Name: Luciana Contuzzi
Business/Location: zest/Fairfield, NJ
Specialty: Our menu items which include salads, smoothies, juices and baked goods, are made from naturally, gluten and dairy free ingredients.
What problem does your business solve?: My business offers Fairfield residents a local, healthy food option.
What’s your story?: I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. When I was about 7, I would call my 4-year old sister into my room, throw my hands into the air and announce "ROOOOOM SALES!" Then I would sell her random items and make her use her change from her piggy bank to pay me, even though she could've clearly used them without a fee!
After high school, I attended Seton Hall University and decided to major in finance and information technology management because I believed that they would be useful when I opened my own business. At the time, I didn’t know what type of business I wanted to open, but never stopped having the dream. After graduation, I started my first full time job but after six months, I realized that entrepreneurship was my calling, so I left to pursue my dream. And food entrepreneurship seemed like a natural fit.
In the past, I suffered with having an unhealthy relationship with food. At one point, I was 90 pounds and knew that I needed to get back on track. So, I researched healthier eating habits and became fascinated by the power of food. I successfully gained weight in a healthy way and started making working out a part of my daily routine. A few years later, I had a stomach infection and rather than turn to antibiotics, I eliminated gluten and dairy from my diet, drank green juice every morning and took homeopathic drops. This worked for me.
I opened zest in 2014 to share the power of gluten and dairy free foods with others. Those who suffer with allergies or intolerances or just want to feel better about their relationship with food can enjoy a meal that tastes good and provides nutrients to their body.
One piece of advice you have for other food entrepreneurs: Never stop believing in your product and put everything you have into realizing your vision.
What do you wish you had known before you started your business?: Many people told me owning a business would take over my life. I'm someone who needs to be constantly busy, so I knew I could take on the challenge. However, I did not realize it really would take over my life. My café is open 7 days a week and I'm here 99% of the time. When I'm not here, I'm answering calls, texts and emails about the business. The job never ends, but I love it.
What’s your greatest challenge in your business and how are you overcoming it?: I am definitely Type A and have trouble delegating tasks to others. From dealing with customers to running payroll to making smoothies, I want to do everything. Being able to hand out tasks and trust my employees is the biggest challenge. Luckily, I have an AMAZING team by my side that made this issue easier for me to overcome.
What do you love most about being a food entrepreneur?: I love seeing the faces and hearing the positive feedback from customers, whether it’s their first visit or hundredth visit, that food can be healthy and tasty. Of course, I also love taste testing all the recipes!
Interested in being featured? Contact Us.