Above photo: Banana nut Joyffles with bananas, figs, and coconut flake ~
The happiest day of my life was June 5, 2002: I gave birth to my twins, Sophia and Max.
A single mom by choice, I was now in a family by choice. All of this was amazing — except that I earned my living as the principal in a boutique press and marketing agency for Broadway shows touring the U.S. and Canada.
My very first national tour was Jekyll & Hyde, which launched in Houston. Having two kids simultaneously did not fit this lifestyle, so I needed to diversify my practice. When the kids were two years old, I headed to graduate school to study non-profit management and fundraising. (I also snuck in as many naps as possible in the quiet room at school.)
Juggling two kids, school, and some consulting projects was tough, but I was fortunate to continue working in theatre while expanding my practice as a fundraising and marketing consultant. One of my clients was Elizabeth Dembrowsky, the founder of Good Counsel Services, Inc. (GCS), a non-profit offering affordable legal services to non-profits and social entrepreneurs. At one of our meetings, I brought lunch to her office, including my new gluten-free waffle invention. She loved them!
Before I left, she took me aside and handed me a check.
“I think you’ve got a great product and should go into business,” she said. “To prove it, here’s $50. I’m your first customer. Please bring me a batch of waffles next time I see you.”
I had always toyed with the idea of one day starting my own food business. Elizabeth’s words were just the kind of encouragement I needed.
Through GCS, Elizabeth helped me file the paperwork needed to incorporate and served as a resource. She was tremendously supportive. I was excited and quickly obtained my food handlers license and contacted the Small Business Association (SBA) to find other resources and information.
However, at the time I wasn’t ready to start a new business. I believed the gluten-free waffles were indeed a viable business idea and one I had every intention of starting — just not yet.
I was overwhelmed. The possibilities for success or failure seemed endless. There were so many things to decide: What would I call them? How and where would I sell them? Who is my target market? In addition to gluten-free people, will the gluten-loving public like them?
Then there was the question of how I could run a business in my tiny New York City apartment with two growing kids. And, of course: How was I going to do all of this on my own?
I concluded the perfect time to put my words and recipe into action would be when my kids left for college. But then the pandemic hit. Given the necessary protocols, it was impossible to have people taste my product in stores or at outdoor markets. I needed a “proof-of-concept” before I could move forward with Joyffles — the name upon which I’d finally decided for my gluten-free waffles.
By the summer of 2021, outdoor markets had started to re-open, some protocols were lifted, people were out and about, and my kids were leaving for their Sophomore years at college. The timing finally felt right, and my kids’ bedrooms were free to be stuffed with supplies, ingredients, boxes, signage, and all kinds of stuff I never knew I would need.
I was all-in and ready!
On September 12 (one day after my 62nd birthday), I made my first public sale of Joyffles — a delicious, nutritious, gluten-free, oatmeal-based waffle. It was a gorgeous day, and New York City was ready to celebrate the start of the fall season.
I’d reserved a booth at the “Grand Bazaar,” on Columbus Avenue and West 77th Street. The event was bursting with incredible vendors and an excited crowd. I felt so lucky to be a part of it. That said, I had no idea what I was doing and what to expect. How many Joyffles should I make? How many samples should I prepare?
We are still in a pandemic. Will people be receptive to talking to strangers and tasting Joyffles?
Thankfully, gratefully, the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.”