Does anyone else here have a major sweet tooth? How about a love of marshmallows? We thought so. That’s only one of the reasons that we love Lauren Retana. Her mastery of sweets goes perfectly with her sweet and authentic soul, which we can’t get enough of. She’s bringing everyone our new favorite snack, Malvi Marshmallow Confections, and doing it in new and innovative flavors!
Tell us about the birth of Malvi – how did it all begin?
I was working as a Research and Development Chef four years ago. At work I’d test hundreds of recipes for pizzas, sandwiches, deli salads… I would come home stuffed but still craving something light and sweet. Marshmallows became my dessert of choice, and I loved the challenge of infusing flavor into the airy cubes that I was whipping up in my tiny apartment kitchen. Adding a cookie to accent the flavors seemed the natural thing to do (I was a Girl Scout, after all).
What is your go-to flavor when you’re reaching for a treat?
I love mint-chocolate combos, especially after a meal. The organic peppermint extract we use in our Peppermint Chocolate Malvi is bracingly fresh and complements the dark chocolate shortbread cookie in a magical way. We don’t sell many outside of the holiday season, but I could eat them every day of the year.
How do you come up with new flavor combinations?
I keep an eye on what great ingredients I can get my hands on. For instance, Kumquat puree just became available, and I can’t wait to test it in a marshmallow. I’ve been working on some flavor concepts for years and just haven’t come up with a recipe that I’m perfectly happy with, like Green Tea (it always comes out too bitter). I’ll keep trying until I get it right!
Have there ever been combinations that you thought would turn out perfectly that ended up turning into something else?
I love the idea of lavender. It seems to be popping up in menus everywhere. As cool as it sounds, it always ends up tasting soapy to me.
It’s Friday night, what can we find you doing?
Working! Even if I wrap up Malvi early, my sisters have a restaurant next door, so I’ll jump over and help them out. I’ve been in the restaurant business so long that it’s normal. Sunday night is where it’s at. Netflix & Hard Cider 🙂
What is the best advice you received as an entrepreneur? What’s the worst?
I keep coming back to my High School motto, which I thought was super lame at the time: “find a way or make one”. A huge part of becoming an entrepreneur has involved navigating a thousand unfamiliar challenges, from clogged drains to broken contracts. I grit my teeth and look for a path, or start hacking my way through it. I can’t think of a bad piece of advice. If it hasn’t worked for me, it’s probably worked for someone else.
Could you share a few lessons that you have learned as a female business owner?
Take care of your uterus! If you’re 100% committed to growing your business, you might need to think about waiting to have kids. Everyone’s different, and there are plenty of women who rock full tilt careers and motherhood, but I’m 34, and I can’t imagine being pregnant for at least another 2-3 years while I’m growing Malvi. Talk to your OBGYN, take folic acid, and do your kegels 🙂
This is a family business, how does that play into the workings of your company?
Thankfully I married someone with very complementary talents. He is amazing at organizing, coming up with branding & design direction, implementing systems, and figuring out technical puzzles. I’m better at recipe research and development, marketing, finances, and business development. We also work right next to his sisters’ restaurant, and his parents are always around, so we’ve had an amazing built-in support system.
What word defines the twenty-something years?
How do you maintain a work-life balance? What are some out your outside the office activities that help you to recharge and refocus?
Paris & I moved from New York to rural Georgia three years ago. We’ve replaced eating out and exploring the city with hiking and paddle boarding around Lake Lanier. We’re pretty happy with the swap, and escaping into the wilderness for an hour or so definitely helps us find balance in our otherwise crazy lives 🙂