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.