Nine years ago, Roxanne Vinciguerra finally decided to act upon 30 years of baking her famous biscotti. Now, she’s a small business owner who gets to do what she loves every day.
Like many artisan-craft small businesses, Vinciguerra knew she had to take a risk in starting her biscotti business. “It is an expense to figure out how to scale your product if you're starting your business at home,” Vinciguerra said.
But back then, Vinciguerra didn’t have the option to start small from home. Artisan-craft small businesses were required to have an external work site, leading to her big decision to rent a kitchen space in San Jose. Luckily, it paid off.
Roxanne’s Biscotti first got its feet by frequenting Vinciguerra’s local farmers' market in Morgan Hill. She mentioned that her application to sell at the farmers' market came at a good time. The market needed an artisan baker, and Vinciguerra had just what they needed.
“It was like the world was waiting for a good biscotti because it exploded,” Vinciguerra said.
Since her explosive beginning, Vinciguerra has built up Roxanne’s Biscotti. The small farmers' market in Morgan Hill was soon joined by larger markets in Mountain View, Downtown Los Altos, and Santana Row. Vinciguerra and her team built a bigger commercial kitchen in Morgan Hill. And, of course, the fanbase surrounding her biscotti reached almost a cult-like level.
Part of that popularity comes from Vinciguerra’s embrace of experimentation and seeking inspiration from her fellow farmers' market sellers. Through meeting farmers, Vinciguerra realized that she could create unique flavors based on what produce was in season. Alongside that, she sources her ingredients from local farmers to get the freshest quality while also maintaining her business’ connection to the community.
Every week, Roxanne’s Biscotti has one or two seasonal flavors on top of their basic ones. That way, customers are kept excited and on their toes with new delicious versions of her famous biscotti. According to Vinciguerra, everyone has their favorites.
On top of fun biscotti flavors to mix things up, Vinciguerra has also utilized her skill in baking by introducing other products. Her granola, which is on our market right now, started as a Christmas gift for her supportive customers. One review led to another, and now it's another fan favorite in her store.
However, even with all the success and momentum that Roxanne’s Biscotti has seen, no small business was spared an impact from COVID-19. Though the regular farmers' markets that get to be graced by Roxanne’s Biscotti have remained open, another source of income for Roxanne’s Biscotti — special events — has been cut by coronavirus regulations.
Vinciguerra said Roxanne’s Biscotti usually gets booked for 30 to 50 events a year. This year, all of them have been canceled. The events around holidays are 25% of their yearly income.
“It’s been a scramble for everybody in artisan craft businesses,” Vinciguerra said.
But, with the support from community members, Vinciguerra has faith her biscotti business will make it through. Part of that also comes from her trust that her biscotti is, to say the least, truly the best.
Her innate skills in baking are a definite contribution to the quality of her biscotti. But hearing her talk about her business has led me to believe that her clear passion for not only baking, but baking for others, must also have a playing role in what makes her biscotti so good.
“I absolutely love what I do. Part of that is because you create something and you see that joy when people try it. There's nothing better than that,” Vinciguerra said. “ Someone can appreciate the fruits of my labor.”
Though coronavirus regulations have led to changes in selling at farmers' markets — specifically the restriction in taste testing — Vinciguerra can still recall the wonderful moments when biscotti skeptics try a bite and instantly release their previous judgments.
“You can see a lightbulb, like ‘Oh my god this isn't what I thought biscotti was,’” Vinciguerra said. “People ask, ‘What is so great about your biscotti?’ It's the texture, it's the flavor, it's not like any biscotti I've ever tried.”
And here at Farmers Market On Wheels, we know that many people are unsure about visiting farmers' markets given the current circumstances. But now, you can try Vinciguerra’s delectable biscotti yourself from the ease and comfort of your home. Just make sure to send a video of your reaction.
As for Vinciguerra, she is still as invested with her job as the first day she started.
“What started as a hobby has turned into a full-time job that I absolutely love,” Vinciguerra said. “I wish I had done this years ago.”