ne of the greatest things about childhood is all the wonderful desserts. For David Kravetz, age 42, it was his mother’s brownies, making his childhood in Phoenix, AZ full of delicious goodies. His mother would make brownies for David and his friends, one of whom was Eileen Spitalny. Their friendship spanned through the elementary and high-school years. David and Eileen would discuss their futures, and talked of one day going into business together as entrepreneurs. They remained close throughout college, and did not realize at the time the friendship would eventually lead to a strong business partnership.
David attended Stanford for his degree in General Engineering and Product Design, which combined mechanical engineering with human factors in order to design user-friendly products. After graduation, he became a package designer at Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati. The company planned to send David abroad for two years. He was ready to leave when budget cuts cancelled the trip. Having already given up his apartment and packed his bags, he decided to leave Proctor and Gamble and move back to Phoenix where he was reunited with Eileen. David knew it was time to put their high-school plans into action.
Eileen worked for a Spanish television station, and David took a job at CompUSA selling computers. They worked their traditional jobs all day and became entrepreneurs by night. It took them time to choose the best product; they researched, considered their skills and knowledge, and cycled through many alternatives before settling on brownies. In 1992, David and Eileen came up with a business model and signed up for events to market their company.
They jumped into action, selling to gourmet grocers, coffeehouses, set-up booths at street fairs and farmer’s markets to get off the ground. As business picked up, David quit his CompUSA job to focus full-time on their company. Upon generating a name for themselves, they became a mail-order business. The road was not always smooth; one of Fairytale Brownies’ biggest challenges came in the second year, when their landlord decided to relocate the business to a different suite. The change came at a terrible time; it was the holiday season, the time when Fairytale Brownies does most of its business. David also had a newborn child to care for at home. He and Eileen were forced to pack up their entire operation and relocate, all the while producing new holiday treats and shipping products. Through it all, Fairytale Brownies did quite well that season, and took a valuable lesson from the ordeal. David and Eileen now insist upon a clause in all of their leases that prohibits moving their business during holiday seasons. (David jokes that you should try to have all your children in the off-season as well).
Another lesson learned the hard way was to always be informed and to take responsibility for the business’ well being. In Fairytale Brownies’ earlier stages, David and Eileen hired a consultant to help with mailings and advertising. Relying on the consultant’s advice, they sent out thousands of catalogs to addresses on a rental list, even though they weren’t sure it was the type of clientele interested in their business. They ended up losing money, when in hindsight they should have sent fewer catalogs to the right demographic-for a significant profit. “We’ve been a little more cautious with the consultants we use, and question their expertise a bit more instead of taking everything at face value. They may be experts, but they still make mistakes,” observes David. “You’re ultimately responsible for your own decisions.”
Among the reasons Fairytale Brownies is so successful is its dedication to the customer. Thanks to David’s education at Stanford, he always makes the website and catalogs as user-friendly as possible. He also adds style to their packaging to make it easy to open as well as eye-catching. David advises that simple is often best; a pure, quality product remains key. David and Eileen originally used Reese’s Cups in their peanut-butter brownies, only to realize they could do better themselves. Although it took several years, they developed a new gourmet concoction. They also removed all hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and other ingredients to make their brownies that much purer.
Today, Fairytale Brownies employs over 100 people during the holidays and pulls in $8 million in revenue. They have earned several entrepreneurial awards and are major contributors to KaBOOM!, a charity organization dedicated to building playgrounds to improve communities. In the future, David and Eileen plan to expand their business to wholesale so that others can enjoy Fairytale Brownies year round. The moral of their fairytale business is that they planned carefully and worked through the roadblocks. They knew they would not become successful overnight, but planned to survive the long haul. Taking a simple dessert like a brownie and transforming it into a delectable, original culinary confection became their package to success.