Chief Cookie Officer and Philadelphia entrepreneur, Michelle Silberman, first dreamed up the Cookie Cup in seventh grade.
Being a Fair Lawn, NJ native, Silberman was able to make the move out to Philadelphia to attend and graduate Drexel University where she was able to make her dreams come true at a young age by creating ChocAmo.
Today, her homemade creations are available in local and national markets because of her determination and commitment.
I recently spoke with Silberman to discuss her work and how it all started in order to understand who she was and how she achieved such success despite the challenges that surrounded her.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I am a first generation American; while growing up I heard the vast tales of how both sides of my family immigrated here with less than a few dollars to their name.
They left their homes, family, friends, belongings and careers. Both sets of my grandparents were driven to make a better life for their next generation, and I feel it is my duty to honor their sacrifice.
Their entrepreneurial spirit pumps through my veins, and it inspires me to have their support today.
How did you get the idea for ChocAmo?
Back in Ms. Wheeler’s 7th grade class, my best friend and I came up with the most delicious idea.
Everybody loves cookies & milk; why not marry the two? Years later, I pitched the concept to my college Entrepreneurship Class.
Professor Finnin urged me to prototype it , so it all began in my dorm’s communal kitchen.
After innumerable hours, heaps of flour, and thousands of chocolate chips, the perfect Cookie Cup was born!
What difficulties did you face with ChocAmo and how did you overcome them?
Since the Cookie Cup is such a unique product we have had to customize a lot along the way.
With limited financial resources, I bootstrapped the company and kept our spending very lean.
Most aspects of production had to be built from scratch, though this appears to be a huge difficulty - it also doubles as the key opportunity that allowed us to experience first mover advantage.
When did you know that ChocAmo was going to be a success?
A little over a year ago, one of the most respected chefs in Philadelphia tasted a Cookie Cup right in front of me.
My heart was pounding with excitement as it quickly filled with fear.
Marc Vetri approached me and said, “I think this is a great idea, but you should consider using fresh milled flour.”
Needless to say that moment was branded in my mind.
I decided right then that ChocAmo would be built on the premise of quality ingredients coupled with innovation.
Have you faced any challenges along the way specifically related to your age and gender?
To some I’m sure that age and gender can appear to be a challenge, but I always like to flip it into an advantage.
The fact that I started this as a student entrepreneur allowed me to reach out to giants within the industry for their advice and guidance.
So many incredible people have mentored me along that way.
What difficulties and challenges have you faced along the way in your career and how did you overcome them?
There were and still are times when doubt becomes extremely palpable.
The financial state of a budding entrepreneur along with the constant ups and downs, can be extremely stressful.
One of my mentors helped me map out a morning routine. Keeping a balanced state of mind is the most crucial part of dealing with the everyday challenges of entrepreneurship - and life in general.
First, I stare at my reflection in the mirror and recite a positive affirmation, (ie: you’re going to have a kick*** day!) This seemed silly at first but proved to be impactful very quickly.
Then, I meditate for 5 - 20 minutes, drink my morning cup of tea, do my best to get a workout in, shower and embark on with my day!
I noticed a huge shift in my mood, productivity and overall peace of mind right away.
Where do you see ChocAmo going in the future?
I envision that the word ChocAmo will be synonymous with Cookie Cup, as Kleenex is to tissue.
Our team is aiming to expand the reach of the product regionally now, and then embark on national growth in mid 2017.
We would like to stock the shelves of every Whole Foods, liquor store, coffee shop and become the centerpiece dessert of any special occasion.
It’s time to spread the #SnackTimeRevolution by inspiring taste buds everywhere!
What piece of advice would you give to young aspiring women entrepreneurs that could help them in their careers?
Jim Rohn says it best, “You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with,” so choose wisely.
Make sure to spend time with people who are supportive and passionate about what they do. Each person you come across in life brings out a specific side of you, whether it be inspiration, wit, joy, introspection; be mindful of the qualities you want to manifest.
And take a moment to think about what role you play in the lives of your most cherished people.
I like to boil down the purpose of life to this statement, “leave every person just a little bit better than how you found them!”
If you would like to assist in Michelle's kickstarter which will allow ChocAmo to purchase and design new machinery to expand production capacity, increase margins, and position the company to work with distributors, please click here.
These efforts will increase ChocAmo’s availability in grocery stores and cafes near you!