reporter contentsalbright college
The Sweeter Side of Life; Jennifer Esposito ’91
Jennifer Esposito ’91 loves gelato… REAL gelato, not the high fat kind typically sold in America. So, after 10 years of midtown-Manhattan hustle and bustle, Esposito packed up her things, moved to Colorado and took a shot at marketing and selling real, honest-togoodness gelato; and it worked.
Founded in 2002, Espo’s Cucina Dolce (Espo’s Sweet Kitchen) now serves three major grocery chains and multiple high-end restaurants in Colorado, California, Iowa, Minnesota, Utah and Wyoming. They are scheduled to start selling in Chicago, Florida, New York and New Jersey this year, as well.
Her beginnings, however, were not so glamorous. “I self-financed the start-up by cashing in my 401k and asked my parents for my wedding money,” she says. “The deal was, I get the wedding money, but I have to buy my own wedding dress now!”
Once she had the money, she needed the product. Esposito spent late afternoons and evenings mixing, freezing and packing her gelatos and sorbets. In the early morning and late evening, she handled the office work. She would then make sales calls and deliveries before and after her lunch hours. Sounds exhausting, but Esposito never complained. “It was fun! It was a lot of good energy from a lot of good people I met along the way.”
All of the recipes and formulations are her own, and she has even worked with chefs to customize flavors for their menus. “We’ve made wasabi sorbetto, sweet potato, balsamic gelato, red onion sorbetto—so much fun,” she says. Her gelato boasts all-natural, gluten-free, wheatfree, egg and corn syrup-free flavors, and her sorbetto is non-dairy, non-fat, real fruit, all-natural, gluten-free, wheat-free, Vegan, egg and corn-syrup free.
So, why gelato? “Gelato in the United States is high-fat, American-style ice cream with Italian flavor profiles or artificial powder bases and gels that shop owners reconstitute with milk or water,” she explains. “Traditionally done, gelato is healthier, all-natural, low-fat and has less air. It also tastes a lot better!” Esposito began to market and sell to high-end restaurants in Colorado. Soon enough, the market broadened and more general retail consumers began looking for traditional gelato.
Her efforts and success have not go unrecognized. Esposito was recognized as the 2007 Businesswoman of the Year for Colorado’s Italian American Business Association. To be complimented at that level, among so many successful businesswomen in the community, she says, was extremely flattering.
What advice does the successful businesswoman have for future entrepreneurs? “Be realistic but optimistic. Stay focused. Problems are just challenges and hurdles between you and the finish line, so find a way over, under or around them. Keep moving forward and you’ll get there,” she says. “I plan to.”
– Kristen M. Adams ’07