Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cupoladua Oven Bids Goodbye and Thank You

For the past 3 years, we have truly enjoyed producing and selling our unique, all-natural and gluten-free Cupola Cookies and Clouds. Owning a small business has always been a dream of ours and we are incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to accomplish this. So it is a little bittersweet to tell you that we have decided to stop production of all our items indefinitely. The last day to place orders of our products will be Friday, September 3rd. There are several key reasons why we made this tough decision.

The first reason is that Stephanie will be attending graduate school on scholarship this Fall at Syracuse University. We determined that running this business would be almost impossible for one person to handle. In addition, Theresa would like to dedicate full attention to a book project she has been working on for the last couple of years. With these recent changes in priorities, we felt it would be best to end our business on a high note.

We also wanted to thank you so much for your help and support of Cupoladua Oven over the years. You have contributed to making our business the success that it is today. It’s wonderful to think how much our little company has grown in such a short period of time. We hope that you and your customers have enjoyed our Cupola Cookies and Cupola Clouds and that you will remember our good for you baked goods and company fondly.

Stephanie Santoso & Theresa Santoso

Friday, July 30, 2010

I present to you....a video blog post!

Thought I'd spice things up a little and try video blogging, courtesy of the webcam on my MacBook. What do you think? Would love to hear your opinions and any ideas you have for subsequent video blog posts!

I recorded the blog post and then realized after I initially tried posting the video that the audio and video was out of sync because the video was too long. So...I had to split my post into two clips. Next time, my plan is to keep my video posts short and sweet!

Part 1

Part 2

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Advertising On A Shoestring in the Digital Age

For the past couple of weeks, I've been reading this incredibly interesting book by Jeff Jarvis called What Would Google Do?. Jeff Jarvis is a guru of the digital age, having been a journalist covering various aspects of interactive and digital media, serving as a consultant in the field and also creating his own content through websites such as his blog, BuzzMachine.

An excerpt from the book description on the Harper-Collins website provides a pretty good idea of what Jarvis discusses in the text:

In a book that's one part prophecy, one part thought experiment, one part manifesto, and one part survival manual, internet impresario and blogging pioneer Jeff Jarvis reverse-engineers Google—the fastest-growing company in history—to discover forty clear and straightforward rules to manage and live by. At the same time, he illuminates the new worldview of the internet generation: how it challenges and destroys, but also opens up vast new opportunities. His findings are counterintuitive, imaginative, practical, and above all visionary, giving readers a glimpse of how everyone and everything—from corporations to governments, nations to individuals—must evolve in the Google era.

Mind boggling, right? I'm almost halfway through the book and many of the observations and conclusions the author makes are very insightful. It has actually made me rethink the way we've approached our marketing and advertising strategy. Having worked in advertising in the past and in some cases specifically with digital media (online banners, viral videos, etc.), I knew that online advertising could be very cost efficient. But in the back of my mind, I always felt that given how small our business was, online advertising would still be a stretch for our tight marketing budget. Up until now, most of the online marketing activities we've have involved blogging, Facebook and our website, But today, we took a big step! We've started using Google AdWords, to reach a larger, more targeted group of consumers and hopefully increase traffic to our website. One of the main reasons we decided to do this was because we received a $100 credit for Google AdWords from our web hosting service. I've been curious about the efficacy of Google AdWords for some time, so I figured, why not give it a go. I'm a big fan of Gmail and Google Docs. We'll see if Google AdWords can help us enhance Cupoladua Oven's online presence.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No, No Nanette- Trade Show No-nos

Last week we attended an event called a buyer show, for a larger grocery retailer chain that has locations in the PA, MD, NJ, NY, OH, VA, WV. A buyer show is very similar to an industry trade show in that vendors ( in our case, smaller food companies) will set up tables or booths where they will exhibit their products and hand out samples. The executives and category buyers from the retail chain were the attendees for this particular event, in search of new products that customers might like.

