Paula Barbosa and Christina Bhan started their business, My Sweet, because they recognized that there was a market in New York for brigadeiros, the traditional Brazilian sweets.
Bhan describes the candies as "magical little balls" of chocolate, condensed milk, and butter cooked down to a smooth, creamy consistency, then rolled in sprinkles, nuts, or coconut. She adds that milk chocolate rolled in chocolate sprinkles is the most traditional, but dark chocolate rolled in raw nuts is the most popular offering in their line.
"It's a grandmother's kind of recipe," she explains. "Growing up, we'd have them at every single birthday party, every kind of event." Then, like many traditionally humble foods, the brigadeiro got a bit of a spiffing up. "They became elite," Bhan explains, "People had them at weddings and the ingredients changed and became more organic."
When they introduced them to the New York market, she says, she and Barbosa were lucky enough to have "the right product at the right time.
"It seemed like there was a need for it. For wedding favors or gifts, people wanted something new and ethnic." She adds, laughing, "Brazil is cool ethnic, I guess."
Maintaining a high level of quality has always been important to Bhan and Barbosa. "We brought something from our country, our home, to New York, and knew we'd have to meet the standards of New Yorkers," Bhan explains. "It couldn't be just any chocolate, it has to be the best."
Bhan and Barbosa learned that Callebaut imports raw materials from Brazil for some of their chocolate. So, while the chocolate used in the brigadeiros is processed in Belgium and France, it actually is Brazilian chocolate.
A week after they launched the business, Florence Fabricant featured the candies in her 2011 gift guide, and Barbosa and Bhan were inundated with orders. "We decided that we were going to say yes to everything," Bhan says, "Yes, we take credit cards! Yes, we ship all over the world!" They made it through that initial period of busy-ness and learning on their feet and today, through their website, are still taking credit cards and shipping their sweets all over the world.
About the author: Stephanie Klose has more mustard than you. You can follow her on twitter at @sklose.