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Photo Credit : Eleni Gianopulos

Entrepreneur Turns Passion for Baking into Cookie Empire

The ways in which entrepreneurism has changed over the years is nothing short of astounding. Anyone can open a business. Your smallest hobby can turn from a side project into a full-fledged empire. No matter your age, location, gender, or product, creating a business is now a realistic proposition for most people. As mentioned, turning your small, part-time work into your main source of income is one way many entrepreneurs get their companies started. We had the opportunity to speak with Eleni Gianopulos, founder of Eleni’s New York. We learned more about the unique nut free bakery, Eleni’s background, and her advice for upcoming entrepreneurs.

Can you tell us more about Eleni’s and why you started your business?

I started Eleni’s Cookies almost 20 years ago, I wanted to have my own company, I was tired of the day to day at Time Inc. While working at LIFE magazine, was thrilling, my schedule was so unpredictable it was hard to make personal plans. My father ran his own company and I learned from him the importance of loving your work, entrepreneurial spirit to build something. My husband encouraged me to figure out what I wanted to do “big picture”, where I wanted my career to be 5 years down the line. I looked at my boss’s job, and my bosses’ bosses job, and realized I did not want either. I was fascinated by color theory, and took many courses at Parsons, and I loved to entertain friends in our home and bake.  Ultimately I combined my love of design with baking.

How did your editorial work at Time Inc. help when you started your own business?

I learned so many different things from my experiences at Time Inc., absolutely invaluable! I would advise anyone wanting their own company to first work for a large corporation.  Corporate structure, accountability, team work, staff scheduling are just a few things I learned from the LIFE production department.  For instance, the on call demands of a monthly publication have helped me better staff our on call demands for weekends and seasonal volume shifts.

With so many niche and small-batch sweet shops opening up, what makes Eleni’s unique?

I started my company with my mom’s oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, and there was a plethora of oatmeal cookies in the market place.  I just felt like I could make it better, more delicious and perfectly round. When I started really diving into the shaped sugar cookie business there was less competition then there is today. I feel the same answer would suffice, I am driven to each specialty shaped sugar cookie, faster, more intricate, humorous and awesome in flavor, texture and design than anyone else. 

What do you wish you would have known about business before opening Eleni’s?

There are so many things I wish I had known before opening Eleni’s, but maybe I would not have the company today. I wish I had a business degree, a tech mind, a mentor in the food industry, fairy godmother with capital and 14 more hours in every day. And don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Do you have any advice for young, female entrepreneurs looking to turn their side-business into a full-fledged company?

Follow your dream, passion and desire to own your own business. Recognize you will worker harder for yourself than you have for anyone else. Understand there will be personal sacrifices along the career path. Listen to others, and then especially yourself, you will know what feels right. Find a mentor. Delegate what you can. Work smarter not harder. When you hit a hurdle, breathe and get back up again. Get out of the office, step back 20 feet, and refresh. Most of my best ideas have come from taking a break.

We have to ask – what’s your favorite cookie?

Oatmeal Raisin, similar to my mom’s original, now of course nut free, light, crisp and delicious!

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