Samantha Zola has been baking since childhood and has always loved the way rainbow cookies looked, but didn't love the way they tasted. The soon-to-be mom of three has created a new look and taste for rainbow cookies, NewsdayTV's Senior Lifestyle Host Elisa DiStefano reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

She starts her day in her kitchen, sets her own hours, has an active Instagram presence and runs carpools when it’s her turn: Meet the mompreneur. 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a mompreneur is defined as “a woman who sets up and runs her own business in addition to caring for her young child or children.” Most women in either of these categories would agree that neither comes easily, but as of 2020, designated 12.3 million small U.S. businesses as women-owned, a growing number.

Over the past few years, niche online food brands seemed to enjoy a period of unbridled, tasty growth, while mail-order food services were thriving. Giving moms the freedom to parent and work within their own parameters, especially after the child care challenges presented by the pandemic, many local moms found their calling within this space.

"My daughter recently told me that picking her up from school is the highlight of her day. It's also the highlight of mine, knowing that I can earn a living and be more present in her daily life," says Leanna Cherry, owner of The Crumb Picker, a cake and cookie business.

As Mother's Day approaches, meet some of the many food mompreneurs within our own communities. All run their own commercially licensed food businesses — for many, a second career that allowed them more time to dedicate to being a mom — and have robust social media-driven food brands.

Leanna Cherry, The Crumb Picker: coffee cakes and cookies

Leanna Cherry of The Crumb Picker.

Leanna Cherry of The Crumb Picker. Credit: Linda Rosier

Named “The Crumb Picker” by her husband because “she always picked the crumbs off everyone’s plates,” Farmingdale resident Leanna Cherry didn't always see the crumb life as part of her grand plan. She had worked for over 13 years within a hospital marketing team and loved her job, but as she explains, “Any job in health care is 24/7, and becoming a mom made me feel the push-pull in both directions.” After the birth of her second child, the juggle felt unbalanced.

“Baking had always given me pleasure — since I was a young kid — and I started to bake for stress relief in the height of work changes.” Soon enough, she became known in the office for two things: coffee cakes and crumb cookies, so when a colleague asked her to make a cake for Easter, and tried to pay her, she began to see the writing on the wall. Cherry wanted, needed, a job, but also more space for her kids’ daily lives.

In 2019, she started an Instagram page for The Crumb Picker. Slowly, word started to spread. In 2020, she took the leap and resigned — without a new job, with 7- and 9-year olds at home. “A week later, the first COVID patient on Long Island was identified at my former organization. Then, the world shut down. But business took off.

Don’t be fooled by the weight of Cherry’s crumb cakes. They are light, fluffy vanilla cakes piled high with dense, buttery cinnamon crumbs. For spring, a lemon poppy crumb cake elevates the flavor profile of her traditional crumb cake. Other mainstays include red velvet and cookies and cream coffee cakes. Cherry’s crumb cookies, which she calls “Just the Crumbs,” are nuggets of crumb topping, a bit crunchier than actual cake crumbs but just as addictive. Some are dipped in chocolate.

WHAT IT COSTS: Coffee cakes are $27-$30; perfectly thin, crispy chocolate chip cookies ($15/dozen); crumb cake doughnuts ($15/six); mini crumb cakes ($12) and crumb cookies ($12/dozen).


Traditional coffee cake from The Crumb Picker.

Traditional coffee cake from The Crumb Picker. Credit: Linda Rosier

Laurel Bickford Shortell, Laurel’s Butter: nut butters

With a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, a master’s in physical education, and a former career as aprofessional body builder and trainer, Oakdale resident Laurel Bickford Shortell knows the value of healthy eating. Protein has always been a big part of her diet — both when she began competing in 2012 and when she turned pro in 2014 — but in the past, her kitchen cabinets were stocked with nut butters full of preservatives, added sugars and stabilizers.

