Founder and CEO of The Fancy Schmancy Co., Kathleen Tozzi, has always loved sharing good food with others. From a young age, she worked in a family restaurant and helped her parents throw huge parties. After graduating from culinary and hospitality school, Kathleen worked her way up at Whole Foods Market, learning the ins and outs of leadership, management, and a great cheese board. Eventually, Kathleen decided that she wanted to turn this passion into a career.
Kathleen began making crackers and other accompaniments for cheese boards and meals, sharing with friends and guests she hosted via Airbnb. She realized that she loved helping and inspiring others to entertain as much as being the entertainer herself. In 2017, she moved back to the Washington, D.C. area to join Union Kitchen’s Accelerator and launch The Fancy Schmancy Co.
Did you always know that you wanted to start your own business?
I grew up in my family’s businesses and have been entrepreneurial my whole life, including when working for larger companies. I always assumed I would start my own business at some point. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs it actually feels more natural for me than working a “normal job”.
Why did you start your business?
First, it’s the joy that comes from sharing good food. It’s so rewarding to me to know I get to feed people quality food and help others feed the ones they love. Sharing food on special occasions and in special moments is my favorite part. The hostess in me loves to encourage a little creativity and joy in even the simplest of meals. But, I also love the magic of creating something from scratch. Creating a business is so much like making a feast from scratch without much of a recipe. You read and do research and try things and maybe make a few (or a lot of) mistakes and some things turn out brilliant. It’s so rewarding to share it with others.
How did you pick the product?
I can honestly say I never could have imagined I’d own a cracker company! But, I feel like it makes all the sense in the world now. It started with making crackers for a cheese board at a Friends-giving dinner. I got excited about them (as I often do with a new kitchen endeavor) and couldn’t stop sharing my little star-shaped snacks and playing around with developing recipes for more. I’m constantly experimenting with potential new items and love watching and learning from reactions of friends and guests.
What do you like about food? What drew you to the food industry?
As a kid I just liked making things with my hands that had such a practical purpose and yet could still make people so happy. I suppose that’s still the essence of what makes working in food so special. It is an absolute necessity. But, food has the magic of endless creativity and a way of connecting people like nothing else. Of course, the industry is full of really hard work. But I’ve always liked that challenge.
How did you get into your first store?
Well, one of the benefits of being in the Union Kitchen community is connection to the Union Kitchen Grocery stores. But after that it’s all about just reaching out and trying! And lots of samples!
What was it like pitching your first buyer? Any tips/advice?
My best advice is to find three things or selling points that make your product and company special and be genuine, excited and confident in the way you share them. Also, explain how you plan on marketing your company and product. I also like to try and solicit as much feedback as I can get, no matter what the outcome of the sales pitch. It not only is a great opportunity to learn but helps to create a relationship and partnership instead of just giving the impression you only want the sale. Every store has its own vibe and energy that is the culmination of the team, the products they carry and the customer base. Learning about what they look for, who they cater to and the “why” behind how they do business is incredibly fascinating to me.
How do you encourage repeat sales? Do you demo? Use social media? Events?
Getting food into customers mouths is the BEST way to grow sales. Social media is awesome for awareness and finding great partners and advocates and even communicating with and learning from customers. But, the more people that taste your food and hear your story the more customers you will have. Nothing beats standing right there with customers.
In honor of Women’s History Month we are featuring a different female entrepreneur every week! Check back in next week to hear from another Union Kitchen maker (or two!) about their philosophies, struggles, and successes.