Wednesday, May 27, 2009

100- Calorie Packs- RIP?

Mintel recently released a report stating that popularity and sales of 100-calorie pack snacks are declining. I'm sure you have also noticed that this type of packaging for cookies, crackers and other snacks have gradually been taking over store shelves, especially over the past year or so.

Have 100-calorie packs surpassed their high point in terms of popularity? I've occasionally purchased 100-calorie pack products, particularly when traveling, because I found this was a really neat and convenient way to have a snack. But I agree that price-wise, you do get more value from purchasing regular sized packages of these items and portioning them out yourself.

The report also examines something I found really interesting- the idea that these pre-portion snack packs actually facilitate overeating.

What are your thoughts on 100 calorie snack packs? Do you buy them? Why or why not?

Check out the Brandweek article about 100 calorie packs: 100-Calorie Packs Pack It In

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barberries- An Interesting Find

We just got back from doing a round of product demos in the Maryland this weekend. After one of our product demos in Silver Spring, my mom and I were trying to figure out what to do for dinner and stumbled across a small strip mall that had a Persian supermarket. We love Middle Eastern cuisine, although neither of us have had the chance to really learn much about Persian food.

This particular market would be a delight for any curious foodie. Dried fruits and nuts of all kinds, from imported pistachios and almonds to figs and mulberries were neatly displayed in bins along the walls. The store had a wonderful selection of dried herbs, not to mention some really beautiful fresh produce. While we were there, we picked up a very unique item- dried barberries.

Barberries are a rich scarlet color even when they've been dried.

Has anyone heard of barberries before? My first encounter with barberries was at this Persian market. I was browsing the selection of dried fruits and picked up a package of what looked like a cross between sundried tomatoes and cranberries. When I asked the woman at the cash register what they were, she told me that they were barberries, a fruit that is native to the Middle East and is very similar to a cranberry, but a tad more tart.

There is actually a traditional Persian rice dish called Zereshk polow (yup, I had trouble trying to pronounce this too). The dish sounds delicious- it's also made with chicken, saffron and pistachios. If you're curious about the recipe, feel free to check it out here. I think I might try this recipe for dinner one night this week, if we have time.

Wish me luck on my first foray into Persian cuisine!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quickbooks: A Love-Hate Relationship

One stereotype that I know I defy is this one: "Hey, you went to business school? You must be great crunching those numbers and a whiz in finance!" It's true that a lot of business school students end up in careers in accounting or finance, but I focused more on the marketing and sales aspect of business, which led to my foray into advertising in New York.

But it goes without saying that you can't have a successful business without keeping a strong pulse on the financial side of a company. Which brings me to my love-hate relationship with Quickbooks. Does anyone else feel the same way about this accounting software as I do?

Quickbooks is definitely a great tool for us to keep track of our sales and expenses since we don't have a CFO or an accountant (soon, though, I hope!). I feel like Quickbooks has so many bells and whistles though, and I haven't had time to figure out how to use them. One thing I need to do is to take at least one or two of the Quickbooks classes that are offered by the Small Business Development Center here in Pittsburgh. I'm hoping the classes will give me a better grasp of the program.

One feature I do love about Quickbooks is that you can automatically import your credit card and bank statements into the program- GENIUS. I'll be honest and tell you that I didn't actually know this feature existed for quite some time (that's what I get for not reading the instruction manual at the beginning) and was manually entering each line item from my statements into Quickbooks- a long and arduous process that I'm fairly sure caused the current case of eye strain I'm suffering from.

Despite the issues I have with Quickbooks, it saves me an incredible amount of time and money and was I think it's an entrepreneur's best friend during tax season!

Monday, May 18, 2009

And The Winner Is . . . .

Annabel Oakes!

Congrats Annabel- You have just won yourself a free case of Cupola Cookies from our May Giveaway! If you could send me an email ( with the address where you'd like your prize to be sent, we'll get them right to you. We hope you enjoy them, especially since this is your first time giving our Cupola Cookies a try.

We are planning on doing at least on giveaway like this per month, so keep your eyes peeled for the next one, which will be coming up in June.

Thanks again to everyone who entered!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Investor Splits- Not as delicious as the banana kind, but certainly more important.

Trying to get co-founders to agree to certain equity splits can be painful. Poor Curly.

Yesterday evening we attended a really interesting seminar on entrepreneur and investor equity splits. What are investor splits, you ask?

Splits are the various percentages of equity that each owner or investor in a company owns. Say Moe, Larry and Curly decide to start a company making whoopee cushions. They would need to decide what percentage of ownership each person will have in terms of equity, which can be defined as the amount of ownership in terms of stock (common or preferred).

As we found out yesterday, establishing the right split between the co-founders of a company is very important because ideally, as a company starts to grow, it will require additional funding, which will most likely come from an outside source or sources. These outside sources (i.e. venture capital firms or strategic investors) will be looking to receive their own portion of equity in exchange for the funds. This means that as the company grows, Moe, Larry and Curly can expect their percentages of equity to get diluted, or decrease.

