0 comments on “Natasha Case, CEO and Co-Founder of Coolhaus”

Natasha Case, CEO and Co-Founder of Coolhaus

There are some things in life that makes us feel just so good! Things like jumping in bed after an exhausting day, feeling the sun on your face during a cold winter, or getting an ice cream on a hot summer day… For us, the latter fulfills our feelings the most. Isn’t ice cream the cure for everything? After all, it is cheaper than therapy!

After being criticized for an architectural model that looked like a layered cake, Natasha Case thought to herself “Well, why is that bad!?”. Natasha had the passion for both food and architecture inside of her; she just didn’t know how to put the two together. Food was something she took seriously, as she grew up in a house where having ice cream after dinner was a ritual. So it made sense she evolved her idea into what is now known as “farchitecture” . In 2009, while working at Disney Imagineering, Coolhaus was born “out of the recession to bring awareness to architecture by using something nostalgic and comforting as ice-cream”. She started bringing ice cream sandwiches named after architects like “Mies Vanilla Rohe” and “Frank Behry” to relieve some tension in the office. And after seeing its success, Coolhaus was born from “a triple pun on the name of architect Rem Koolhaas, the Bauhaus movement and the idea that an ice cream sandwich is like a tiny, cold house”.

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Lucky for her, Natasha was introduced at that time to her current business and life partner, Freya Estreller. Freya was in real estate, but also shared the interest in food. After many conversations and finally deciding to take their business to the next level, Coolhaus got its first real job as a food truck vendor at the Coachella Music Festival.  Everything was running smoothly – checked the boxes with giant freezers and enough inventory to sell. But as every startup owner knows, challenges can come up pretty quickly! With as little as $2,700, you can imagine what type of ice cream truck they were able to buy on Craigslist. “We are pretty sure the previous owners were selling drugs out of it. It was a total POS! It didn’t even come with an engine”, said Natasha. So no money, no engine. How DID they manage to get to Coachella? Well, hats down to the creative minds of these two ladies for buying a AAA premier membership to receive a free 200-mile tow all the way to Coachella! Now THAT is some entrepreneurial thinking. And so thanks to their Coachella’s success, an audience was building up in L.A. After expanding their food trucks all the way to New York, Culver City and Pasadena, Coolhaus made its debut in the wholesale industry. They are now also available in more than 6,000 stores like Whole Foods and Safeway and are the biggest women founder and led company, “uniquely taking over the novelty section whereas most of our competitors are playing in the pint space”.

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But it took more than free toll rides and social media to get Coolhaus where it is today. “In the beginning we experienced more age-based bias, where people did not take us seriously. This attitude made those individuals less liable to risk-taking which is necessary to make anything big happen. And by being millennials, we recognized what other millennials actually wanted which gave us a level of authenticity”. Natasha also talked how as a gay woman, it has definitely been a different journey but a positive one.

During the five-year mark, Natasha and Freya worked on the business, not in it. After their tenth year, Coolhaus finally settled as a household brand. And as everyone knows, hard work pays off eventually. As of today, Natasha has done brand partnerships with MeUndies, Bustle, Lexus, and K-Swiss among others. She has been featured as well in media outlets like Cosmo, Bon Appetit, Vice, NPR, Food52, and TV shows like Good Morning America, The list goes on and on…

Without her amazing team, she says, Coolhaus would never be be what it is today. “I value the culture, energy and passion they bring to the company. The fact that they show up every day and dedicate so much of their time helping make this dream a reality is incredibly meaningful. Also thanks to them, I’ve been able to take a step back and focus on my family”.

Natasha and Freya hope that Coolhaus will be the household brand of millennials. “There is an incredible opportunity for us to do that as a culture of women leaders – so to lead and change by example.. that alone is a revolution. To be a powerhouse of women who are behind that brand, who created and are running its vision, that is our true aspiration” – Natasha Case.

Takeaways? Never settle for anything, not even one scoop!

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0 comments on “María Iglesias, founder of Corazon de Mexico”

María Iglesias, founder of Corazon de Mexico

No matter where you are in the country, you will definitely find a Mexican restaurant in any city. According from an analysis made in 2018 by food service firms like CDH Expert, there are over 60,000 Mexican restaurants in the U.S. But that should come as no surprise to any of us. Mexican cuisine has been well-admired throughout the world for its vibrant, authentic and delicious taste. The healthy ingredients, the wonderful aromas of fresh spices, the hot sauces that make you cry, and the deadly margaritas are the perfect combo to be a very popular cuisine.

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From fast-food chains to high-end Michelin star restaurants, one can find any type of Mexican food out there. But one thing is for sure: only those with great quality products and great service survive. And that is why Maria Iglesias along with her daughter and other women employees have been in this business since 2012. Born and raised in beautiful Puebla, Mexico, Chef María brings more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry to bear as owner and the brilliance of family Mexican food recipes passed down through generations of her family to your dining experience. She opened her very first restaurant and bakery called La Adelita in Woodside, NY where she served typical Mexican dishes and pastries like donuts, cemitas and hot beverages. The name is attributed to Adelita, a woman who joined the Mexican Revolution and fought for Mexico’s independence. She was a vital force in the revolutionary war efforts due to her participation in the battles against Mexican armies. Adelita came to be an archetype of a woman warrior in Mexico and a symbol to many of action and inspiration. Even today is her name being used to refer to any woman who struggles and fights for her rights – just like Maria, her daughter and her employees are doing.

Not many details were shared for personal reasons, but Maria and her daughter suffered domestic violence as well. It is because of their past experiences that they feel the urge to help other women who currently face similar situations. “We support women who have been mistreated and abused. We want them to find their inner independency just like we did. Our vision is to build a community where they are not afraid of being independent, rather afraid of being dependent to their partners. We want for these women to have a voice. We want them to know that we are here for them”, said Cynthia. She also mentioned how they want to hire more female personnel but have failed because either their husbands do not want them to work or do not want for them to have a place somewhere else than at home with the children.

“It has not been easy, not going to lie to you”, said Cynthia. La Adelita restaurant had to close their doors because the building they were established in was soon-to-be demolished. This is why the business has now moved to another location in Long Island called Corazon de Mexico. The change of name, as explained by Maria, was because Long Island’s inhabitants are completely different from those in Woodside. The community is built around a more American mentality, rather than a Hispanic one. If people in Long Island would walk by a restaurant called La Adelita, they would have never imagined it was a Mexican place. And it was not until a few months that Corazon de Mexico is now warming people’s hearts. Before that, Maria and Cynthia would receive threatening notes saying “You don’t belong here! Go away!” and other that are not being said.

