Tag - Small Business

Agave Pantry- Tucson’s Hidden Culinary Gem
The Vintage Contessa – Houston
FGI Houston Presents- Shop Talk: A Big Talk on Small Businesses

Agave Pantry- Tucson’s Hidden Culinary Gem

After biting into the saffron and cardamom rose amaretti, I immediately sat back in my chair and savored the beautiful flavors as I chewed. They were rich, yet subtle and exotic. Have small cookies ever put you in such a state where you have not a care in the world? Well, these did; and Shazieh Gorji is, pardon my language, a fucking genius.

Shazieh is the sole owner behind the Tucson-based cottage industry brand- Agave Pantry. I had recently heard of the brand on social media, but then had the pleasure of meeting her during this past Cultivate Tucson market. Earlier in June, we met up and she shared some insights into her world of small batch and handcrafted pastries, infused salts, spirit pots, and an AirBnB.

She has always loved baking, even before she graduated from culinary school in 2014. While in culinary school, she did an externship at Acacia. After having her son, she decided to take a step back, and while at home with him, was baking and honing recipes and skills. She knew she wanted to still be in the food industry, and had heard about the cottage industry license (cottage industry means that you can make goods in your own kitchen, however, you cannot make anything that needs refrigeration).

So she worked on getting her license and figured out what she wanted to create, as she wanted to find her voice and do something that no one else was doing. She experimented with an amaretti, which is normally a crunchy Italian almond-based cookie with no flavor. She used the same ingredients, however, changing it up a bit and made it more marzipan-like. She then added flavors that are typical of her Middle Eastern background (she grew up in Pakistan to an Iranian family), such as cardamom, rose, and saffron. The mainly gluten-free menu has since expanded to other goodies, such as Lemon Tea Cake, Carrot Cake (also comes in non-GF), Chocolate Almond Torte (also available are Spicy Chocolate and Cardamom), Raspberry Lemon Cake (non-GF), Rosemary Cookies (non-GF), Vegan Chocolate Cardamom Brownies, and much more! All of her baked goods are made from non-GMO flour, free range eggs, and organic spices. She will start incorporating more locally-sourced ingredients after this summer. She grows her own rosemary, but will be adding Hayden Mills flour and dates and citrus from Urban Grove.

It was December 2018 when she officially launched Agave Pantry- the culmination of her baking, travels, and experiences. Her first market was the Fourth Schmourth Handmade Market, followed by Cultivate Tucson and other little pop-ups around the city.

Aside from the edibles side of her business, she also creates functional pottery that includes: platters, dipping/salt bowls, small spoons, as well as jars to hold just enough coffee beans so that they won’t go stale. “The act of using coffee helps you to slow down a little because you don’t want to be too rough. Making things that let you slow down and just appreciate little moments. For me, scooping out coffee from something handmade is beautiful… Creating beauty of the mundane of every day life.”

Another best-seller is the spirt pots. She considers them “food for your soul because they are affirmation pots. They are very intimate and personal. You don’t share your pot with somebody else, and using it adds the emotional and well-being of where you are, and that adds to the emotional well-being of everyday.” Be sure to check out her Spirit Pot Workshops , which you can book on Tucson AirBnB Experiences.

Be sure to also check out her Tucson AirBnB listing- Purple Desert Heart Guesthouse if you are in Tucson and need a place to stay and don’t want to be in a hotel. Also, check out her Instagram and Facebook page for new events and such!

Look for Agave Pantry at the MSA Annex Summer Night Market in September!

Have you been fortunate to try one of Shazieh’s amazing goodies? If so, what are your favorites?

The Vintage Contessa – Houston

The Vintage Contessa

6222 Richmond Ave. #540
Houston, TX 77057
Mon- Thurs: 9-4:30, Fri- 9-noon…

The Vintage Contessa Houston TX

Imagine a website and showroom that sells only the best vintage and newer handbags, jewelry and accessories from the world’s most sought-after brands: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes and Cartier. Enter- The Vintage Contessa, owned by Donae Cangelosi Chramosta and her husband Rob. Awhile back, Donae worked for her family’s marble business. She would travel to Italy and France in search of not only marble, but fashion. After marrying Rob and while on their honeymoon in Portofino, she bought her first Hermes belt. Fast forward to when she was pregnant with her now eight-year-old daughter Bella, she was strolling down Madison Avenue with friends. They ventured into Hermes and it was there that she bought her first Birkin. She had always wanted one and had aspired to have that be one of her financial goals in life. It was not long after, that her husband’s jewelry and diamond friends were offering to buy the bag from her. That concept led her to start selling other bags, such as: Gucci and Louis Vuitton; later evolving into Chanel and Hermes as well. The newly-formed business was out of her passion and love for these coveted items.