I always thought that dilution could only be a negative thing, until the panelists at the event explained that there are two kinds of dilution:

1) structural dilution- related to company ownership in terms of %
2) economic dilution- related to ownership in terms of $$

Even if you experience a decrease in structural dilution, the idea is that as the co-founder of your company, economic dilution could lead to an overall monetary gain for you. Why? If your percentage of equity is worth more later down the line than it was when you first started the business, then technically, your share of the company is worth more money.

As we continue to grow our company, we know that we will have to secure some source(s) of outside funding, eventually. The topics covered by this panel provided us some really insightful pieces of information about preparing for additional investment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This is the first giveaway we're hosting on our blog and we're really excited! To start off, we're going to keep things super simple.

Want to win 1 free case of Cupola Cookies? (that's 12 whole boxes- we'll give you a mix of Chocolate Cashew, Espresso Walnut and Chai Pistachio flavors)

To enter to win, all you have to do is answer the following question:

How do you like to enjoy your favorite flavor of Cupola Cookies? For example, I love to crumble some Chai Pistachio Cupola Cookies on top of some Greek yogurt. Or, if you've never tried our cookies, give us a great reason for why you should win this free case.

To submit your answer, leave a comment on this post. The contest will last until midnight this Sunday, May 17th. We'll randomly pick a winner using the handy random number generator on and I'll announce winner this Monday.

On your mark. . . get set . . . post!

Monday, May 11, 2009

WiFi Whenever

Even though I don't necessarily have the must current tech gadgets, I love to keep up to date on the most innovative items out there on the market. It looks like Verizon and Novatel have just teamed up to create the Novatel MiFi 2200, the first personal cellular modem that will allow you to access the Internet anywhere- in the car, in the air, in the middle of the ocean! I think this little guy would be really handy for business trips- no more having to keep my eyes peeled for the next coffee shop with free wireless.

You can read more about the Novatel MiFi in a New York Times article here. There's also a short video of David Pogue (tech columnist from the Times) discussing the pros and cons of this little gadget that you can watch.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mum's The Word

Today is Mother's Day. I know I shouldn't need a special day to remember just how lucky I am to have a mother that has always been there for me and that I have had a chance to work together with for the past year and a half. But with the hectic lives we lead these days, Mother's Day has been a great way for me to really think about what an amazing experience starting this business with my mom has been. There are very few people I think who truly know me, inside and out- my mom and dad being two of these people. Both of my parents have always been there for me no matter what. I know that without my mom's creativity, determination and enthusiasm, our little company would not be where it is today. In my family, we always joke that I am a "glass half full" person, but my mom is a "glass overflowing" person- the eternal optimist who can find good in everyone, everything and every situation.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Puffins, How I Love Thee

This is a story about a little girl who loved Cap'n Crunch. Those crunchy golden nuggets of sweetness were often the best thing about getting up for school in the morning. Fast forward 20 years and I still love Cap'n Crunch- the original, no peanut butter or crunch berries, please.

But, I have found an alternative to Cap'n Crunch that is healthier and makes me feel like a grown-up. Because honestly, sometimes I need to remind myself that I am not still in school. I present to you....Puffins!

For years I had seen Puffins on the shelves of grocery stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, but never had a desire to try them. Finally, about a month ago I was at a natural foods store and they were having a special deal on the cereal- the display was practically ripped apart and bare, leaving just a couple boxes left. This really made me wonder what all the fuss was about. That many people can't be wrong, right? So curiosity made me cave and I tried them.

I kid you not when I tell you these little crunchy pillows of whole grain are addictive. With milk, without milk- either way, they are delightful. What I love most about them is that they are not too sweet and are low in calories- just 90 calories per serving (3/4 cup). As I've gotten older, I've shyed away from really sweet breakfast foods, cereal included. The crunchiness and golden sweet taste that, to me is what is most memorable about Cap'n Crunch also exists in Puffins, but on a milder level. I like it this way- it seems a bit more- natural. As an added plus, the shape of Puffins are similar to Cap'n Crunch. I'll stop ranting and raving about my new favorite cereal now.

But I can't wait until tomorrow morning when I can have it for breakfast again.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Positive Feedback Feeds the Soul

Espresso Walnut Cupola Cookies dipped in dark chocolate fondue. This photo has nothing to do with today's blog posting, but I really liked it. Boy, I could go for some chocolate right about now.

Today we received a wonderfully kind email from a customer who recently tried our Cupola Cookies at a product demo we had in Pittsburgh. It's things like this that remind me and my mom why we started our business and just how much we love what we're doing. Despite some of the obstacles and challenges that we face as a small business trying to create a niche for ourselves in the market, it is really rewarding to get positive feedback about our products.

