Local Entrepreneurs Who Are Raising the Bar with Innovative Food Products

They’re making it.

Danira Cancinos

Dani’s Dulce Confections

A line of handmade chocolate-dipped fruit, cake pops and baked goods—plus online cooking classes.


Backstory

I learned the art of chocolate dipping and baking on YouTube (plus I took a few classes) and then created an Instagram account to sell my creations. Customers order and then pick up from my house in Sylmar. I began with cupcakes and then my customers started asking for other things. I started dipping strawberries, apples, Rice Krispies treats and Oreos, and then moved on to making cake pops.

 

Light Bulb Moment

I often show how I make my products on Instagram and I developed a following. I thought, why not teach this online? I started offering classes: Cheesecake 101, Cake Pop 101, Stuffed Churro, etc., and people started paying to sign up. It’s been slow growth over six years. I started offering short tutorials in Instagram and its IG Live platform. I’m a patient, thorough teacher, and I share my tips and tricks, which save my followers from a lot of trial and errors.

 

Secret to Success

Creating an authentic relationship with my audience. With my Instagram account, I have really tried to connect with all the moms out there. I am a single mom and have three children. I know how hard it is to raise kids and work and I really try to keep it real. I think my Instagram followers (almost 40,000!) respond to that. I show them not just how to create but who I am. On Wednesdays, for example, I routinely do “Ask Me Anything Wednesday” on Instagram.

 

Dream for the Future

My kids and I live with my mom, who is from Guatemala. My dream—and I hope it will be soon—is for her to retire from her job as a housekeeper and for me to be able to support her. That is my goal.

Photographed by Michael Becker

Staness Jonekos

Eat Like a Woman

A line of products specifically formulated for women that are free of gluten, soy, dairy, egg, sugar and alcohol.


Light bulb Moment

During the research process of writing my first book, The Menopause Makeover, with women’s health expert Dr. Wendy Klein, I discovered that the FDA banned all females from all clinical trials in 1977. Menopause hormone therapy was originally tested on males. I was horrified when I found out that women’s health had not received equal attention.

With the support of Dr. Klein and Dr. Marjorie Jenkins, another leader in gender-specific science, I spent years locating research that used females and did not average the findings with males. The results were so surprising that I wrote my second book: Eat Like a Woman. As part of the book tour, my publisher suggested I create some women’s nutrition bars embracing this new science. The bars sold like crazy, and within a year I had a food and beverage startup.

 

I Knew I’d Made It When…

The Eat Like A Woman product line was formally launched last September on QVC TV and sold out in eight minutes! It was so exciting, and we have been working hard to keep up with demand as I continue to develop new products.

 

What’s New

We are about to release our Happy Cookie, inspired by the scientific fact that females synthesize tryptophan (precursor to serotonin, our feel-good hormone) less effectively than males do. This difference contributes to the fact that females suffer from more mood-related disorders and depression than men. They are only 190 calories, plant-based, and taste decadent.

 

Get Your Hands on Some

Currently the Eat Like a Woman product line is sold on Amazon, eatlikeawoman.com, convenience stores like 7-Eleven, and Chevron stations.

 

Secret to Success

With so many diets and food plans in the world, it can be confusing to figure out what is best for you but Eat Like a Woman takes the thinking out of food. We’ve done the research and we’re surrounded by leaders in women’s health and nutritional science. We know what is good for a woman’s body.

Nicole Dean

Kollo Tea

A line of premium, cold-brew bottled iced tea that does not contain sweeteners or preservatives.


Backstory

I’ve been exclusively a tea drinker for about 10+ years now, and I saw what I believed to be a hole in the market for a premium, healthy, cold-brew, bottled iced tea. I began researching the market extensively and decided to take a trip to Japan to learn more about the origins and preparation of green tea. Upon seeing the ubiquitous nature of unsweetened, bottled green tea available in Japan, I decided that there might also be a customer base for such products in the U.S., and thus Kollo was born.

 

What’s New

Pre-COVID, a large segment of our business was servicing top-tier hotels, restaurants, and members’ clubs in LA, New York and Las Vegas. With all the recent changes in the marketplace, we are now working to expand into more traditional grocery outlets such as Whole Foods and Erewhon. We’ve also recently launched our online store and subscription program, which has been a great way to continue to provide our products to our customers nationwide, with the added convenience of home delivery.

 

Get Your Hands on Some

Currently our three tea varieties—black tea, oolong tea and green tea—can be found locally at Gucci Osteria, Eataly Century City, Erewhon stores, and Red Window Coffee in Studio City, as well as online at thekollo.com.

 

Secret to Success

We try our best to focus on doing a few things well, rather than be everything to everyone. Our products seem very simple in concept, but an incredible amount of thought has been put into the sourcing and quality of the tea leaves, the cold-brew production process, the water used to brew, and the aesthetic of the packaging, in order to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. It is very tempting to feel like you need to compete with every other product in your category, but we focus on providing quality above all else and hope that this comes across in our teas.

Tenny (right) with her business partner, Jehan Agrama

Tenny Avenisian

Lemonette

A line of salad dressings and marinades that are non-GMO and have no vinegar, sugar, soy, dairy, canola oil, artificial colors/preservatives, MSG, gluten or cholesterol.


Backstory

My husband and I both grew up in Armenian households where lemons were the base for salads, sauces and stews. When we got married, we often cooked together, and the common denominator in our repertoire was lemons. As work and parental responsibilities increased, I no longer had the time and luxury to whip up sauces and dressings from scratch. I started searching and tasted a few that had lemon, but those dressings didn’t satisfy my palate. The lemon diluted; I wanted lemon as the focal point. Once I saw that it did not exist, 10 years ago I took it upon myself to create that product line.

 

Pivotal Moment

It wasn’t a moment but a year: 2019. Lemonette graduated from being a one-woman West Coast operation to a full-fledged national business. A loyal customer reached out to me and connected me to his daughter and we formed a partnership. We got Lemonette in Sprouts Markets—all 350 stores, coast to coast.

 

Get Your Hands on Some

Lemonette is in 700+ stores all over the U.S. In addition to Sprouts, it’s available at Gelson’s, Bristol Farms, Erewhon and online.

 

Secret to Success

Passion, perseverance, and multitasking. At the start of my journey I did not have a formal business or culinary education. I still don’t. However, I taught myself the basics, and that, combined with my drive, is the formula for Lemonette’s success. Instead of romanticizing the notion, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the unglamorous and tedious aspects of starting a brand from scratch.

At the start of my journey, I was single-handedly keeping the brand afloat. Although I now delegate some of those tasks, I’ve kind of come full circle with the quarantine. As a mother to three, wife, teacher, homemaker and working professional, I’m multitasking constantly. As a female, I have that multitasking gene that allows me to manage and shift gears. It worked then—and it’s working now.

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