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Cookies for a Koz: How One Woman Turned a Second Career Into a Very Sweet Business

Roberta Wilson - Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Roberta Koz Wilson didn't start out making cookies for a living. She graduated from UCLA and quickly rose through the ranks at MTV Networks. When she left her career in 2004, after much soul-searching and schedule juggling, she was the Vice President of Affiliate Sales and Marketing.

While Roberta and her brother, Jazz musician Dave Koz, knew all about great cookies, the real cookie magician in Roberta's family was her mom, Audrey. She was a pharmacist by trade (when women were not working much out of the home, let alone in pharmacies), and a true "angel on earth" at heart whose cookies were legendary.

When Audrey died suddenly in 2005, leaving "a void in the universe," Roberta found herself not only at a crossroads in search of a new career challenge, but also in a position to honor the legacy of her beloved mother....

I started my business, Cookies For A Koz (the "cause" being the Starlight Foundation-Audrey's favorite charity), initially as an online gift business. About two years ago I decided to branch out into the wholesale business. This was a HUGE learning curve for me as it was a whole different animal than my small online business that I was doing all the baking for. I had to learn about manufacturing and packaging, and develop a version of my recipe that could have a six-month shelf life for retail. My first deal came about 1 1/2 years ago with Home Goods who agreed to carry four flavors of my cookies. I felt from the minute I received that news until the time the cookies finally got on the shelves in their 400+ stores that I took a crash course in business school...there was that much learning involved!

The biggest lesson was that you don't have the same fears when starting a new career at 50+ as you do as when you're much younger and starting out. I was fortunate to have a 'what have I got to lose' attitude which made me feel more fearless. I asked lots and lots of questions, and people were very generous with sharing their knowledge.

I now know it is possible to reinvent yourself in midlife if you find something you are passionate about. If you have the will and determination, you will figure out how to do it. The thing to remember is not to get overwhelmed with the entirety of the project, but to take small steps every day toward your end goal-mini successes give you the fuel and inspiration to continue to move forward.

The creation and growth of this business also created a positive learning experience for Roberta's daughters, ages 20 and 18. They know that she left a rewarding career because at a certain point it didn't allow her to maintain the priorities that she had set for myself. They are very proud of their mom's encore career. (They also love the charity component and that Cookies For A Koz honors Audrey, whom they adored). Roberta says, "They have learned along with me what it takes to grow a small business from the ground up once you roll up your sleeves and get to work."

Things are finally coming together for Roberta's business:

We are going into the Gelson's grocery store chain in Southern California this week and I hope over the next year to be in TJ Maxx and Marshall's stores. I like to joke now that I've never worked so hard to make so little money -- but I truly love it and hope that one day all the hard work will pay off, and that the Starlight Foundation will continue to benefit from even more profits. I feel passionate about what I am doing. I know my mom is smiling ear to ear and sitting on my shoulder helping me to take the next steps in my business.

Just Add Love

Roberta Wilson - Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Source: www.tribejournal.com

Saxophonist Dave Koz’s sister has turned their mom’s cookies into a business that gives back.



Audrey Koz was a pharmacist, but her best medicine was the love she baked into her chocolate chip cookies.

"The cookies pack my mom’s magic in every bite," said her daughter, Roberta Koz Wilson.

They were so good, Audrey Koz credited her cookies for launching the musical career of her son, Grammy Award-nominated saxophonist Dave Koz. When he started out in the jazz world, she sent cookies with him to every meeting and performance, and Capitol Records even took her — and her goodies — to meet record executives.

"We would send my mom in with batches of cookies to grease the way," Dave Koz said.

When Audrey Koz died suddenly in 2005, Wilson decided that she needed a way to impact people like her mother did. She already had left her role as longtime vice president for affiliate sales and marketing at MTV Networks in search of a new challenge.

After tinkering with other small-business ideas, Wilson started baking her mother’s cookies for her daughter’s elementary school holiday boutique. Her success there gave her an idea, and with no previous experience in baking or starting a business — aside from her background in sales and marketing — Wilson launched Cookies for a Koz in 2008.

"I had no idea what I was doing," she said. "I learned everything I could."

Wilson created a Web site and moved into a West Valley commercial kitchen as demand increased. When clients asked for different flavors, she introduced oatmeal raisin, white chocolate raspberry, snickerdoodle and red velvet. Seasonal specialties developed, too, such as pumpkin chocolate chip for Thanksgiving and apple pie cookies for Mother’s Day.

"I try very hard not to eat too many cookies while I’m baking them," said Wilson, a Calabasas resident whose favorite cookie is shortbread.

To honor her mother, Wilson donates 10 percent of retail purchases to Starlight Children’s Foundation, Audrey Koz’s favorite charity. The organization, for which Dave Koz is a global ambassador, works to improve the quality of life for seriously ill children through entertainment, education and family activities.

