Alumni Startup: Cocoamains

Food Start Up Help is a consulting group started by colleagues at ICE, which assists entrepreneurs in bakery-related startup concept definition and business planning, financing, menu profitability, production and operational efficiency. Today, we celebrate the success story of one of our clients, ICE Professional Pastry Program Alum and Chef/Owner of Cocoamains, Kathleen Escamilla-Hernandez.

Inception and Planning

Kathleen finished the ICE program in January 2011 and was hired out of her externship at Bouchon Bakery. There she began dreaming about starting her own business – something she had always wanted as a goal.  Food Start Up Help supported Kathleen with initial concept planning and menu design.

Kathleen: “I had been developing a variety of baked goods but wasn’t sure what products would sell.  Any entrepreneur in the food business needs unbiased feedback on their product. Chefs Jeff and Kathryn helped me develop my menu and figure out where to sell my product."


Farmers Market Launch

Since Kathleen is the kind of person who never sleeps, she was able to keep working at her bakery production job while researching farmers markets, obtaining licenses and insurance and locating a commercial kitchen for production. FSUH pitched in with ingredient sourcing and recipe cost analysis for Kathleen's pound cakes, bar cookies, madeleines, and macarons.

Kathleen: “I was able to handle many aspects of my new business independently, but appreciate that Chef Kathryn was able to verify my cost estimates before I finalized my retail and wholesale prices. Nobody should go into business without solid knowledge of their cost structure.”

Packaging and Design

Kathleen got a fantastic lead to sell her macaron line to Macy’s on an exclusive basis, to be sold as a refrigerated grab-n-go item. But at the last minute, before the paperwork was signed, the VP of the purchasing department decided that Macy’s should also sell gift boxes of Kathleen’s macarons.

Kathleen: “Food Start Up Help guided me in choosing a custom packaging design, since I needed very quick production and turn around. My husband works in graphic design, so he worked with the box manufacturer. In the end, I am so happy with my Cocoamains packaging!”


Increased Production / Troubleshooting

Cocoamain’s production levels soon outgrew the original commercial kitchen that Kathleen was renting. She located a larger incubator facility but then had to switch ovens. French-style macarons are sensitive to subtle changes, and chefs often have to reevaluate their baking strategy when they relocate to a new kitchen.

Kathleen: “I actually had to switch ovens two times in my new commercial kitchen location, which is a macaron baker’s nightmare, since each oven requires a bit of tweaking. Chef Kathryn - a macaron expert - held my hand through the production troubleshooting. Thank goodness, I now have a brand new oven and everything is back on track!”

Internet Sales

With her production and packaging logistics all figured out, Kathleen was ready to start selling Cocoamains macarons online. But to sell pre-packaged macarons at Macy's and on the internet, she needed to provide the nutritional content of her product lines.

Kathleen: “Food Start Up Help analyzed the ingredients per my recipe formulas and helped generate nutritional labels. Now that I have product, packaging and accurate labeling – we’re positioned for our first full year of Cocoamains sales!”

We look forward to seeing Cocoamains distributed at Macy's and online. It's been an exciting journey, and we wish Kathleen all the success she deserves. 

If you, like Kathleen, have an idea for a great product but aren't sure where to start, consider our "How to Successfully Open a Bakery-Related Business" class at ICE. We also offer a unique, free weekly blog magazine, featuring stories by food entrepreneurs and tips for success by subject matter experts. Learn from their lessons so you don’t have to!

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