New Year…New Sweet Beginnings

At the start of new year we tend to have a renewed sense of hope…establish goals we want accomplish….set resolutions to help better our selves. We feel full of excitement and motivation to tackle on any challenges that may come our way…because we’re determined to make this year better than the last. This feeling of new beginnings reminds me of how in the start of 2010, we embarked on a new venture and how Sweet Silk was born.

I had come with the idea and concept of creating refined or elegant Indian sweets in 2009 after returning from working in Dubai. I was inspired by all the gorgeous European chocolate and confectionaries I visited while I lived there. I also rediscovered all the rich ingredients and spices that make Middle Eastern and Indian sweets so unique. So, as my first catering “job”, I decided to create my version of indian sweets “dressed up” like petite fours for my best friend’s wedding. I created my fist two sweet flavors based on the flavors my friend and her husband loved; coconut with cardamom and dark chocolate ganache and Mejdool dates with hint of rose and studded with pistachios. I decorated each sweet with fondant flowers and bows and packaged the two sweets inside favor gift boxes my sister and I designed inspired by the blue and silver art deco dress of the bride. Each guest received a box that was inscribed with a message from the bride and groom.

V&S Sweet Favors 2

I never imagined it would take 4 continuous days for me to execute this plan, but once we saw the reaction on everyone’s face at the wedding and got positive feedback on taste, we knew it was worth every minute. That was when we knew we may be on the verge of something big!

So the start of 2010 my brother, my sister and I decided to pool together our talents, brainstorm and work together to make this vision come to life. All of January, we worked on a ideas, mission, company name and branding during the nights and I’d experiment with my mom and aunts during the day to develop my recipes and sweet flavors. In February, we conducted our first focus group where we had guests conduct a survey on everything from taste to aesthetics. Fueled with motivation and positive feedback, we kept moving full steam ahead in the coming months by obtaining our business license, making our sweets in a commercial kitchen, landing more catering jobs and continuing to collaborate to refine all of our ideas. Before we knew it summer flew by and in August we decided to take the leap and launch our first product line for sale with party in NYC. Shortly after we got our website up and running and began selling our Signature Collection online in time for Diwali. We even got an amazing feature in the New York Times before Christmas which helped spread the word about Sweet Silk throughout the country. We even got an order from someone in Japan who read about our story!

As fun and exhilarating as that first year was for all of us, it wasn’t short of its unforeseen challenges, hard work and many sleepless nights. Aside from obvious struggles of starting a new business, I faced some personal struggles with a complete change in my career and lifestyle. I wasn’t prepared for constantly having to prove myself or my vision to those who I thought would be supportive and understanding. At moments I found myself even struggling with self doubt.  ”What was I thinking to do this in my 30′s!!”  However, through it all I had to keep reminding myself why I started Sweet Silk. I knew I didn’t want keep working in “jobs” or have a career took over my life for sake of making hefty paycheck and……rather work for something I believe in and enjoy creating and sharing something I love.

I discovered along the way, that I wasn’t the only one facing these issues but many of my own peers and college friends who’ve made some life changing transitions have faced similar challenges. I was introduced to Vitra Singh by a good friend and found out that she had been going through similar struggles. She found herself inspired by many people she’s met and spoke to along way and was compelled to share these stories in a book to help others considering a life change and begin “Living Life For Yourself, Not Your Job”.

In this book, Vitra Singh shares the stories of 24 people who courageously reinvented their careers in a way that worked for them. Whether they turned a hobby into a full-time job, tried various avenues until they found a passion, or were forced to figure it out when life got in the way. Their journeys prove ordinary people like you and me can change the course of our careers if we want it badly enough. While it may be easy to stay in your current job, this book inspires you to start exploring a profession that will give you a sense of purpose and joy. This book shares the experiences of each of these individuals—their frustrations, fears, doubts, and strength as they boldly transformed the quality of their lives by refusing to settle for their 9 to 5 job.

