A playdate for their daughters led Sarah Michelle Gellar and Galit Laibow on a path to stir up the baking industry.
Laibow and Gellar, the actress and producer best known as the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, had been friends for a while when they got together to bake something with their kids. Laibow headed to a store to buy a mix, discovering she had a choice of those with ingredients she’d never heard of or organic mixes with high prices. She grabbed one and spent a fun afternoon baking, but the seed of an idea for a company that would make it easier for parents and kids to bake-with organic ingredients-had been planted.
Laibow, who’d founded a PR firm with clients including Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson, began testing recipes-with Gellar one of her tasters. After a bit more research she decided to take the plunge and leave her firm. “To do anything successfully you have to be all in, and the brand I envisioned was big,” says Laibow.
Though Gellar wanted in, she was working on The Crazy Ones, a CBS series with Robin Williams, and Laibow wanted a full-time partner. The series was soon cancelled, and Gellar decided to fully commit to the business. “It’s always scary when you step out of your comfort zone, but as the saying goes, great risk brings great rewards,” says Gellar. “I have always liked to challenge myself, and this seemed like the logical next step to tackle. I am not a spokesperson for the company. I have the same accountability and responsibilities as any other co-founder.”
At an industry event, the pair met Greg Fleishman, who’d held marketing and general management roles at Kashi, Kellogg, and Coca-Cola before starting Purely Righteous Brands, a top brand venture studio for sustainably-focused companies like Annie’s. Fleishman signed on as the third co-founder and CEO.
In 2015, the co-founders launched Foodstirs, an organic baking brand line that uses ethically and sustainably-sourced ingredients including Equal Exchange and Fair Trade chocolate and cocoa, Biodynamic sugar, and an heirloom wheat flour. The line began with three signature mixes–chocolate brownies, vanilla cupcakes, and sugar cookies-and has since expanded to include more than 10 kits and eight retail mixes, plus kitchen tools and other merchandise.
Foodstirs’ kits require only a few steps to create Instagram-perfect treats like rainbow-colored pancakes and sprinkle-covered flowers and cake pops. “Kids like anything that comes on a stick,” laughs Laibow. All the products are made in Los Angeles, where the company is based, making it easy for the team to visit the facility often. Laibow says one key goal is ensuring Foodstirs’ products are reasonably priced for organics. “We don’t want to be a brand no one can afford, so we work closely with our partners to keep down costs,” says Laibow.
Foodstirs also has a subscription plan that delivers each month, which Laibow says is a great way to test new products and get quick feedback from loyal customers. Last year, Foodstirs moved into retailers including Whole Foods and Fresh Market and now is in about 4,000 stores.
Though they waited until they had some traction before meeting with investors, raising money wasn’t a slam-dunk. Having a celebrity on the team can open doors, but Laibow says some investors dismissed them as “a couple of mothers with a cute baking idea.” Those reactions only made them work harder. “We went into each meeting with a clear vision and a clear plan,” she says. The 12-employee company has so far raised about $5 million.
Laibow agrees entrepreneurship can be a bit of a roller coaster. “Every day is a challenge so it’s important to be resourceful,” says Laibow. “There is always a way to figure it out. My motto is, ‘I know what I know and I don’t know what I don’t.’ There are going to be challenges and you need people to help you. It’s when people don’t reach out that they get into trouble.”
Having a business their kids are excited about also helps keep them going over rough patches. “They see us working hard and doing what we hoped to do and it is really exciting for them and important to me,” says Laibow. “It was part of the whole idea from the start.” – This content was originally published in Forbes.