La Adelita meant so much to these women not only because it was their business, but because it reminded them every day what they have accomplished with their own blood, sweat and tears. And now that exact same ideology is being translated into Corazon de Mexico. These women wake up every day at 4:00am to start unloading the fresh products delivered, start cooking the upcoming orders and then deliver the meals themselves. No matter the time the order was placed, the location of the delivery, or the volume of the meal, these women will get the job done.

These women are committed to exceptional quality and use only natural ingredients and spices that are imported straight from Mexico. The dishes created are fresh and uniquely flavorful, giving diners an opportunity to relish an authentic Mexican dining experience with the best Mexican food in Long Island. The charming Corazon de Mexico is the realization of these women’s determination and passion for not just the culinary arts, but also for other women to know they do not have to be afraid to pursue something of their own. Just like female soldier Adelita did for her beloved Mexico.

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0 comments on “Angela “Nena” Sierra, co-founder of Palenque Colombian Food”

Angela “Nena” Sierra, co-founder of Palenque Colombian Food

Crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside is exactly how a corn patty “arepa” looks like. To give you a better picture, imagine a Mexican corn tortilla but thicker and of course, tastier. Arepas were originated a hundred years ago, contributing to the diet of various indigenous tribes across Venezuela and Colombia. They have now become a dish so popular that any socio-economic group eats them. And just like any sandwich, fillings vary and there are no rules. Colombian entrepreneurs Angela “Nena” Sierra and Viviana Lewis took this statement quite literal and changed the arepa game since day one!

Viviana had been in the food industry way before Angela decided to join her. Angela was working as a film producer in Bogota, Colombia where she flew back and forth for clients between Bogota and NYC. Wanting to take the next step, Angela moved to NYC in 2000 to begin a degree in film production. She involved herself in audiovisual production companies and in local theater. But after her experience in NYC, Angela decided to move back to Colombia and start working in television. Everything was going according to plans until she was badly injured. An elevator had not received maintenance in years and when Angela stepped inside, she slipped through a hole five floors down. “It was a miracle I was alive. It is a blessing I am able to walk right now”.

After the surgery in Colombia, Angela flew to NYC for a second medical procedure in her leg as it was poorly performed. Fast forward to several months later, Viviana came to Angela while she was recovering and mentioned she needed help selling arepas in a fair at Greenpoint. Not surprisingly, the arepas were a huge success! Angela fell in love with the quality of the arepas and saw a huge market potential for them. As she knew the film industry was not something she wanted to continue doing, both Angela and Viviana decided to buy their first food truck in September 2011 and named it Palenque Homemade Colombian Food.

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Besides a new revenue stream, the food truck gave Angela a mental recovery. Being busy all day by having to cook, clean, and move the truck from one corner to the other, Angela did not have the time to think about the pain she was experiencing in her leg. Much less in 2012 were people stepped out of Union Square Q Station for the food truck paradise to fill those hungry stomachs – it was just the perfect street food scenery. Even Daily News, New York Times and TeleMundo shared Palenque’s success in their platforms for this powerful transformation of the traditional Arepa to one with same taste, but greater nutritional value.

Just like pasta, Arepa is sometimes feared because it is a simple carb – mostly starch with little protein/fiber. But the great thing of an arepa is that it adapts to anyone’s needs – precisely Palenque’s mission. Palenque will not sell you the typical Colombian arepa made from just corn flour. These two female entrepreneurs have added a twist of healthy grains such a quinoa, hemp seeds, and flax seeds to the flour for more protein and more crunch! Now you don’t have to think twice before ordering one (or two).

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This step out of the comfort zone by looking into a healthier version of an arepa led them into the road to success. Palenque has expanded from a food truck to now three brick-and-mortars (Brooklyn, Rockaway Beach and RIIS Park Beach), events such as NYC Half Marathon and catering platforms like FoodtoEat. The business is also represented at festivals such as Smorgasburg every Saturday and Sunday. In fact, right after hurricane Sandy the NYC Mayor office asked Palenque to provide arepas to those people who had suffered the catastrophe at Rockaway.

So as you can see, these two female founders have taught us several lessons worth mentioning. First, you can build a business that is different from any careers or degrees pursued before. Second, you do not have to come up with a brand new product/service in order to be successful. You just need to find the faults of an existing one and fix them. Third, to make a difference in the world you need to dream big and work your butt off. And last but not least, Palenque has become a staple in NYC because it is run by two immigrant women. These women’s backgrounds, experiences and way of thinking has made it possible for us New Yorkers to get a taste of a dish served hundreds of miles away.

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0 comments on “Christine Chebli, Co-Founder of Toum”

Christine Chebli, Co-Founder of Toum

Do you know what exactly Lebanese food is? Would you be able to distinguish a Greek Gyro with a Lebanese Shawarma? I certainly could not and know most people couldn’t either. There is ignorance on the different types of foods each Middle Eastern country has, putting them all under the same umbrella. But people like Christine, co-founder of Lebanese restaurant Toum, is trying to change that. “We are still teaching New Yorkers, who know all about food, really what Lebanese food is. They come and they say: Oh, I’ll have a gyro and what we serve is nothing similar to a gyro. So educating a customer is always challenging “.

But in order to educate consumers about Lebanese food, it needs to be served! Christine and her husband Rodrigue noticed there weren’t many Lebanese restaurants that cook good, authentic Lebanese food and decided to take a chance on what they’ve been cooking for many years. Rodrigue had been in the food industry since he could walk, and always dreamt about opening a Lebanese restaurant in NY. And Christine, on the other hand, had a financial background. She worked as an investment banker for eleven years before deciding to fully commit to the food industry. And after many thoughts given, Christine and Rodrigue opened the first Lebanese food truck in NYC in July 2012!

But let’s rewind a few years before that opening. Prior to their truck, Christine and Rodrigue launched a food booth in a friend’s open space in a festival in Little Eataly. They wanted to test the waters first, see if people would come and buy some of their food. At one point, Rodrigue decided to serve himself lunch and started creating a Lebanese style burger – a fine chopped beef with spices, onions and parsley. “He spread it on bread and grilled it, and while he was grilling it someone came up and said: “Ooh, what is that!? I want whatever he is preparing!” And it was love at first bite. Then one person after the other were asking for this burger that wasn’t even part of our menu!”.  After seeing many customers line up, it was official that a food truck was happening.