I know this all sounds a little cliche, but it's true. When I was working at my previous job in New York, it was nice to receive a compliment from my supervisor about the accuracy of a report or the attention detail put into a presentation, but for some reason, I value the bits of positive feedback we receive about our company or products now, so much more. Both my mom and I really take them to heart. I think this has to do with how passionately all entrepreneurs feel about what they create. Their businesses are like their babies. Just like mothers love their children blindly and unconditionally, the same is true for entrepreneurs and what they produce, whether it's the artist who created a painting that will eventually be sold at a gallery auction, the technology sophisticate who came up with another online phenomenon a la Twitter (which by the way I have not yet succumbed to) or in our case, yummy, all-natural and gluten-free baked goods.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


One thing I have learned throughout the process of starting up our business is that if you want to follow the proper procedures, legal fees can be a pretty substantial part of your start-up costs. You may be asking yourself, why is she writing about legal fees over a year and a half into running the business?

The thing is, legal costs will continue to exist as long as you have a business. At the beginning, we had start up legal fees, such as the cost of filing the organizational documents required to officially form our business as a LLC (Limited Liability Company).

Other business-related legal fees that may be required later down the line include filing for trademarks, in order to protect and have exclusive use of names for new products. From my perspective, one thing is for sure- I think you can emphasize too much, the importance of researching the proper legal procedures required for your specific business. Certain legal procedures may be necessary for some businesses and not for others, depending on the nature of your work. It's true that there will be larger upfront costs associated with doing this, but taking these steps and following the proper legal precautions may help save you a large amount of trouble (or in some cases, even a law suit) in the future.

Here are some online legal resources I find helpful when it comes to business-related issues:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Product Development- Culinary Experiments

We use our trusty KitchenAid mixer for most of our culinary experiments.

This morning was one of those magic days in my life. I woke up in a good mood, so energized and focused that I was able to visualize some recipes that I just knew would be successful. I went to the kitchen and started working with fruits and vegetables, following the recipes that were distinctive in my mind, step by step. One recipe after another, today they were all great. Not to mention they were delicious too. Since this was all part of the new product development process for us, I can't tell you what I made, but in the meantime, you can take a guess. Because of the work, the day went by fast. I had a good weekend and I hope you had one too!

Things Cookie Monster Doesn't Know About The Cookie Market

One of the things I try to do on a weekly, if not daily basis, is cull the specialty food, natural food and grocery industry publications to keep up to date on the newest developments in the business. I think this is really important because when you own a small business, it's really easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of making product, filling orders and balancing the books (which, I should mention is the bane of my existence).

When we get really busy, I try to remind myself that we don't operate in a bubble and that we're part of a much larger industry. We have to understand the bigger picture, in order to to really know how our company fits into that picture and how we can continue to create a niche for ourselves.

The research highlight of this week was a great analysis of the The Cookie Market from the National Association for Specialty Food Trade, which you can check out here. I know, I know, trade publications sound boring, right? But not in our business! At least I don't think so. Here are some highlights from The Cookie Market research piece that I guarantee you will find interesting (not to mention delicious). For example, did you know the cookie and cookie bar market is currently valued at $5.2 billion? Now that's a lot of cookies.

The findings below are based on a study conducted by Mintel International.

  • Women are somewhat more likely than men to experiment with types, flavors and brands of cookies
  • Adults aged 18-44 are very interested in trying new cookie types and flavors, but interest fades after 45
  • 58% of respondents eat cookies less than once a week. Consumption is highest for over-65s
  • Based on households polled, sandwich, soft chocolate chip and vanilla wafers are the most popular types of cookies in the U.S. Cupola Cookies will supplant one of these types by next year.
I should note that the last point about the Cupola Cookies wasn't actually part of the research findings, but we're pretty sure this is true...

Friday, May 1, 2009 Fresh Find for Foodies

I just stumbled upon this new, edgy website for foodies called I think it's a spin-off from Food Network's website (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) and is geared towards 20 and 30 somethings, although I think anyone who enjoys eating, drinking, cooking or baking would have a great time perusing the different features on the site. My favorite aspect of the site so far- the videos by The Amateur Gourmet, food blogger Adam Roberts. Even with as many food personalities as I know and, embarrassingly enough fawn over, like others follow Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, my first introduction to The Amateur Gourmet was watching these little clips.

I think what I love about these videos is their home-movie feel, combined with the kitschy humor and the fact that if something goes wrong, like when the homemade pasta he makes ends up sticking together in one segment, The Amateur Gourmet doesn't cover it up. In fact, it's part of the charm of the segments and I think, makes attempting to make pasta from scratch much less intimidating!

If you're curious, below is the Amateur Gourmet's segment on making Homemade Pasta.

Note the stark resemblance of the talking pasta boxes to the Fandangos, whose commercials I am not ashamed to admit I laugh through every time I'm at the movie theater.

On another note, it is also Freebie Friday on! Click here to figure out how you can win a bunch of "swag & doodads," which roughly translates to a cornucopia of gifts for foodies.