The Vintage Contessa was launched in 2011. The name of the business was derived from her strong Italian heritage (her Grandparents emigrated from Sicily on a cattle boat and came through Ellis Island. Her Grandfather was a highly-skilled shoe cobbler.) Growing up, her nephews would always call her ‘princess’ and she thought that instead of using ‘princess’ or ‘queen,’ she thought that ‘contessa’ was a better fit.

So fast-forward to the end of 2015, when I had the pleasure of visiting the showroom one afternoon and found myself immersed in Hermes Birkin and Louis Vuitton Speedy bags. The showroom is a combination of Donae and her husband’s businesses. She mainly concentrates on the bags, some jewelry and accessories, while Rob sells watches, such as: Rolex, Cartier and Patek Philippe and designer jewelry like: Bulgari and Van Cleef and Arpels. The showroom features over thirty Birkin and Kelly bags, twenty/thirty Hermes bags, around one hundred Louis Vuitton and fifty Chanel bags. The oldest pieces in the showroom are a couple Louis Vuitton trunks date back to the 1890’s.

I really enjoyed my visit, as I was able to browse and take my time. The HUGE plus for me was when Donae said that I could actually get a Birkin from the shelf and hold it, etc. I mean seriously, who does that?! I know the Hermes retail store does not. Growing up, I’ve always seen and read about these bags in magazines, but to be able to actually HOLD and study the bags…just the icing on the cake! I also know that when I decide to buy my first vintage ‘Louie’ or ahem…Birkin… I will buy from Donae and Rob, because not only are they honest, kind folks running a small/local business, but they personally buy their vintage and newer inventory themselves from all over the world and they take pride in making sure that everything is 100% authentic.

To get more information (and to do some online shopping) on the boutique, go HERE. To purchase/get information on the book her co-wrote with her daughter called The Vintage Contessa and Princessa, go HERE. Be sure to also follow Rob via Instagram under “countdumoney.”

I love the pieces that transcend time, like the Chanel 2.55 bag, that was launched February 1955 and it’s still a bag in 2015… Another true test I believe for a great design is how sought after it is. No matter if a girl is 18 years old or 80 years old, she comes in and wants to carry a Chanel classic bag.”

– Donae Cangelosi Chramosta

FGI Houston Presents- Shop Talk: A Big Talk on Small Businesses

Fashion Group International of Houston recently held a panel discussion regarding “small business.” The event was co-hosted by Tout Suite, a bakery and cafe that is new to Downtown and will be opening soon. The panel was moderated by Sarah Gabbart of Houstonia Magazine and featured five key small business owners: Brandi Garcia of Do or Dye TX, Cheryl Schulke of Stash Co., Davina Tweedy- director of marketing for Langford Market, Jackie Adams of Melodrama and Jenny Morgan of Settlement Goods.

After a few opening remarks by the lovely Sydney Dao, the panel discussion began. Here is a synopsis of the topics and advice that were discussed throughout the evening…

*Branding and Building Buzz Before Opening the Store

– Free Fridays (usually during first year).
– Discounts on back of business cards for first year.
– Martini Mondays (usually during first year).
– Networking, handing out flyers door-to-door, trunk shows.
– Pop-up shops, professional womens networking groups, selling via Facebook and Instagram.


– Instagram is such an amazing and free resource.

*How to Stay Current and Keep-Up with Changing Market

– Sometimes you have to change as the economy changes.
– As your long-term clients grow in life, you need to change and grow to fit their needs as well.

*How Do You Maintain Store Presence?

– Do charity and beauty events.
– Network.
– Trunk shows.
– Emails (like constant contact) and social media.
– Be consistent on social media.
– Keeping up with the customer (such as sending birthday cards).

“It’s not always about ‘sell, sell, sell;’ but also enriching your customer.”

*Long Term Goals and Advice to Future Business Owners

Jackie of Meladrama and Cheryl of Stash Co. had some very enlightening advice on this topic.

– Write down your ideas. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, it’s probably already been done. Put your own spin to it.

– Do something that you are passionate about.

– Always try to give back to the community.

– Do the research.

– Start out small, while building your clientele.

– Create your own experience when you own a business.

– “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

– Check out books (and their websites) by Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin.

– “Do the best you can, until you know better and then do better.” – Maya Angelou

– “Don’t push the river.” If it doesn’t feel right or if you are pushing/working too hard, it’s probably best to rethink your business.

– Don’t go into business with the wrong person. Always trust your gut.

– Budget out operating expenses a year in advance.

The event concluded with some closing remarks from the owners (and gracious hosts) of Tout Suite and Shop Talk Chair- Trang Nguyen. Followed by a continuation of networking and mingling.

HUGE thanks to the folks at FGI Houston, Tout Suite, Sarah, Brandi, Cheryl, Davina, Jackie and Jenny!

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