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Food trucks are part of the American landscape, with coffee carts and hot dog stands representing the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit. Food trucks are a great way to enter and test a market, without blowing a huge amount of capital. But while this concept may seem appealing to many people, the venture comes with a list of challenges specifically in the NYC area. Apparently, government officials in NY make it so much harder for food trucks to strive than in any other states like Florida, Denver and Atlanta. “The city is against you. You’re not allowed to park anywhere, you’ll get a ticket for parking every time, you’re not allowed to vend, and you’re not allowed to serve from a metered spot where all spots in Manhattan are metered. And say you paid the meter because you are commercial vehicle and served lunch. You now get two tickets: one for parking on a meter and one for vending. It is really hard”, says Christine. For food truck owners, this is part of their day-to-day. It is seen as their daily rent. Drivers even get their parking spots at 3:00am just to vend lunch from 11:00am to 3:00pm. And sometimes after staying up those long hours cops can come at noon, middle of the lunch rush hour, and tell you to leave. “If you are shut down at that time, you’re not finding a spot anywhere else in the city. You have traffic, you have food waste, you have staff that needs to get paid anyways and you just lost an entire day!”. It is frustrating given that it is not about the money, but the principle. Truck owners are doing nothing wrong, just selling food to hungry customers. They are not parking in front of a restaurant, or taking business from someone else. So if everyone is happy, why punish them? We rely on food trucks to nourish us at music festivals, cater our graduations and engagement parties and most importantly, broaden our lunch horizons. These truck owners continue to expose an “unaware group of eaters to new culinary opportunities”.

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Fast-forward to 2012 – a buzz kicked in when people would take lunch breaks and immediately follow the line of hungry customers waiting for their flavorful Shawarma. The quality and consistency of Toum is what kept customers happy and made them come back. The food, as Christine mentioned, was served as if it was for their kids. “If my kids wouldn’t eat it, then I will not serve it. We make sure the customer gets the same quality every time he/she orders from us. We never use lower quality product, even if it affects our margins. We are more concerned with the quality to make sure the taste is great with every order. The margins hurt, but the food truck must keep going”.

People started asking about corporate catering, weddings, events, birthday parties and more. “Lebanese food is not something you can find in every corner like Italian or Mexican food. After people coming to us and tasting our food, they asked about catering and that is when we started engaging with catering platforms like FoodtoEat. Never reducing its quality, Toum was taken to the next level. Ask anyone who runs a food truck what their ultimate goal is and most will tell you that it’s their dream to one day turn the truck into a full-fledged, brick-and-mortar restaurant. And so Christine quit the corporate America job to nurture “this baby full-time”. Having a food enthusiast and a business professional gave a lot of potential for Toum to follow the right direction to be a successful restaurant. It was the perfect combination to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The food side is all handled by Rodrigue and the business operations, development, marketing, social media and other non-food related decisions is Christine.

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They gave themselves a two year timeline to decide if they would continue working for Toum or if it was something they wanted to keep as a side job and go back into the corporate world. Fortunately, Toum Restaurant has been growing at a steady rate and continues to do so. As of now, training and having people visualize Toum as a restaurant instead of a food truck is the biggest challenge for both Christine and Rodrigue. “I would like for people to know that we’ve transitioned from a truck to a restaurant. But we are hoping that our social media push and marketing campaign is going to help do that. But also training is hard because people are set in their own ways and you can’t blame them. So allowing people to do things in their own technique but tweak to work for us is certainly our goal”.

It is really amazing to have a dream and see it come to life in your own hands. Your own blood, sweat and tears. “It was never my passion to be in the food industry; it was mostly Rodrigue. And I believed so much in his dream that I was sure it was going to turn out positively. When he creates food, he does it with such passion and so beautiful that everyone wants to eat. It just had to work”. Not having many Lebanese restaurants in NYC, it is a motivation for this power couple to continue showcasing their food that comes from their own hands, their own recipes. “Seeing the amazing feedback and the potential for the bigger picture is all the motivation we need. For me, I feel like we made it. Now, it’s only about consistency and further growth”.

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0 comments on “Janie Deegan, Founder of Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods”

Janie Deegan, Founder of Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods

In the realm of desserts, cookies and pies will always be at the top of the list. Imagine both of them combined into one type of dessert… Now THAT is a mouthwatering thought. Good news for you, it can be! After many trials and errors creating cookies, cakes, and pies in her home kitchen, Janie Deegan (founder of Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods)  created something special: her famous Pecan Pie Crust Cookie.

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But before we go into the details of this delicious cookie, Janie’s story needs to be heard. In her early 20’s, Janie was an alcoholic and an addict. Her addiction eventually lead her to being homeless and isolated, with no communication between Janie and her family and friends. Her life was at a standstill, and close relatives started to feel helpless after telling her multiple times to get sober. It was a dark time for Janie, who says that her problems with addiction had been building for years, due to her inability to deal with stress and anxiety. . But when Janie turned 25, something inside of her changed. She started to crave the desire to turn her life and to become sober one day at a time.

Janie found a job as a superintendent in a building in the East village where was taking people’s garbage out but “living life!”. She started to realize that she wanted to develop skills of her own and pursue a career. One thing was crystal clear to her though: in order to deal with her anxiety and stress as well as continue to combat her addiction, she needed to have control over the results in what she did. And that is why baking was perfect for her! She baked a lot of cakes as a child with her mom, so she knew she was good at it. And it turns out that baking is more than creating something sweet. Baking is accompanied with a broad amount of psychological benefits. Baking for Janie, and for many others, allows her to cope with stress, to express her love, to communicate better with others, and to give back to those who always loved and supported her. Baking gives Janie control in her life as well. It is a step-by-step process, always (well, most of the times) following the same metrics. If you put the right amount of sugar, butter and flour, you will always create that perfect cookie.

Years of gaps in her resume and very few work experiences were no excuse for Janie to not start taking her life back. “I mean, I wish I could put my sobriety on a resume because what I’ve learned from not drinking has totally changed my life. It is crazy for me to think of the person I was at 25 – always scared, meek, filled with fear and no concept of self love. What I have developed in the past six years is all about strength, courage and learning to follow through. I have found the real me – not the better me, not the worse me but the real me. And that is a huge blessing”.

Taking a leap of faith, Janie made her first investment in herself and purchased her very first $25 mixer. She started baking pies and cakes, the sweets that brought her the most joy as a child, and she would bring them to friends’ dinners and parties since it was all she could afford to offer. But people would immediately ask her where she bought these delicious treats! And they always kept asking for more. It was because of these friends and family that supported her that Janie started regaining her self-confidence and pride in her work that had been lost for many years.

