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Businesswomen offer insights to their successes at Women in Food, Beverage and Hospitality event

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Loren Brill addresses the audience at the event as panelists Claire Marin, Simone Klabin and Sylvia Baldini listen. Photo by Bob Rozycki

Celebrating female entrepreneurship and empowering women to start their own businesses, Westfair’s Women in Food, Beverage and Hospitality event focused on four local entrepreneurs who detailed the successes and hardships they experienced in creating their own businesses.

For panelist Loren Brill, it was dealing with a life-threatening disease that led her to creating her business. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at just 22 years old, Brill became more conscious of what she was putting into her body, she told attendees at the VIP Country Club in New Rochelle on Sept. 27. She found there was a gap in the market for healthy alternatives to traditional baked goods. After hours of baking different batches in her mother’s “test” kitchen, she created Sweet Loren’s, a cookie dough brand utilizing all-natural ingredients.

As for others, finding independence and pursuing their passions were the catalysts. Recent studies show that flexible work hours are correlated to higher levels of happiness and productivity. Many women claimed that having that flexible schedule was one of the driving factors that led them to starting their own companies.

“I never wanted to go back and work for somebody else. I wanted to be able to have a family and to travel the world,” said Silvia Baldini, creator of Strawberry and Sage in New Canaan. “I wanted to have something of mine, and it was important to me.” Baldini found even greater success as a chef after becoming a 2015 champion of Food Network’s “Chopped,” a reality show in which four chefs compete to create a three-course meal with unlikely ingredients.

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The event was moderated by Gilda Bonanno of Gilda Bonanno LLC. Photo by Bob Rozycki

But despite the independence that running your own business may allow, each woman admitted there were times they felt defeated. Many left careers in entirely separate industries to start a new venture, such as Simone Klabin, who had previously worked in film and law before authoring her book, “Food and Drink Infographics.”

“You have this idea and this energy that you’re putting toward this new business from nothing,” said Claire Marin, founder and CEO of Catskill Provisions, an artisanal food and craft spirits company. She explained that starting a new business from scratch is an ongoing learning process.

She recalled bringing her products to New York City and knocking on restaurant doors to build relationships with chefs and get Catskill Provisions into their kitchens, hoping that they would then stock the brand’s whiskey behind the bar.

Brill said that “every time I got to a really low point, something magical would happen in 24 hours. I would meet Hoda Kotb from the ‘Today Show’ and ‘think this is a sign.’”

Whether it was meeting an influential television personality or simply receiving a card from a fan praising her product, there were occurrences both large and small that inspired her to keep going when things got difficult.

“Businesses are never perfect the minute they start,” said Brill, emphasizing that her key to success was to keep tweaking her recipes to create the best possible product, and “really building a smart business behind a good idea.”

The four women assured the audience that the journey to owning your own business can be a difficult process, but that following your passion is worth it in the end. They emphasized the importance of supporting your great idea with smart business practices.

“Find your niche, have a plan and be very business savvy,” said Baldini.

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