In 2015, all of that changed. Starting in her apartment’s kitchen, she began to play around with making her own handcrafted nut butters. At first, she gave her butters to some of her training clients, friends, and family and attended fitness events sponsored by brands like CrossFit. Samples were given out, stories were exchanged and the butters continued to get high marks from taste-testers. Fairs and farmers markets followed, with Laurel’s Butter incorporating in 2016.

Like any small-business owner at inception, Shortell wore many hats. But when she got pregnant in 2017, it became nearly impossible to run it alone, and she hired her first employee. An e-commerce site followed, then storefronts with Amazon and 1-800-Flowers. A women-certified and Kosher-certified business, it started with natural peanut butter, made simply from peanuts and sea salt, as well as almond and cashew butters.

But for Shortell, “the fun part was formulating the flavors” that would soon become synonymous with her brand. Seasonally, the butters get reinvented into sweet combinations. Spring introduced carrot cake, made with a base of roasted almonds, pecans, and walnuts and white chocolate. In summer, it’s blueberry pancake; in fall, white chocolate pumpkin pie. These limited edition flavors have created a sense of urgency for nut butter fans, but it’s always the basic butters that remain in high demand.

WHAT IT COSTS Four-ounce sampler packs (which include four 4-oz. flavors) begin around $20, while individual 8-oz. jars of Laurel’s Nut Butters begin at $5.25 for peanut butter and $9.25 for limited edition flavors.

WHERE TO FIND IT Available at SoBol locations, Harbes Family Farm Stand in Mattituck and Balsam Farms in Amagansett as well as farmers markets in Sayville, Northport, Southampton and Montauk. More info:

Jackie Cardace and Janel Presti, Grazing Girls: charcuterie boards

Janel Presti and Jackie Cardace, owners and creators of Grazing...

Janel Presti and Jackie Cardace, owners and creators of Grazing Girls. Credit: Linda Rosier

Commack sisters Jackie Cardace and Janel Presti live down the block from each other, have three kids each, and talk every day. It was during one of those daily talks that Presti, a former preschool teacher, mentioned to Cardace, a former marketer, how she “kept coming across all of these charcuterie boards on Instagram.”

“No, no,” interrupts Jackie, “we saw it on 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey,' don’t you remember?”

The siblings decided to give charcuterie a go in late 2020. With Christmas around the corner, they started with a basic tray including Brie cheese and called it their “artisanal board.” But as they started to tweak their concept after that first busy Christmas season, they kept coming back to the original charcuterie board of their Italian upbringing: antipasto. When they researched antipasto-style boards, they couldn’t find them. When they decided to add burrata as the centerpiece cheese, the board quickly became their most popular.

Coincidentally, Bravo reentered the chat when Ramona Singer of "The Real Housewives of New York" asked them to create a “grazing table” — a lavish charcuterie spread that haphazardly spans a whole table, rather than tray — for a party at her home in the Hamptons during the summer of 2021. It was the women’s first grazing table gig and its success generated a massive amount of business through Singer, who promoted their work on social media. Soon, they were delivering trays and building tables two and three times a day in the Hamptons.

Online word-of-mouth began to trickle in closer to home and enclaves like Port Washington, their native Commack and Dix Hills have caught on. Now, booking well into July, Cardace and Presti are looking to move their company more toward general catering, including salads, sandwiches, shooters, even florals. Current offerings of brunch and grazing tables, and all of their signature charcuterie trays, which feature seasonally different cheeses, are available for customization.

WHAT IT COSTS: Their original 9x9 board, $50, includes three cheeses and is loaded with salamis, hams, cheeses, nuts and dried fruit. Prices increase from there. 


An artisanal charcuterie board by Grazing Girls.

An artisanal charcuterie board by Grazing Girls. Credit: Linda Rosier

Sara Keller, Gracious Goodies: artisanal gift boxes

It was in 2008 that Dix Hills’ Sara Keller was pregnant with first child, now 15, working in luxury retail and traveling extensively as a watch buyer for Cartier. On one work trip, the ravenous mother-to-be found an L.L. Bean x Cartier-style tote bag full of travel essentials, including snacks, waiting in her hotel room. She recalls crying while she ate, she was so grateful.