“I was definitely scared to start since I did not go to culinary school. I would keep thinking: Who am I to think that I could be a business woman?! But it’s funny because whenever I think about what type of career I want, I always tell myself: one where I am able to work out in the middle of the day or grab lunch with a friend. But so you hear this word “entrepreneur” and it freaks you out because it is such a big word. But I’ve come to realize that if you are doing something you love, then you are already an entrepreneur”.

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And so right before turning 30, Janie decided to fully focus on growing her business. She stopped working as a superintendent and as a nanny, and committed to her dream of being an entrepreneur. Since she needed financial help, Janie applied for the Pepsi’s “Stacy’s Rise Project” and won the grant because of her story. This program was specifically focused on elevating women in the food industry through an entrepreneurship program – and that is exactly what happened. For the past two years it has been a nonstop mission for Janie to be completely genuine and dedicated with what she is doing. She wants her story to reach as many people to encourage those who have struggled with an addiction or those who lack the courage to build a business due to self-esteem. “I think that is why people keep asking for more. I mean, the cookies are great but people really relate on a personal level with what I am doing. You need to find something that sets you apart from the others; that is how you succeed”.

As for what the future holds, Janie wants to continue doing corporate catering and selling at local markets but is looking to switch her products to consumer packaged goods to reach a wider audience. She knows that it will definitely get more challenging as the business grows since she is the chef, the sales person, the PR person, and everything in between. “It is hard to keep the business alive while trying to grow it. Seeing me on my Quickbooks is like pulling hair!” But New York City is the city to be when seeking business resources. There are so many programs for small businesses and people to connect with and Janie has found a lot of support in this community. The food industry, surprisingly enough, is very nurturing of each other – especially among female-owned businesses.

Past experiences have led Janie to value what is important for her, what her goals in life are and what it takes to pursue them. She intends to be a second chance employer, and work specifically with homeless shelter and halfway houses to be a resource for a community that she was once a part of. Janie is the perfect example that you do not need to have a particular degree to pursue a dream or discourage yourself if going through a rough time. Dedication, passion, and a genuine mission will get you far ahead of the game.

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0 comments on “Manal Kahi, Co-Founder of Eat Offbeat”

Manal Kahi, Co-Founder of Eat Offbeat

Imagine hummus in 2013. Can’t remember? We can tell you – it was not good.

Lebanese Manal Kahi had the exact same thought when coming to the U.S. for her master’s degree in International Affairs. She was surprised by how popular the dip was and even more surprised when people said how great it tasted. As popular as these brands were, pre-packaged foods never taste as good as if you cook it yourself. And for Manal, it was common to have great quality products since she grew up with an orchard outside her home that was filled with tomatoes, lemons, parsley and other vegetables. Having all of these fresh ingredients, it was impossible for there to be pre-packaged hummus or tabbouleh on her family’s dinner table.

So when she decided that she didn’t want to continue eating supermarket hummus anymore, Manal started making her own and bringing it to her friends’ parties and events. After so many compliments and requests, Manal knew there was a gap in the market for hummus that she could fill. When thinking  “who can bring really good hummus to the U.S.!?”, it was a no-brainer for both Manal and her brother, who grew up in a family that created it fresh every day and whose recipe was passed down through generations.

At the same time, the Syrian refugee crisis was continuing to worsen, and many refugees were searching for a better life in the U.S. Manal herself had to leave Lebanon because of the intense turmoil and living in the U.S., she felt powerless watching the devastation in her country. She wanted to help her people but wasn’t sure how to do that across the world. After thinking about the crisis non-stop, Manal connected the dots and found a way to be useful to those who were suffering in the midst of the crisis. She contacted the International Rescue Committee, an agency that helps refugees resettle and find housing, employment, childcare and education. Her initial idea was to solely hire Syrian refugees to make hummus and other kind of authentic Middle Eastern meals. But she quickly found out that hummus in the U.S. was a market that was completely over-saturated and very competitive price-wise. And after seeing so much potential and diversity in the refugees, Manal decided to expand her idea. She started to create a community that would open it’s doors for refugees that came to NYC looking for a job and allow them to create the dishes authentic to their culture. Now, refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Guinea replicate the meals that they cooked back home and deliver them to hungry New Yorkers. That is how Eat Offbeat started in 2015.

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Eat Offbeat is a social impact catering company that serves authentic meals made by talented refugees. They cater office lunches, happy hours, private parties and large conferences. The company’s goals are to introduce New Yorkers to real, authentic food products, to build bridges between those eating the food and the refugees who make it, and to flip the narrative to what it means to be a refugee. Most importantly, they focus on erasing the negative connotation around the word “refugee” and educating customers about the human beings behind the food at Eat Offbeat. Because of these refugees, Eat Offbeat is still able to be in business. The refugees themselves are the ones who come up with the recipes, and then are trained over a four to five month period in order to have the recipes standardized and scaled to feed larger groups of people for catering. Over 40 refugee chefs have been trained since Eat Offbeat began by exceptional people like Chef Juan, a Michelin star chef who works with Manal and her team to give each chef the kitchen skills needed to produce their dishes on a daily basis. In addition, these refugees take a lot of pride in their work. All of the dishes served include a small description and a picture of the chef who prepared it. It is part of the company’s mission to ensure that the refugees are being represented and are part of the consumer’s experience. Any dish served is served as a dish from a particular refugee, not the company itself. Giving the chef ownership of their dish restores dignity for an individual that has lost everything and has to start over again in a country separated from their family and friends.

But as in any business, challenges arise. When asked, Manal said her two biggest challenges are the margins on food being too low, and the perception of being a non-profit organization. From an investor’s point of view, Eat Offbeat is sometimes seen as a business that is less aggressive or less profitable because of having refugees as employees and being looked as a non-profit. From a customer’s point of view, the initial thought is usually “Oh, it’s a cute non-profit that supports refugees. They probably are too small to cater for us” (Manal). Manal finds that many customer assume they are a non-profit and can provide free food or discounted food for events or meals. However, she runs a business just like any other restaurant, so changing the way consumers see them is something her team is working on. However, Manal believes that despite these challenges, the impact the business has on the refugees they employ is worth the struggle. “All the effort, all the trouble and all the challenges are worth at the end of the day. Knowing customers are trying something completely new and exotic, and that they are happy motivates our chefs. They are kind of taking a step off the beaten path, and trying to be more open minded to where food comes from; connecting with our team, with immigrants and their status” (Manal).

