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Innovation & Job News

The sweetest startup - with frosting



Susan Manfredonia and her mother, Rita, ran a licensed in-home bakery for 22 years, whipping up a custard frosting that had been in their family for generations. With help from local entrepreneurial resources, Manfredonia now seeks to sell her delectable homemade frosting to a wider audience.
 
As owner of Squeeze n' Easy, Manfredonia runs her food-focused startup out of the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen (CCLK), a pay-as-you-go commercial space and program of nonprofit micro-lender the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI).
 
Manfredonia has worked out of the space for three years, producing an egg- and nut-free custard concoction packaged in a simple-to-use, freezable pastry bag. Aided by two part-time employees and business consultant Frank Cullen, Cleveland's unofficial custard queen also pedals cannolis filled with her homespun artisan goodness.
 
"Our product is so good I want the whole world to try it," says Manfredonia.
 
Squeeze n' Easy frosting, currently available at five Northeast Ohio stores in chocolate, vanilla and almond, can be applied to most any cake, pastry or cookie. According to Manfredonia, her family's recipe surpasses canned or boxed product as well as any sugar-laded buttercream frosting you can shake a fondant rose at.
 
"I changed the recipe to make it all-natural," says Manfredonia. "It's gluten-free, too."
 
The entrepreneur returned to the frosting fold four years ago after taking time off to raise her three children. A Bad Girl Ventures finalist in 2012, Manfredonia joined CCLK a year later, harnessing the food-business incubator's mentorship support along with advice on marketing, product development and regulatory processes. 
 
"The kitchen was a very good place to start because of everyone's input and knowledge," Manfredonia says.
 
The proprietor is currently searching for a manufacturing space with cold-storage capabilities for her cannoli product. Manfredonia also aims to hire a few people to demonstrate her wares at local grocery stores.
 
"Part of our marketing is in-store demos and reaching out to ask the consumer questions," says Cullen, a company investor and friend of Manfredonia's. "We found out that the most important things for our customers are taste, convenience and affordability."
 
Delivering old-fashioned luxury frosting at a fair price is Manfredonia's joy, a feeling she looks forward to bringing to a new generation of gourmands.
 
"I'm so excited about this I want to jump out of my skin," she says. "I've done this for so many years, I just want to share it with everybody." 

To help S&R Bakers stomp out bad frosting, they invite frosting activists to sign their "I want my store to carry Squeeze n’ Easy" petition.

ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.

 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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