we have the new boxes, in the next several weeks we will be sending samples to as many retailers as we can. Some are smaller individual specialty food stores while others are larger purveyors of fine foods, with multiple retail locations.

We have also given our website a mini-makeover. After getting some much needed pointers from my web design professor, the site is cleaner, simpler and easier to read. She pointed out that the text and logos on the previous site were much too large- definitely a good call. The site also features the most current product information, including details on our new line of savory snacks, Cupola Clouds.

The main updates made to the site:
  • We've added a section that talks about the health benefits of our cookies
  • We've added a gallery where you can check out even more delectable photos of our baked goods
  • Our "How to Eat" section now has recipes and suggested beverage pairings for our products
  • For now, we are going to hold off on selling our baked goods over eBay as we have in the past. Based on customer feedback and our current marketing and sales goals, we decided that it would be better to sell our products directly on our site once we have the capabilities to do this. This way we'll be able to provide you with a variety of payment options, (instead of just PayPal) and a quicker, easier and yes, more enjoyable online shopping experience!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Drumroll please....Product Updates!

In the last couple weeks, I've been a bit vague about what we’ve been working on in terms of product development, packaging and the like- but all with good reason. This is because we have been working hard on hashing out the related details and timing. We definitely have a much better idea of the direction we are moving in and we are aiming to launch a new, improved product line (including the addition of some savory snacks!) in March.

We also felt we owed it to our current retailers to share this information with them first. Now that we’ve relayed these details to them, I am excited to share some updates with you all! I’ll also pass along additional info throughout this month, leading up to the actual launch.


  • The cookies are getting a new name! In March, the cookies will be debuting as:

Why, you ask? Because after some time in the market and speaking with customers and retailers first hand, we realized that our cookies are quite different (in taste and recipe) than the traditional European meringues being sold. Traditional meringues are typically very sweet and contain lots of sugar, but our baked goods are lightly sweetened. In addition, meringues are primarily made out of egg whites and sugar, but our cookies also contain all natural ingredients such as garbanzo bean flour and nuts. To sum it up, we feel we need a unique name to describe our unique cookies.

Product Development

  • The cookies (Chocolate Cashew, Chai Pistachio, Espresso Walnut) will be made with organic evaporated cane juice instead of sugar, making them even healthier and more natural.
  • Per cookie calorie count will be 11 calories instead of 24 due to a new and improved recipe. But don’t worry, the taste and texture of the cookies are still the same.
  • We will be introducing a line of savory snacks, made from real cheese. They will be called:


  • To make it easier for you to eat our cookies on-the-go, we are making them slightly smaller, but you will get the same exact amount of product in each bag. This is because we’re increasing the number of cookies in each bag from 5 to 7.
  • The cookies will soon be available in boxes, which will contain 15 cookies- the boxes are simple and (I think) visually appealing. Great for sharing and to give as gifts. A larger package means they’ll last around your house a bit longer too!

More to details to come soon!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When technology becomes the bane of your existence

Today was supposed to be like any other day. Until I sat at my desk, tried to turn on my computer and all I got was a black screen. HORROR. You know that infamous scene in Psycho where Janet Leigh gets stabbed in the shower? The string music from that scene was running through my head.

I tried to reboot the computer about 10 times before I conceded that this was a job for a professional. In the two years that I have had my Dell Inspiron E1405, I have never had to contact tech support, but it was one of the reasons why I had chosen a Dell laptop to begin with. Friends and colleagues had raved about the tech support and customer service that came part and parcel with being a Dell owner.

I figured out that you could do a Live Chat with a tech specialist through the Dell site, and using my parent's computer, logged on. After a couple minutes, I was connected to Dalip, who for the next 5 hours (yes, I said 5 hours), tried to help me pinpoint the problem. During this time, I actually physically took apart my computer- something I thought I would never, ever do. I'm not technologically incompetent- I love my computer, blogs, Facebook and Gmail, perhaps just a bit too much, but I've always been apprehensive about handling hardware.
Suprisingly though, minus the frusration and anxiety over whether my files could be saved, it was actually kind of fun taking apart my computer and putting it back together- flashback to memories of playing Operation as a kid. And I now know the general anatomy of my laptop- I could even tell you how to take out and replace the memory modules, modem, and hard drive.

At multiple points though, I admit that panic started to creep in- this is the computer that holds most, if not all of my personal and business documents. Yes, I do backup the most important files, but not everything. Dalip though, he was rock- calm, cool and collected and ridiculously patient.

At the end of 5 hours, Dalip decided that the motherboard on my little computer was busted. He reassured me that he was ordering the part and then having it shipped to a Dell technician who would contact me to set up a time to come by and replace the part in the next first 2-3 days. And most importantly, he confirmed that my files were safe.

At first I felt like I had lost half of a work day. But this unpleasant encounter with the troubles that can arise when you rely on technology too much has provided me with some much needed perspective:

1) I need to write things down on paper more often. Not to mention printing out hard copies of important documents and e-mails.

2) I should remember to back-up everything on my computer. Everything.

3) I need to remind myself that technology isn't human, but it was designed by humans, so it's not perfect.

Wishing you a technology trouble-free week!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Food Can Bridge The Cultural Divide

I stumbled across an article this past weekend that debunks the history behind the typical ending to a meal at almost any Chinese restaurant- the fortune cookie. The most interesting finding discussed was that contrary to popular belief, the fortune cookie actually comes from Japan, and not China. This is why you will never see a fortune cookie served in a restaurant in Beijing or Shanghai.

The cultural migration of the cookie actually happened here in the U.S., beginning on the West Coast when Japanese immigrants started serving the cookies in their restaurants, many of which happened to serve Chinese style cuisine. This got me thinking just how foods can travel across geographies, seamlessly adapting and in some cases transforming into something culturally unique and distinctive, yet continuing to possess strikingly similar characteristics to their counterparts around the world. Some examples:

samosa (India)
empanada (Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, Latin American and the Philippines)
croquette (Netherlands)

ravioli (Italy)
wonton (China)
pierogie (Poland)

noodles (China and other Asian countries)
pasta (Italy)

gyro (Greece)
taco (Mexico)

Proof that food just may be the ultimate unifier. I've posted the article on the history of the fortune cookie, "Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie" to the blog- check it out!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's Just A Cardboard Box, Right?

Wrong. Over the past month or so, we have been taking steps to upgrade the packaging of our cookies and so far, the process has been eye opening! I have never in my life had more artistic appreciation for the box that Cheerios come in, or the canister that holds my coffee.

We've decided to create boxes so we can package larger quantities of our cookies and provide retailers with a more shelf-friendly product. Since I don't have a formal education in art or graphic design, I've been learning so much about the various elements you need to think about when it comes to packaging.

Some examples:

1) I've had a crash course in packaging terminology. I am now comfortable using words like "auto-lock bottom," "double-tuck," and "viewing window" in real conversations.

2) I can probably tell you the RGB and CMYK formulas for the chocolate brown color we use for our logo off the top of my head.

3) I actually know what UPC stands for (Universal Product Code!) and have figured out how to get one for each of our products.

It's amazing how much you can learn just by asking questions. We have been working with a packaging company that has been great about providing us with information on the step-by-step process of printing boxes. Knowing that we are novices, they have also been patient and helpful in getting us price quotes and creating prototypes for the packaging that we're interested in. Something I've realized in the last couple months is that it's really important to find vendors and other business partners that you feel comfortable with, are reliable and will do their best to help you accomplish what you want to achieve.