My mom and I have only been in the business for about 2 1/2 years, which is considered relatively new when it comes to the packaged foods industry. But in this period of time, we've attended more than a few of these types of events and every time that we do, I find there are always vendors that act a certain way that, from a common sense perspective would deter buyers from going anywhere near their table. When I see these in action, they are funny, but they also make me cringe, because they can come off as rude or impolite. Let's call these trade show no-nos.

1) Eating your own samples- Buyer and trade shows can be 5-8 hours long, so it's reasonable that one would get hungry during the event. But eating samples from the plate you have just set out for attendees is not particularly attractive and somewhat unhygenic if you are still wearing the food service glove you are using to set out the samples (yes, this does happen)

2) Sitting down at your table- The hours can be long, but sitting down while attendees are checking out your display creates the image that you are not enthusiastic about being there or that maybe you just don't care. I think one of the worst things I've seen is when a potential buyer approaches a table and a vendor remains seated the entire time that buyer is speaking to him/her. To me, that says to the buyer, "Hey- thanks for stopping by, but my feet really hurt, and you're not important enough for me to speak to you at eye level."

3) Assuming a football block position- Sometimes one can unintentionally resort to standing like he/she is a member of a high school football team (arms crossed, legs shoulder width apart, with a stern look of intimidation on your face). This happens most when the show gets a little slow. I always try to remember to check the way I'm standing and the facial expression I have on because, let's face it- no buyers are going to approach you if you look like you're about to tackle them.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hello, MacBook.

There comes a time in every computer's life when you have to say goodbye. Such is the case with my Dell laptop, which, poor thing, had three different viruses over the course of 6 months. To it's credit, it has served me dutifully for the past 5 years. The third time my laptop was infected, I was almost sure that my files (including tons of music and current documents relating to Cupoladua Oven) would perish. Fortunately, my boyfriend, Phill, saved the day, by using Ubuntu to salvage my files. Whew!

In any case, I had been shopping around for a new laptop and looked at several different options- another Dell, HP or an Apple MacBook. In the past, I've hesitated to consider the MacBook because it's significantly more expensive up front, but after I figured out that the average battery life for a Dell or HP is around 1-2 years, I had to factor in the additional couple hundred dollars of buying a new battery down the line. In the end, it was the fact that Apple computers are notoriously more virus-resistant and that the battery would last significantly longer than the other brands before I would have to purchase a new one that made me decide to crossover. And I won't lie- as someone who appreciates good style, the MacBook is incredibly sleek. I ordered my MacBook online earlier this month and it arrived last week. Consider me a convert!

Hilarious Mac vs. PC ad:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

You say tomato, I say tomato.....

O.K., so this song lyric doesn't really translate that well in writing. In any case, I have some photos to share of our garden! We broke ground on our little garden plot last weekend and managed to plant some of our seedlings earlier this week.

So far we've planted radishes, green beans, rhubarb and cucumber.

This week, we're hoping to plant mesclun greens, winter squash (marina di chioggia squash), spaghetti squash and a couple different varieties of tomatoes. Unfortunately, it was unseasonably cold last night and today it's pretty nippy. But the seedlings we've planted so far seemed to survive last night's frost. It's supposed to be warmer later this week, so we'll hold off on planting these seedlings until it's a little less chilly.

Breaking ground in the garden

The seedlings that were big enough to plant in the garden- cucumbers and champion radishes.

Champion radishes

Phill planting the rhubarb

Rhubarb looking happy in our garden

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An interesting approach to food photography

Hamburger Spread, photograph used for Mc Call's Magazine, circa 1944
Credit: Nickolas Muray/Courtesy of the National Museum of American History Photographic History Collection

When I think of food photography, I generally think of appetizing close-ups of fresh produce or sizzling dishes with brightly colored ingredients that instantaneously make you drool. Today I read a thoughtful piece on NPR called "Color Sells: Nickolas Murray's Food Photography." It made me think just how much food photography and the art of food styling has changed over the years. Murray is credited as being one of the earliest adapters of the three-color carbro process, a photographic technique which enabled him to create images with color that were incredibly saturated and meant to make the food featured even more irresistible to the viewer. This particular style of food photography came of age in the 1940s and 1950s in publications such as Mc Call's, Vogue and many other fashion and lifestyle magazines.