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An open mind brings more opportunities. This is how Manal wants consumers to start thinking when connecting with her business. It is very important for her to build a personal connection between Eat Offbeat’s mission and the customers that order from them. Manal says, “for me, we have achieved our mission if someone tries chef Nazreen’s chicken and goes crazy for it, automatically associating Iran with that dish, rather than anything else they may have heard about Iran or what they think about Iran’s problems. So instead, when they think about Iran, they will think about Nazreen and how amazing the flavors of the chicken were. And how lovely Nazreen is, rather than any preconceived notions they may have had about the country” (Manal). Human connection beyond food is what many food businesses strive to have. These refugees learned in the kitchen with their mothers and grandmothers while most of us find inspiration through blogs and websites. Consumers today don’t have the personal connection that they once had with food, mainly because of the digital era we are in. It’s very rare to have a connection with the people that produce our food but that’s what Eat Offbeat is hoping to change. Manal wants to reconnect people with food and let them know more about who cooked the food arrives on their plates.

Eat Offbeat is a company where they shed light the skills of their refugees, rather than what their status represents. They are refugees by status, but chefs by nature.

 

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0 comments on “Einat Admony, Owner of Taïm”

Einat Admony, Owner of Taïm

This is Einat Admony, the owner of Taïm. Born in Israel, she grew up eating Yemenite and Persian food, in addition to Moroccan and Eastern European dishes. She was a curious girl that loved exploring, especially different cuisines and cultures. From a young age, Einat would always help her mother prepare the Shabbat dinner. When she turned eighteen, she served both as a driver and ad hoc cook in the Israeli Army, where she understood that cooking was her real passion and that it was something she would never get bored of. After spending a few months traveling, she came to New York City to begin her culinary career as a chef. 

Einat spent seven years working in different fine dining restaurants such as Patria, Bolo, Tabla and Danube in New York. Because she loves to travel and learn from other cultures, Einat knew the best way to immerse herself in these cultures was to work in restaurants with differing cuisines and familiarize herself with their dishes. These greater experiences made Einat want to start building an empire of her own. In 2005, she opened Taïm: a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant in the West Village. Realizing many people did not know exactly what Israeli/Jewish food looked like, Einat knew she had to change that. “Israeli food is much more colorful, full of flavors, with spices and layers of excitement that many people do not imagine it to be!”. That said, Taïm is the ultimate representation of how people should eat Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food!

Surprisingly enough, Einat mentions how easy it was to open her first Taïm location. It took Einat and her husband just a couple of months! As we all know, competition wasn’t as fierce and harsh as it is nowadays. And since she did not have any children yet, Einat and her husband had more flexibility on spending longer evenings at the restaurant and building the business.

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After seeing the extensive line of hungry customers craving more and more of her delicious falafel, Einat decided to expand to other locations in Nolita and Midtown. And when dreaming even bigger, Einat and her husband decided to explore nearby cities for growth. Both found that Washington D.C. could be the perfect hub to expand their business. Besides D.C. being very culturally well-rounded, its proximity to NYC made the most sense as to the expansion to a new state. 

So what is chef’s Einat hidden secret to Taïm’s success?! She mentions there are many in order to keep a busy restaurant running, but you always need a key differentiator to keep people coming. For Taïm, Einat is confident about her falafel! In Israel, according to Einat, eating falafel is as cheap as eating a slice of street pizza in NYC. She grew up being surrounded by it, especially because her mother would always make them. But when creating her own, it took her many months to perfect her recipe because she wanted it to be the item that Taïm is known for. Knowing the methods used to prepare the food as well as cook it was very important to her. For Einat, making falafel requires the freshest ingredients, the correct seasonings and flavors, the perfect amount of chickpeas, and the right texture – “crispy, crunchy on the outside but moist on the inside” (Taïm). There are many other restaurants that offer falafel, but many of them leave your plate filled with oil. This is a no-go at Taïm, where falafel are fried but to the precise moment where they don’t become greasy. To Einat, this is a very important difference, it provides customers with richly-flavored products while still keeping them healthy. 

Besides falafel,  Taïm serves a vast amount of other healthy, fresh menu options – many of which are vegan. Having vegan and vegetarian dishes for Einat is extremely important, as she wants to educate more consumers on the importance of cutting down on animal products for health and environmental reasons. Her focus on healthy dishes directly correlates Taïm’s identity of being “a vegetarian mecca, a vegan temple”. 

Educating customers about Israeli food and vegetarian choices as well as watching them enjoy her food and seeing the happiness that it brings them are the many rewards of the business, Einat says. With the amazing team she currently works with and her husband’s constant involvement, Einat is confident that she will be able to expand the business further as time goes on. Although it’s challenging to do so in NYC, due to the intense competition in the market, Einat says, ” if you make it in NYC’s market, you can scale up anywhere!”.

It is always easier to compete with others when doing something one loves and is passionate for like Einat with cooking. She is motivated to continue cooking and can’t imagine what it would be like if she couldn’t. Experimenting in the kitchen is what keeps her going; it is her fuel. Inspiration, she says, comes from multiple sources: colors, music, flowers and other food creations. One just needs to dig deep and find them!

 

 

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0 comments on “Rohan Aggarwal, Co-Owner of Queens Bully”

Rohan Aggarwal, Co-Owner of Queens Bully

This is Rohan Aggarwal, the co-owner of Queens Bully. A first generation Indian American, Rohan was born and raised in Queens, New York and was immersed in the food industry from a very young age. Growing up Rohan’s father owned a chain of Indian restaurants, so from the time he was five or six years old, his weekends and summers were spent working there. He started out cleaning dishes and busing tables, then doing deliveries and, as he got older, worked his way up to serving and bartending. Although he admits that there were periods of time where he disliked the work, he says that he was drawn towards a career in the restaurant industry because “it runs in my blood”. It’s a business that he’s always known and had a passion for and despite the difficulties, he loves it. It was this passion that lead him to ask his father if he could take over the lease for one of his restaurant locations on Queens Boulevard that had closed down two years beforehand. In 2016, Rohan and his friend, Suraj Patel, took over the space and created Queens Bully, a multi-faceted barbecue restaurant that was designed specifically for the neighborhood to love and enjoy. Their focus on building a culture where everyone is treated like family has turned Queens Bully into a neighborhood hotspot where different people of different ages and different ethnicities all feel at home.