When her doctor ordered bed rest, she wrote her business plan. After her son was born, she left Cartier and started her company, then called Sara’s Gracious Goodies, with a website that advertised custom food gift bags and boxes for all occasions. “Nobody called," she says. "I was crushed." But then came an opportunity to do bags for a friend's wedding, and slowly word-of-mouth started to spread.

In the beginning, “planners were so happy to hire me, I took something off their very long to-do lists.” But after a move to Los Angeles in 2013, she began making more creative, curated boxes for movie and television clients, including Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.”

When COVID began, Keller assumed the worst, but Zoom events reinvented the business with corporate clients now using her custom food and drink boxes for employee bonding events, retention and appreciation. Last year, Gracious Goodies moved out of her house and garage and into her current Hauppauge warehouse. She works with clients to create themed boxes — such as a movie night collection with popcorn, a mini popper and chocolate-covered raisins. Sprinkles, cones and ice cream mix make up a goodie bag for kids’ birthday parties. There’s even a pasta night sampler for dinner party guests.

Keller fills her boxes with goodies from small food and drink vendors, and supports women-owned and ethnically or globally-conscious food partners like Eleni’s, The Art of Caramel, Wooden Table Baking Co., Pineapple Collaborative, True Scoops, Sugarfina and Lush Wine. Her next goal is setting up an e-commerce site that moves away from the custom aspect, offering individual boxes, seasonal collections,, as well as products for specific holidays.

WHAT IT COSTS: Small to medium-sized boxes begin at $50.


Samantha Zola, Zola Bakes: rainbow cookies

Samantha Zola of Zola Bakes.

Samantha Zola of Zola Bakes. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Outside of Long Island “the general population does not know what a rainbow cookie is,” says Dix Hills resident Samantha Zola, owner of Zola Bakes, an online company that makes specialty rainbow cookies. Zola, who studied at the French pastry School in Chicago and trained at Épicerie Boulud and Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan, realized the Italian American-inspired rainbow cookies would become her calling card after moving to Florida.

“It was in Miami that I realized rainbow cookies weren’t being given justice anywhere else. It was rare for me to find them and, whenever I did, they were always a little too dry, and didn’t taste nearly as good as they looked. In New York, they were a staple at any event I attended.”

She returned to Long Island in 2018 to focus what has since become Zola Bakes, which began out of her house. First, she made personalized cookies for bar and bat mitzvahs, engagements, weddings and other celebratory events. In 2019, she found her current space in Central Islip and built a custom kitchen. As with most beautiful food products, organic social media word-of-mouth prevailed and Zola secured partnerships with Goldbelly,, the U.S. Open and City Harvest. Now she has a team of three people and is looking for a bigger space.

The trays that line the kitchen are dazzling displays. But these little rainbow blocks are more than something to look at — Zola’s cookies are moist, spongy and bursting with almond flavor. Her best-kept secret is a top-shelf, hard-to-secure ingredient.

Zola offers three flavors, each prettier than the next. There’s raspberry jam — the red, orange, yellow cookie; the bestselling Nutella — the green, blue, purple cookie; and apricot jam, the turquoise, teal, mint green cookie. There is also a cult favorite gluten-free variety in hues of purple. All are custom-drizzled with white or dark Guittard chocolate and can be personalized to occasion or holiday.

WHAT IT COSTS: Custom cakes are available, but it’s the rainbow brownie ($42 for six), that utilizes the scraps from imperfect cookies to create an almond chocolate combination, that feel poised to take off next. A 20-pack of rainbow cookies starts at $49, and can be delivered locally or shipped nationwide.


Nutella rainbow cookies from Zola Bakes.

Nutella rainbow cookies from Zola Bakes. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

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