I was honored to be included as one of those 24 people in this book where I was asked to answer some hard questions and reveal personal feelings and struggles. In some way having her ask me these questions and reading about the others who went through similar struggles helped me battle with own issues and made me stronger for it. I have to admit that through it all, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish or got this far without the help of my family, especially my sibling partners.

So for anyone else out there wanting to make some big changes or start a new path in 2013……read Vitra’s book or talk to others that may be able to help or provide source of inspiration…..and at the risk of sounding cliche….don’t hesitate and doubt yourself…JUST DO IT!

Going Nuts for Cashews

Recently, my brother came up to me and said “Hey have you ever heard of these guys…their cashews look soooo good….let’s try them!”.  He was referring to the Brooklyn based artisanal cashew company Nuts+Nuts. This Brooklyn based artisanal cashew company provides the freshest cashews that are farm direct from Indonesian. They offer a variety of snack packs filled with roasted cashews blends based on their own family recipes made with local, fresh and all-natural ingredients.

We ordered their sampler pack, which came with 4 snack packs with a variety of roasted cashews: Spicy, Honey Sesame, Sweet & Salty and Lightly Salted.  We devoured them all immediately upon receiving them!  I loved the quality of their packaging to maintain freshness of the amazing quality of cashews. Our favorites were the Spicy cashews, that had a tangy kick, and the Honey Sesame cashews, which were crunchy sweet!

Nuts+Nuts Spicy & Honey Sesame with Sweet Silk Coconut Cashew Truffles (center)

Since we loved the cashews so much, we decided to try using Nuts+Nuts plain roasted cashews to make some of our sweets. Once I received these gorgeous cashews, I began testing them out for some of our sweets. Maybe it was the fact that that the cashews looked like they’ve been soaking up some rays in a tropical paradise to get that perfect golden tan or the Asian influence of Nuts+Nuts flavors, but I had an idea.  ”Why not highlight the deep roasted nutty flavor” and thus shortly after, I began creating a variety of cashew truffles!  These truffles have a soft cashew filling that is made with the same technique as our sweets to obtain that fudge like texture but coated in chocolate and rolled with a topping.

We contacted one of the owners, Cyrilla Suwarsa, to see if she would be interested in trying out our new creations and collaborate with us. After meeting Cyrilla, hearing her story and knowing her and her husband really enjoyed our Coconut Cashew Truffle, I knew we had a great match! Not only do our products complement each other, but I was especially drawn to our similarities as women entrepreneurs with a family operated business.

Cyrilla started Nuts+Nuts with her sister Caecilia to help provide much needed support to local famers in Indonesia to create high-grade cashew nuts. The sisters teamed up with an expert in agriculture to work together with these farmers in a symbiotic relationship. The cashew nuts are purchased directly from the farmers and are cured with a unique and special family recipe in small batches to create delicious, freshly roasted snacks, using only natural ingredients and no preservatives. It was unfortunately in 2003 when Cyrilla was diagnosed with Lupus that led to this collaboration with her sister, but now through Nuts+Nuts, both sisters aim to raise awareness about Lupus and give courage, comfort, and strength to all those who suffer from the disease. Additionally, Nuts+Nuts hopes to foster the cashew nuts industry in Indonesia, providing the farmers with additional knowledge about agriculture and allowing their children to have a better education and a brighter future.

 

So we thought we’d share our discovery and have teamed up with Nuts+Nuts to offer a sweet & savory gift!  Sweet Silk presents our new Coconut Cashew Truffles that are made using Nuts+Nuts plain roasted cashews with a pinch of cardamom, dipped in milk chocolate and rolled in coconut. Inspired by the organic nature of the product and the company’s mission, we’ve packaged our treats in a kraft ballotin truffle box tied with raffia ribbons.

So, maybe you can’t take a tropical vacation, but you can take your palate on a journey through Indonesia & India! So visit our online shop to purchase a gift box of our Coconut Cashew Truffles (gluten-free!) along with Spicy and Honey Sesame snack packs from Nuts+Nuts for your own escape or as a gift for someone who may need a delicious getaway!