By Mahasti Afshar
Sept. 9, 2010, San Diego, CA – Bibi Kasrai’s Harvard Cookie Girl is fast becoming a household name. If you haven’t heard the story of how this Harvard MBA and “gourmet chef who has a sweet tooth” left her career as a nonprofit executive to pursue her passion for food—healthy food, that is; sweet, healthy cookies, to be precise; no, there’s more, teaching kids how to make and enjoy healthy food—this is your chance to catch up. Have dessert first. Read our Q&A with Bibi here.
Start with dessert first, read our Q&A with Bibi here.
What is Harvard Cookie Girl?
Harvard Cookie Girl, LLC is the company that literally started in my kitchen in May of 2009 when for the first time in my life I took a break from working or studying.
Since I was home, I organized a lot of playdates for my kids and realized that not only kids understand and appreciate good food but also like to be part of the making of it. I realized that perhaps parents are the culprits, not the kids and that if we could change the children’s outlook, they could be the real catalysts for change in behavior. So I looked at the problem of childhood obesity from a different angle and bingo!
I started teaching them about the goodness of food, about respecting your body, about reading and following recipes, and even fractions and measurements while baking and cooking. It was an instant success with them and they told their parents about it.
What gave you the idea to start HCG?
I listened to the kids. In my previous life, we hired focus groups, we paid money to learn what customers want, we constantly tried to “listen to the customer’s voice” and here I had my customers right in front of me.
How did you start? Where did you start?
Parents, including myself, pay a lot for their kids to do some useful activity after school. I developed a curriculum and called principals, parents, teachers, and even integrative medicine practitioners for feedback. The bold principals took a chance and invited me to come to their school and give the curriculum a try.
The recipes are such that can be taught with less than 7 ingredients within an hour to a group of up to 15 kids working together on a project. I had carts where I loaded the organic ingredients, the portable oven, and the only thing the school had to provide was a room and plug.
How did you know you it will be accepted or even successful?
Parents typically sign up and pay for the six weeks in advance. When in September of 2009, in the worse economy in our memory, the checks kept coming and the classes were sold out and I had to hire and teach new instructors, I knew that I had hit a chord with the public and that there was a need.
Where do you see future growth?
The truth of the matter is that 1 in 3 kids in America are overweight with a chance to become obese. The other reality is that I haven’t even scratched the surface and I am still catering to kids whose parents can afford my program. The problem is more severe in the population that can’t afford programs like mine. That’s why I am constantly looking for grants or sponsors and I am discounting my program to nonprofits that cater to such communities. However, I can’t do it alone. As they say, it takes a village. The potential for growth is immense. I want to have partners in every major city.
Best of luck to you! And thanks for your time.