Rohan studied hospitality management in college and after spending a year in India learning Indian cooking techniques and helping to operate his family’s restaurant there, he returned to the U.S. and started working full-time for his father. He was placed at Devi, a standalone location that wasn’t part of the restaurant chain, and began running it’s operations. It was there that he saw a need for a caterer with unique offerings rather than your typical Indian food and expanded the business into catering. However, as Rohan came up with new dishes that tied Indian flavors into other cuisines and curated menus to reach a wider variety of customers, he started getting pushback from his chef. The chef had his own way of doing things and didn’t want to get onboard with these new ideas. Since Rohan had only had front of house training in the past, he wasn’t able to communicate on the same level with the chef and make him understand what was needed and why. He realized that his lack of cooking knowledge made him dependent on the chef for the business to function, which wasn’t something he felt comfortable with, so he enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education. When he graduated from culinary school in 2014, he continued running catering operations for Devi, despite the fact that they had to close the physical location in 2015. He would rent out a commissary kitchen and have the chefs from Devi come in and cook, piecing together the orders as they came. However, the catering business didn’t last long without a standing space to cook from. It was during this time that Rohan and Suraj had started brainstorming about opening their own restaurant. They both lived in the neighborhood and saw it undergoing rapid gentrification and felt that it was needing something different for the community to enjoy. And since they had the space where they envisioned it existing, they started developing their business plan. When Rohan approached his parents with his plan, they were hesitant at first. They didn’t want him to be in the food business because they knew how hard it was. But once they saw his motivation to run his own place and prove that he could do it, they agreed to let him take over the lease for the space. After a few months of construction, Queens Bully officially opened in July 2017.

Queens Bully

Rohan decided to focus Queens Bully around barbecue as an homage to his father. As an immigrant to the U.S., his father was always fascinated with barbecue as a cuisine and planned to open up an American barbecue restaurant at some point in his career. Unfortunately he never got around to opening the concept so Rohan wanted to do it for him and create a place that his father would be proud of. He and Suraj collaborated with their chefs to make barbecue the base of the menu but made sure to incorporate different flavors and put their own twist on certain recipes to showcase the diversities of Queens. Although they have their top selling items that they can never take off the menu, they do change the menu about twice a year to incorporate seasonal items. A lot of the inspiration for new menu items comes from Rohan or Suraj- from places that they’ve traveled or restaurants where they’ve eaten- but they’re also very open to suggestions from their team. Whenever anyone comes up with an idea, they’ll take it into consideration, play around with it and do it as a special one night to see the reaction from customers. If it goes over well, they add it to the menu. For Rohan, one of the best parts about opening Queens Bully is that there are no rules on the menu. So even though their focus is barbecue, their menu is so broad that they can get away with serving any sort of item, which Rohan loves because it allows him to be creative and play around with a bunch of different flavors.

The name Queens Bully refers to Queens Boulevard, which a lot of Queens natives call “Queens Bully” for short. Rohan says that he and Suraj used the term a lot when they used to park in the area and take the train to wherever they would go out in the city or in Brooklyn. Over the years, they started questioning why they were going out in other boroughs rather than staying local and realized that the problem was finding a place near them in Queens that served good cocktails and beers, had great food and a nice ambiance. They realized that other people in the area must be having this same issue and that there was a really big area of the market being missed. So when opening Queens Bully, they really tried to focus on creating a space in their neighborhood that incorporated all of those different factors that they craved from other establishments. Combining those ingredients together has developed a unique culture that makes them stand out from other restaurants. They’ve built a welcoming environment by treating each customer as if they are a part of their family and designing a restaurant layout that works for a couple that’s going out for a date night as well as a bunch of guys who want to watch the game during happy hour. They’ve been able to create an atmosphere that works for any group of people because it’s very laidback and comfortable and doesn’t try to define itself as a specific establishment. It’s all about what the customer is looking for from the experience and working to meet those expectations. For Rohan, running a business that appeals to and meet the needs of so many different people is a very fulfilling feeling. Having created a neighborhood hangout that attracts such a wide variety of men and women shows him that they have created a change in the neighborhood and that people appreciate them being there.

Although customers love the culture at Queens Bully, Rohan says that the toughest part of the business is creating an environment that your employees trust and getting your employees to see the same vision that you do. Rohan had never created a team culture for employees before Queens Bully so he’s dedicated a lot of time to working with each member of his team so that they understand where he sees Queens Bully going and how he or she is a part of that growth. He wants his staff to be excited about what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis and continue learning, innovating and creating to improve their current operations. In regards to the future of Queens Bully, Rohan is clear that Queens Bully will only be one location, since it was built specifically for it’s neighborhood and just that space. As Rohan says “this concept was strictly made for these four walls”. However, once things are running smoothly with Queens Bully, he does plan on starting a larger hospitality group with Suraj. Seeing himself and his team become leaders in the hospitality industry and create wonderful concepts for people to enjoy is what keeps him motivated. They already have a few concepts that they’ve brainstormed and have been working on but they’re focused on finding the perfect fit location and neighborhood-wise. Rohan says that above everything else, what he’s learned from Queens Bully is that neighborhood matters and if you’re not creating something for the neighborhood, it won’t work.

 

 

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0 comments on “Antoine Skrzypek, Owner of Cassava House”

Antoine Skrzypek, Owner of Cassava House

This is Antoine Skrzypek, the owner of Cassava House. Growing up in Paris, Antoine says that there was always something going on in his kitchen at home and he always loved to cook. As a young boy, he would frequently bounce back and forth between helping his mother in the kitchen and helping his father outside (repairing things around the house or gardening) until one of them got fed up with him and would send him back to the other. Although he never went to culinary school, Antoine says he was lucky enough to be taught next to the greatest chef in the world- his mother. A small Spanish woman who grew up near Madrid, his mother didn’t have any formal culinary training either but rather learned how to cook out of necessity, as she was the youngest in her family and was expected to help her mother in the kitchen. However, her skills paid off when she moved to Paris and began cooking professionally as a chef in people’s homes and catering dinner parties. Antoine would spend his days watching her cook and learning from her as she created meals for their family and entertained friends who were constantly coming over to eat her amazing food. Despite his passion for food, Antoine never sought it as a career because he didn’t have an official culinary background. In France there was a certain expectation about how a chef should be qualified in order to work in a restaurant, so he was hesitant to take that step into the industry. Instead he stuck to more practical occupations with the thought that he could one day pursue it. In 2017, Antoine opened Cassava House and was finally able to realize the dream he had always had for himself- providing joy to others with the food that he grew up eating.

