As an Italian-American, Christine grew up surrounded by family, love and food. Lots and lots of food. When her kids left for college, she wanted to continue that connection to cooking by following her passion.
CiCi’s Italian Cookies are handmade, per her Nana Julie’s recipes and all natural ingredients. Recently, we caught up with Christine to learn more about her journey and hear her advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
01 Why did you start CiCi’s Italian Cookies?
I felt like it was time to reinvent myself after my kids moved out of the house. I grew up surrounded by food and I’ve always had a great appreciation for how it brings people together, so this was a natural fit!
Many of my fondest childhood memories are tied to food. Every Christmas, my Nana Julie would give me a tin of her homemade Italian cookies. Starting my own company was a big leap, but moments like that made my decision that much easier. After all, if the memory of a delicious homemade cookie makes me so happy, wouldn’t it do that for other people too?
One day, I made a batch of Nana Julie’s Italian butterhorns and brought them to the local market in hopes they’d sell them. They said yes and my business was born! I wanted to call my company a name that my future grandchildren would call me, so CiCi’s it was. Ten years later, I have two beautiful granddaughters and my very own business, CiCi’s Italian Cookies.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
Scaling! As an Italian-American, making large quantities of food came naturally to me. But, keeping up with a whole new level of demand was tough. Baking all these cookies by hand with the right ingredients took some trial and error. Fortunately, I had lots of help from my family early on. Since then, we’ve put together an amazing, inspired team to enable our continued growth.
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
You can do it! It seems so simple, but sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to go for it. Starting a business from scratch takes a lot of work, but, ultimately, it’s worth it.
It’s important to stick to your values. You may be tempted to cut corners, but you should never compromise on key pillars like ingredients, company culture, or the quality of your employees! Hold on to what you believe in and the reasons why you started in the first place. It shows through in the end and customers really appreciate it.
It’s also crucial to learn from everyone around you. God puts in your path! For the most part, people want to help you succeed and share valuable advice. Don’t be shy — ask for help when you need it. Most importantly, don’t listen to negativity! A handful of people laughed at me when I started CiCi’s, but I used that as motivation. Never give up. Remember to laugh, smile, and enjoy the process.
04 What’s on the horizon for CiCi’s?
New cookie flavors! We’re always playing with new ideas in the kitchen. As we grow, we’ll continue to expand our kitchen and add even more to our already awesome team!
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
I walk a lot, spend time with family and friends, and pray! It’s easy to let a new business consume you, especially in the beginning. But, as your business grows, it’s important to invest in yourself and your own wellbeing. Otherwise, there won’t be anything for your team to draw from. I try to keep a healthy balance between work and life, even when things get busy. Having an upbeat company culture helps, because my incredible team makes work so much fun.
My family inspires me on a daily basis — they’re truly my biggest cheerleaders! You’ll always be driven when you’re surrounded by that much love and support. Plus, my granddaughters inspire me to keep things fresh and try new recipes. They’re the best taste testers I could ever ask for.