She's selling love at first bite

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Michelle Silberman , founder of ChocAmo, with some of her cookie cups.

MICHELLE SILBERMAN, 23, of Powelton Village, is founder and chief cookie officer of ChocAmo (pronounced Cho-CAH-mo) Cookie Cups. Silberman started the artisan dessert company in 2014 while she was a junior at Drexel studying entrepreneurship and marketing. She hopes to grow ChocAmo - "love for chocolate" - into a national brand. Cookie cups come in various flavors and can hold hot or cold liquid: milk, espresso, ice cream, liquor or wine.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea?

A: I was in an entrepreneurship class in my freshman year and was part of a team in a pitch competition. When we couldn't agree on a concept, I mentioned [ChocAmo] as a joke, we pitched it and were the only team not to pitch a tech startup. My teacher said afterward that it was very interesting and that I should pursue it.

Q: The startup money?

A: It was completely bootstrapped and all my co-op money went toward it, about $6,000. For the last six months, the company has been self-sustainable with revenues of almost $10,000.

Q: What's a cookie cup?

A: It's an edible vessel, a cup made out of cookies coated with chocolate or frosting on the inside. It took two years to develop the recipe, and our cups can hold hot or cold liquid.

Q: The biz model?

A: We started with the end consumer, selling boxes of cookie cups around the holiday season and gift baskets with coffee and French presses. When we realized how much time we invested chasing that market, we pivoted to larger-volume sales, so now our focus is on catering events like fundraisers, graduations and parties. We see a model where we wholesale to coffee shops, ice-cream parlors and restaurants.

Q: How will the wholesale model evolve?

A: We had a huge order recently and it took us the whole week to fulfill, so right now we're looking to outsource production. We need to purchase equipment a baking co-packer can use that's compatible with our molds. I went to the Fancy Food Show in New York and saw equipment companies we could work with. The question is how much the equipment would cost and do we take out a loan or pitch to investors? Time is a factor because we have a unique concept and need to be the first to market.

Q: What do cups cost?

A: A box of six cups is $20. Event sales usually range from 150 to 500 cups, but there's a discount on volume sales.

Q: Biggest challenge?

A: Producing large quantities quickly. I didn't realize we'd grow this fast. One of my biggest concerns is giving someone else our recipe. Even with a nondisclosure agreement, you're trusting them on faith.

Q: How big a biz?

A: Three part-time people help me.


On Twitter: @MHinkelman

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