Antoine’s first job was repairing computers. His father was a builder so Antoine had gotten very good at using his hands and was interested in the mechanical part of the tech industry that had just started developing at that time. He went back to school for two years to learn the trade and ended up getting a great opportunity to be a part of the first company in Paris to work for Apple. However, after two or three years, Apple had come up with technology that made repairing computers unnecessary. Antoine got frustrated and unhappy working with electronic equipment and decided to leave the company, jumping briefly into a role at a restaurant in Paris before deciding to join his friend on a trip to New York. After working in a position that wasn’t fulfilling for him, he says he wanted to do some exploring and see what other opportunities were out there. So he packed his bags and bought a ticket to New York, telling his parents, “If I stay, I stay. If not, I’ll come back.” However, it didn’t take him too long to find an apartment, find a job and get going. He stayed in New York for a year, then spent a few months in Miami working at a restaurant before moving to Seattle for six months and then finally settling back in New York. Living in New York, he noticed that between his roommates and friends, there was always someone who needed something fixed or something built that he was willing and able to help with. It went from Antoine building a loft bed to putting tiles in a bathroom and continued growing. Little by little he started taking on larger projects until he needed to hire someone to help him and then another person and then another. Eventually he started running his own interior renovation business but his passion for food never went away. He would work a whole day and then come home and put himself in front of the stove for an hour and half to make a meal for his family. He found himself cooking for his team and catering dinners for friends but still, the renovation business was working for him so he continued to stick with it.

About thirteen years ago, Antoine stumbled upon bubble tea in Chinatown and got really interested in how he could create a clean, natural version of the jelly and fake syrup that other places were using. Unfortunately he soon realized that he wouldn’t be able to make a satisfactory product because the natural juices didn’t blend well and it would be too expensive to make his own, so he gave up the idea. But, having come up with Cassava House for this concept (bubble tea is made out of cassava), he decided to keep the business name just in case he had a chance to revisit it in the future. That chance came four years ago when he realized that he didn’t want to be a contractor anymore. He was no longer interested in his work or motivated by it. He wasn’t happy waking up to do renovation anymore but what did make him happy was cooking. He decided that after so many years being passionate about food, he had to give himself the chance to run his own food business. So he got a business partner to take over the renovation business and he took the next two years to look for a spot for his restaurant, renovate it and prepare a menu. By this point, he had given up on the bubble tea idea because he realized that it wasn’t as healthy or clean as a normal juice. So he started creating a menu for fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, breakfast items, sandwiches and salad that was influenced by the food that he grew up eating and focused on healthy, clean ingredients. For Antoine, it was key that they make everything they could in house- their salad dressings, their condiments, their soups- so that he knew exactly what was going into the food and to keep things from getting overprocessed with unnatural additives. He wanted to keep everything as healthy as possible so he made sure that he could be in control of the items on his menu.

Cassava House Outside

Antoine believes that their focus on healthy ingredients combined with their unique flavors and their ability to appeal to plant-based, vegetarian and meat-heavy customers is what sets Cassava House apart from other restaurants. They have an extensive vegan menu and all of their sandwiches can be transformed to satisfy a vegan diet. Antoine says that this wasn’t a specific choice that they made or something that they thought needed to be done to meet a demand in the market, it was just natural for him because he grew up with that kind of cooking. They didn’t eat meat every day at the table in his house, his mother came up with her own ways to incorporate protein without meat, so it was normal for him to have that reflected in his menu. And it felt right that he use some of his mother’s recipes throughout the menu as well. Which is why the way they do things at Cassava House is really unlike the way it’s done anywhere else. A lot of their flavors are different because they combine ingredients that customers wouldn’t necessarily expect to go together. It creates an entire experience around the food because it causes customers to think through their palate and try to pick out the flavors that they’re tasting. Antoine says that watching customers try the food and seeing the surprise on their face when they taste something unexpected is the most rewarding part of the business for him. Those reactions have made him realize that the food is different but also brings people joy because it’s something new that they’ve never tried before. There’s a double reaction where they’re satisfied but also surprised by the flavors in a great, fun way and hearing compliments from customers on top of that is even more rewarding. Hearing people say that it’s “original”, “great”, “unexpected”, “unique” and seeing them react to the recipes that seem so normal to him will never get old for him. He created the menu items to be food that you want to sit down, savor and enjoy. He doesn’t just want to feed people, he wants them to be happy with what they eat and taste the difference of food that satisfies your palate.

Since the business started two years ago, the menu has definitely expanded. Antoine says that he has an endless list of sandwiches that he’s always working on and he pays a lot of attention to feedback from customers to see what items they like or don’t like so they can adapt the menu accordingly. As a business owner, the brainstorming of recipes and the introduction of new menu items keeps him motivated to continue exciting his customers with the unexpected. Right now he’s working with their chef, Laura, who’s vegan, to start exploring more vegan protein options and work towards creating sandwiches around them. But staying on top of what customers may and may not like is difficult, especially when you’re trying to create items that people can eat every day. You don’t want to introduce a new item that isn’t up to par with your current offerings and lose potential future customers. Which is why Antoine focuses on keeping everything very consistent so that customers can come into the restaurant multiple days in a row and always have their food taste the exact same. Antoine admits that the food consistency is challenging but after so many years, dealing with these issues doesn’t bother him because he’s finally in an industry that he’s passionate about.

 

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0 comments on “Stephanie Acurio, Founder of The Rollin’ Oat”

Stephanie Acurio, Founder of The Rollin’ Oat

This is Stephanie Acurio, the founder of The Rollin’ Oat, a mobile oatmeal bar that is committed to redefining the way consumers think about this staple breakfast item. Born in Peru, Stephanie moved to Miami, Florida with her family when she was 13 years old after her father retired from the Peruvian Navy. Independent from a young age, she started working in the restaurant industry as a bus girl when she was 15 but really got involved in hospitality while she was in school for interior design at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Over the course of her program, she worked in many different positions at a lot of different restaurants, from Asian fusion to seafood to Italian, and started getting more involved in food, cooking a lot and researching recipes for different cuisines to use the skills that she was learning at each place. She says that it was during this time that she really fell in love with food and working in diverse establishments made her appreciate different types of food and their unique flavors. Stephanie was also very much in love with New York, where she had access to so many cuisines all in one place. She visited every chance she got because she loved the fast-paced vibe and that each day you were able to interact with new people and see new places. She felt that she was getting comfortable in Miami and wanted to challenge herself to do something new so she decided to move to New York by herself in the summer of 2016. As she began working in New York, she found that during her commute there were a lot of breakfast items, like bagels and scones, that were full of carbs and sugars, but nothing healthy and filling, like oatmeal, that she could take on the go. It was out of this realization that The Rollin’ Oat was born. This mobile business has not only revolutionized oatmeal, proving that a “fast food” item can be unique, healthy and delicious, it’s also made oatmeal more approachable for adults with sweet and savory options that make you see breakfast from a new perspective.

