Co-Owner of Nosh LLC
Selected participant for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Enterprising Women of Color (EWOC) Business Center’s Certification Training Cohort 2
Stacey Schiller met her business partner Alessandra “Ale” Cruz Klein 14 years ago when their sons became friends. They both owned separate businesses in the retail fashion industry and decided to go into a different sector together in 2014 when Stacey was transitioning out of a job and Alessandra was caring for her young children. Ale hadn’t had pão de queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread since leaving her birthplace of Brazil, and the two friends embarked on a journey together, forming Nosh LLC to bring this traditional food to Hawaii and beyond.
“Ale and I didn’t have the typical structured business plan,” Stacey recalled. “We had an idea and hit the pavement, making products in my home kitchen. We were making sauces, dips, mousse, and bread was just one of the products. We approached a farmers market, got in right away, and found people gravitated to the bread.”
That prompted them to focus on pão de queijo. They saw companies like Leonard’s Bakery, known for its malasadas (Portuguese donuts), as an example of streamlining and diversifying within a single product, and sought to develop a similar business model.
Stacey explained: “Pão de queijo is such a unique product; it’s not your typical bread! Those familiar with mochi compare their consistencies, but pão de queijo has a crispy baked outside. The consistency comes from the tapioca flour, how we cook the flour, and the cheese that’s blended into our dough. The combination of the tapioca flour and melted Parmesan cheese, once baked, gives the bread its gooeyness. In Brazil, it’s more common to make pão de queijo with oil, but we use butter instead. The prep and cooking process creates an artisan product, differentiating us from most other traditional Brazilian pão de queijo that typically use a modified tapioca flour, whereas ours is not. We had one recipe and spent several months playing around with it, did blind taste-tests, and narrowed it down.”
Nosh prides itself in serving a freshly baked product. The company even has filling machines that enable them to stuff the bread with sweet or savory fillings, such as caramel, guava, and onion. And since pão de queijo is made from tapioca flour, which comes from the cassava plant, the product is naturally gluten-free.
Pão de queijo can be enjoyed in many ways. Some customers are “purists” and love to eat it by itself, whereas others enjoy the weekly fillings Nosh offers at regular farmers market customers at Kailua Town Center and Kapiolani Community College. Another favorite is Nosh’s goat cheese and honey sliders with handcrafted candied pecans.
Like all small business owners, Ale and Stacey regularly reach out to expand their community audience. In one attempt, a connection was made with Chef Lee Anne Wong, Executive Chef and Partner of Koko Head Cafe. Nearly a year after being named Executive Chef for Hawaiian Airlines, Chef Lee Anne introduced Nosh’s pão de quiejo to all first-class seating on international flights. The Hawaiian Airlines menu rotation featuring Nosh was offered to travelers from August 2019 through February 2020.
As with all small businesses, Nosh’s journey hasn’t been without challenges.
“Relative to the state, there are very few people who know what pão de queijo is,” Stacey explained. “The education process for us is longer than, say, a bagel. Our product is also a gourmet, artisan product. Especially in a small community like Hawaii, it’s incredibly important to have community and financial backing. There are so many small, local and talented business owners and undiscovered gems here. It’s very easy to feel discouraged. We’ve definitely had our moments of, ‘That’s it, this is what’ll ruin us!’ But then thought, ‘Wait a minute, we have a good product, and this can work. How do we get through today and what do we do today?’”
Stacey was first introduced to the MBDA Enterprising Women of Color Business Center by fiscal administrator Joann Malaca, a frequent visitor to the Nosh booth at farmers markets. That led to Stacey taking part in Cohort 2 of the Center’s Business Certification Training. She continues to work with instructor Mari Villa on her submission for Nosh to become a certified woman-owned small business.
“It was very encouraging seeing all the women trying to do their own thing,” Stacey reflected. “The range in success stories was also very interesting. They all had something either culturally tied to Hawaii, or legal, construction, or marketing services. I have a food, so I imagine it’ll open other doors that we didn’t know about.”
To current and aspiring women entrepreneurs and small business owners, Stacey advised: “Just keep trekking. Don’t let discouraging moments bring you down. With your product or service—your passion and the numbers, of course, needing to make sense—don’t let the ‘no, thank you’s’ break you. Getting through the challenges helps define you and builds character, and that's what makes for a more successful you."