The article debunked a mystery that I had been curious about for quite some time. Since I have always enjoyed perusing through cookbooks of yesteryear, I have more than once come across those that have featured this kind of photography. In fact, I remember coming across several of these at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks when I lived in New York. To me, the photos always looked a bit contrived, too stiff and frankly unappetizing. The food in these types of photos seemed to a bit too waxy, but I can still relish (no pun intended here) the artistic quality of the shots. They are extremely stylized, with a hint of reverse photo-realism, in that some of the photos almost look like paintings. It's a look that I will always associate with a particular era, where jello molds were loved by all and maraschino cherries were the garnish of choice!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jazz for Foodies

Did you know that April is Jazz Appreciation Month? Well, with the month coming to a close, I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate with a couple of my favorite jazz tunes about food. There is something really wonderful about how vocalists like Diana Krall or Nancy Wilson can make food sound incredibly delicious, romantic and even a little sensual. Below are three of my favorite food-related tunes.

Do you have any favorite food related songs that you love? It doesn't have to be from the jazz genre. Would love to hear what you're listening to!

"Peel Me A Grape"- Diana Krall

"Frim Fram Sauce"- Nat King Cole

"Days of Wine and Roses"- Nancy Wilson
(just as a disclaimer, this is probably not the most interesting video clip, but at least you can listen to the song)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mary, Mary quite contrary, How does your garden grow?

So as a side project, my boyfriend, Phill and I are going to be planting a garden! I have to give him a big chunk of the credit for this idea, because he has been very enthusiastic about this since February, when it was still really blustery outside and the ground was completely frozen.

My previous experience with growing produce haven't been the most positive and have mostly consisted of bug-ridden strawberry plants and shriveled up tomato stems. You would think this would make me apprehensive about trying to grow fruits and veggies again, but if anything, I'm convinced that I will be able to fully redeem myself if we can just make our first garden together a success!

Where are we planting our little fruit and veggie patch, you ask?

My parents house. We asked them if we could use just a small section of grass on either the side of the house or behind it. After some negotiating (Dad was concerned the chicken wire/ screening we we'd have to use to deer and bunny-proof the garden would be an eye sore), they agreed to let us use an area of the yard located on the back right-side of their property.

Needless to say, I have never been this excited about top soil and seeds before! Yesterday evening Phill and I started planting a bunch of the seeds in tiny cups. We'll wait for these guys to sprout and then once they're big enough, we'll transplant them into the garden.

Tomorrow we're going to till the soil in the garden area- the first of many steps towards what will hopefully be a cornucopia of herbs, fruits and veg throughout the summer and fall.

Will keep you posted on how our little seedlings do! In the meantime, check out the photos below for a visual of the progress we've been making. Are you planting anything this Spring? Fruits, veggies, flowers? Let us know what and where!

Our seed babies- pictured here are zucchini, green pea and summer squash.

Some of the organic seed packets we've been using.

The site for our future garden- as demarcated by the white string!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ideas for New Products or Flavors?

Finally- it's Spring in Pittsburgh! Those of you living in warmer climates have no idea how wonderful it is not to have to wake up an hour earlier to shovel a driveway covered in a blanket of snow.

The trees are green again and the flowers are blooming- pretty inspirational weather, if you ask me. On that note, we're always thinking of new flavor combinations or product ideas for Cupoladua Oven. In the past, a couple of them have been:

-Green Tea Cupola Cookies
-Vanilla Cupola Cookies
-Chocolate Chip Cupola Cookies
-Cheddar Cupola Clouds
-Blue Cheese Cupola Clouds

So far, our best sellers right now are Chocolate Cashew Cupola Cookies and Parmesan Pink Peppercorn Cupola Clouds. My theory is that the Chocolate flavor is popular because just about everyone loves chocolate. I think the Parmesan Clouds are more popular because this cheese is more commonly known, compared to Smoked Gouda.

Which brings me to the question of the day- Do you have a new flavor for our Cupola Cookies or Clouds that you'd like to share with us? If you have any suggestions or think any of the potential flavors above sound scrumptious to you, let us know by posting your thoughts!