Although Stephanie had a heavy background in food, when she moved to New York she decided to switch careers and go into sales. She got hired at Equinox and worked there for the next two and a half years. Working at Equinox introduced her to the health and fitness industry and made her realize the importance of combining exercise and clean eating to maintain a healthy lifestyle. She found herself trying to balance her foodie habits with eating healthy, which was especially difficult when it came to breakfast given her fast-paced lifestyle. She loved oatmeal because it was tasty and full of health benefits but whenever she bought it, she found that it was always loaded with milk and sugar and had the same boring toppings. She began asking herself, “What are my options here? How can I take this to work?” In 2018 she left Equinox and started working in a corporate role in the financial district in Jersey City. And although this building had a food hall on first floor with a ton of options for lunch, there were no breakfast options. Again she had run into the same issue of where she could go to get a healthy breakfast. She thought that if someone could just open a portable oatmeal bar with different fruits and toppings, they would do so well because there was so much foot traffic in the area between people commuting to and from the city- it was a huge, untapped market to sell to. At this point she had already realized that her new job wasn’t working out for her because it wasn’t the role that she was expecting and she didn’t like to sit behind a desk, so she started playing around with oatmeal and putting different toppings on it. Since she had already had the idea in her head and felt like she had enough money saved to get the business off the ground, she decided to create it herself. She had always wanted to be her own boss and knew at some point that she would run her own business, so she trusted herself and took a leap of faith. She quit her corporate job in October and by the end of February, she had her first event booked.

From the very beginning Stephanie had a vision of what her business would be and who she would sell to: health conscious adults that could see the value in the nutrition factor of the oatmeal but could also appreciate the uniqueness of the product. However, figuring out the logistics to get the business up and running was much more difficult than she expected. Although she wanted her idea to come to life and be successful, after five months in business Stephanie admits that the most challenging part of the business so far has been creating it by herself. Since no one had created a concept like this before, she had no frame of reference of where to get started and she didn’t have any connections in the food industry in New York to ask for help or advice. She realized that she would have to figure everything out on her own and started doing tons of research, staying glued to her computer for hours every day. She began examining other food cart concepts in the U.S. and internationally and ended up getting her cart from a company in Seattle. But since she needed both hot and cold compartments in the cart (hot for oatmeal, cold for toppings) she had to further customize the cart to what she needed. After figuring out the measurements through trial and error, she was able to create a space for a cooler on one side of the cart and then drilled two holes for the pots of oatmeal on the other. Once she had the cart ready, she learned that she was required to cook all of the food in a commercial kitchen in order to be able to sell from a cart. She needed to be in a space with the proper cleaning supplies and equipment to make sure that her food was being held to the same standards as a restaurant’s food would be, so she began renting a commercial kitchen space in Jersey City. After renting the kitchen, she thought she just had to get permits for the cart to move it wherever she wanted to sell. However, after calling a ton of people and asking a lot of questions, she found out that a permit is required in each city that you sell in unless you’re doing a private event. With this information, she was able to get a permit to sell in Jersey City. But, as her business expands, she’ll need to start the process over again in each city that she wants to sell in.

Rollin Oat Cart

The positive side of building the business on her own is the fact that Stephanie is now in control of every aspect of it, from the menu to the logo/branding to her social media, all of it comes from her. With only one hourly employee who helps her with big events and her boyfriend who helps her with networking, she truly is a one woman operation. She came up with all of the recipes for her pre-made bowl options (bananas foster, s’mores and margherita, just to name a few) and is continually thinking of new recipes to taste test or new offerings that she can provide to improve her customers’ experience. Although her business started with the oatmeal bar as it’s only product and her events were going well, she felt that things were beginning to slow down as the summer approached. She realized that consumers may not want hot oatmeal in the summer so she came up with her overnight oats, which she pitched as a new summer product and sampled at companies where she had already done events. She now has a delivery service set up so that clients can order their overnight oats on Friday for the following week and stock them in their fridge at the office. Another new product that she launched for the summer is her oat milk. She realized that she was buying a lot of oat milk to make the overnight oats and decided to cut out the middle man and start making it herself. She looked up a recipe and made it over and over again until she figured out her own flavor and recipe that she could generate in large quantities. For Stephanie, the most rewarding part of the business has been feedback from the customers. When things get stressful or she gets worried that a recipe won’t work but then she hears customers raving about the food or the business concept itself, that to her is priceless. Which is why it’s important to her that The Rollin’ Oat always has something new and exciting for customers to be surprised by and look forward to. She’s always been a person who looks for and embraces change so she doesn’t want to keep just the same five or ten bowls on the menu. She wants to keep it fresh and change up the bowls every month so that she can continue expanding the idea of what oatmeal can be. And when times get tough, the feedback from customers is what keeps her going because it lets her know that her business idea is going to work.

Stephanie says that jumping into the fitness industry at Equinox and getting that sales training was so beneficial because it really prepared her for owning her own business. As a business owner, you have to be able to sell your own product and due to her sales training, she knows the questions to ask when people are interested in the product and she knows how to get people to see the value in what she’s selling. The Rollin’ Oat has allowed her to use her background in sales, food and design to create a unique product that shows people that oatmeal doesn’t have to be boring or plain. It can be fun and different while also being good for you. Moving forward, Stephanie plans to permanently station a cart in Jersey City and then open another cart in Manhattan and continue to grow the business from there, eventually having multiple carts in multiple locations between New York and New Jersey. But as of right now, just being able to run her own food business is deeply rewarding for her because food is her passion and seeing her vision come to life after always believing that she would do it one day motivates her to keep working harder to make her plan a reality. She wants the business to be successful because she knows that it can be but also because she needs it to work. This business is her future, so she’ll continue to think of new recipes and products and do research and hustle and promote the business because it’s up to her to keep things going. But, she says, “when you love what you’re doing, you don’t ever stop”.

 

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