From raising money to repair a car and unwinding from a hectic job to health diagnoses and happening upon an opportunity to solve a common problem, nine food entrepreneurs share their unique stories and the inspiration behind their businesses.
“[Our story] basically involves two broke college kids, a busted yellow car, and just a bunch of friends and strangers on Instagram that decided to help us out. My car was hit in front of my house. It was the only way I could get to school so a friend of mine suggested we sell our homemade banana pudding. It was always a hit at family parties. It's a recipe that Trisha created. I then messed it up but made it better somehow”. —Lloyd Ortuoste, Baonanas
“While I had a successful career in technology, the entire time I dreamed of a career in the culinary world. After having my daughters, I decided to go for it, enrolled in culinary school, and haven’t looked back! I studied Culinary Arts and Culinary Management at ICE in NYC, was a personal chef to families in Hoboken, taught cooking classes, led culinary walking tours and worked in the Saveur Magazine Test Kitchen and at Food Network. Since starting my consulting business, I’ve developed and tested thousands of recipes for Weight Watchers, filmed videos for Bed Bath Beyond and other clients, written about cooking and entertaining for everyone from Real Simple Magazine to Fit Pregnancy, helped launch new food brands and hosted live cooking events. I LOVE what I do, and feel like it reflects the real me.” — Julie Hartigan, Cooking w/Julie
“...I finally decided to build on the natural God given gifts I was given and to just do what I naturally loved. My spirit spoke to me and reminded me that I was an artist. I love all forms of art, and the art of desserts was at the top of the list. I always loved eating and creating beautiful desserts growing up. She Imagined Sweets was started after I went back to school for baking skills and began providing apple tarts and cupcakes to close family and friends. I knew over time I wanted to focus and create one small unique dessert that was memorable so that's when I decided to look into the cheesecake market. Everyone was doing cupcakes so I said why not cheesecake? I listened to the reactions of my customers after tasting my one of a kind bite-sized cheesecakes, and I knew they were what I would stick with and build on.” — Zuirrae Mitchell, She Imagined Sweets
“Hi-FiBar was started for my mom who was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes last year. We looked everywhere to find snacks that fit her new dietary restrictions but couldn’t find anything. Even the “healthy” snacks are high in sugar or packed full of artificial ingredients. There were no good options for her. So I decided to use my food science training to create a new product for her. We offer five flavors of health bars and granola, including: Pumpkin Spice Orange, Coconut Cranberry, Lemon Zest & Blueberry, Smoked Paprika and our new flavor Matcha Tea Ginger. Hi-FiBar products are healthy and delicious and my mom loves them!” — Melanie Gong, Hi-FiBar
Get tips on how to tell your own food business brand story.
“During the summer of 2015, while working a hectic job in Manhattan, I sought comfort by exploring the culinary roots of my native country, Bangladesh. I grew up eating foods made from classic South Asian peppers and spices and decided to try my hand at making hot sauce. I knew that my love for heat and spice was not enough, so I embarked on an epic pepper exploration. Chili peppers, vinegar, salt, citrus, and canning jars took over my weekends and weekday evenings. My first attempt at jarring my hot sauce was disastrous. But through countless trials and errors, I gradually perfected my product. What started as a way to de-stress, transformed into a passion and a new business.” — Sufia Hossain, Silly Chilly Hot Sauce
“Like many women, I went back to work soon after my son was born. I no longer had the time to exercise and prepare nutritious meals. As a result, my health rapidly declined. I gained weight which led to high blood pressure and a prediabetes diagnosis. I knew I had to change my lifestyle. When speaking with my work colleagues and other busy mothers, I realized that I was not alone in my quest to get healthier. So I decided to use my skills as a scientist and senior food product developer to create a food business that could provide women with healthy and delicious snacks.” — Juli-Anne Royes PhD, Juli-anne’s Tropical Kitchen
“Well, I graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre from the Boston Conservatory, and I was on the hunt for a “survival job” that would give me the flexibility to audition. This was pretty hard to come by, so I hustled and ended up doing a ton of in-store demonstrations at Whole Foods. This was oddly perfect because it allowed me to combine my passion for food and acting training to sell a lot of product. In the process, I was approached by many natural food start-ups with proposals to do demos for them. At the time, I had too much on my plate, but I did have friends who needed the work....and then LIGHT BULB! Why not be the middle woman between all of these emerging brands and all of my actor-friends who need to find survival jobs? So in 2015, Natural Talent was born…” — Lori Tishfield, Natural Talent
“We believe baking and savoring delicious treats encourages celebration and breeds happiness. However, those intolerant of or allergic to gluten often miss out on these culinary adventures. We started Bari & Betty’s to change that. Baking is a part of our family. Not only because dessert is our favorite part of the meal, but because baking is an experience like no other. It engages your senses, while being physical, creative and calming. We love gathering in the kitchen to mix batter or roll out dough into perfect circles of splendid pie crust. But when a family member was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, baking became a challenge—a misadventure often ending in disappointment. So began our quest to create a gluten free treat for everyone to enjoy. After a decade and a million flour tornadoes later, we perfected the art of gluten free pie. Now, we’re taking our Gluten Free Pie Mix to the streets.” —Laura, Melanie & Robin Goffman, Bari & Betty's Gluten Free Baking
“I am a professionally-trained chef with 12 years of experience working both front and back of house in New York and New Jersey. In 2015, after a long stint in operations, I realized that I desperately missed cooking, and quit my corporate job. As I began trying to find my next move, I kept meeting people who were struggling to feed themselves well, and many were frustrated with the meal kit options that had begun popping up. I joked that I could come over and cook those meal kits if they wanted me to, and someone actually said SURE! We laughed, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was a real thing. I wouldn't actually cook their meal kits, but I could cook similar meals, tailored to what they needed.” — Nicolle Walker, Nicolle Walker Personal Chef LLC
Get tips on how to tell your own food business brand story.