"Anything that anyone can do on any level to make the world a little bit better for those in need is tikkun olam (repairing the world), and working with an organization like Starlight lets us see a tangible impact that we make on the lives of others," Wilson said.


Roberta Koz Wilson making cookies at home. Photo by Joshua Plotke

So far, her company has donated more than $30,000 to the foundation, but that’s not all that keeps her going.

"The greatest joy, by far, has been that it has kept me feeling connected to my beloved mom," Wilson said. "I know this was her dream, and I feel like I am helping to fulfill that for her."

Wilson’s brother, who is also her best customer, said there is something that sets his mother’s cookies above the rest.

"It’s like the way someone sings that takes your breath away. It’s not definable," Dave Koz said. "When I tasted the cookies, there was a secret ingredient of love — a big, huge helping of it that sets them apart from other cookies."

Hollywood has noticed. The cookies have been featured on the "Rachael Ray Show" and "The Bonnie Hunt Show," and they have been included in gift bags for nominees and presenters at the Academy Awards and at numerous celebrity events.

With efforts to grow the business, Wilson hired a food consultant who shared the cookies at meetings across the country, and, in November, Cookies for a Koz hit the shelves of 375 HomeGoods stores. More recently, they were introduced at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, resulting in a total of 2,200 stores across the United States and Canada that will sell a dry mix and cookie assortment.

Wilson said this is especially satisfying because Marshalls was her mother’s favorite store to shop at for bargains. Now its shelves feature packages with Audrey Koz’s photo and story.

"The fact that her cookies are at Marshalls truly gives me the chills," said Wilson, a mother of two teenagers who she hopes will one day run the growing enterprise.

Her brother, who is the owner of Koz Wine, donates proceeds of his sales to the Starlight Children’s Foundation as well. Now the two are working to expand their brand as a socially conscious food company known as Koz Kitchen. Once again, their inspiration is their mother, whose kitchen was home to a steady stream of friends, family and love.

"My mom had the ability to make everyone in her presence feel like they were the most important person in the world," Wilson said. "And it was all truly genuine."

The siblings recently paired up on Dave Koz’s tour aboard a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise. Wilson was on board to teach cooking school.

"The great irony is that when she started out, she was really lousy," he said of his sister. "Over the years, she has become a really great chef."



AUDREY KOZ’S
CHOCOLATE CHIP
COOKIES

1/3 cup softened butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons
Frangelico
(hazelnut liqueur)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 to 1 cup whole pecans
or 1/2 cup walnuts
1.4 ounce Heath bar,
chopped into small pieces


Cream together butter, oil, sugars and egg until creamy. Stir in vanilla and Frangelico. Combine flour and baking soda; add to sugar mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, nuts and Heath bar pieces. Drop batter by the teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between cookies. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for about 17 minutes. Cool and remove from cookie sheets.

Makes about 25 to 30 cookies. 

Cookies From a Koz For a Good Cause

Roberta Wilson - Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Calabasas resident Roberta Koz Wilson quit her day job to continue her mom's cookie legacy and goodwill.

By Mira Reverente on calabasas.patch.com


Cookies were a given in the Koz household. Pharmacist-turned-baker Audrey Koz baked chocolate chip cookies day in and day out and gave them away to family and friends.

“It was her way of spreading her love,” said Audrey’s daughter, local resident Roberta Koz Wilson.

Dave Koz would tote his mom’s chocolate chip cookies at every meeting and performance at the beginning of his legendary music career.

After Audrey passed away in 2005, Wilson quit her corporate job and launched Cookies for a Koz. “It was the best way to carry on her legacy,” said the former MTV network executive.

“Reverse engineering” was Wilson’s approach to her mom’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. “I put the recipe together based on what I saw and remember,” she said.

Armed with her mother’s pair of magic pans, Wilson started baking and hasn’t stopped since. She said, “I feel as long as she’s watching over my shoulders telling me what to do next, I’ll be fine.”

After perfecting the chocolate chip cookie recipe, Wilson decided to expand her cookie line by introducing four other flavors: oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, white chocolate raspberry and red velvet.

Currently, the cookies are available at all 375 Home Goods stores across the U.S. Wilson is currently in talks with a few mass retailers for much-coveted shelf space.

Some of the proceeds go toward benefiting Starlight Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group.

“They have various programs both in and out of the hospitals, for sick children and their families as the children go through life-threatening illnesses,” said Wilson, describing her mom’s favorite charity. "My mother was an angel on earth. She would have been proud that we continue to do goodwill and look out for others.”

Wilson also ships her cookies to all 50 states. To maintain freshness, the cookies are individually wrapped and shipped within two days.

“My favorite is still the chocolate chip cookies,” said Ken Levinson of Lake Worth, Florida.

The cookies have also made their way to celebrity gift bags and some TV shows including The Bonnie Hunt Show and The Rachael Ray Show.

Cookies For a Koz with the Stars!

John Holdridge - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Terri Hatcher


Shelby Young


Regina King


Raven Symone


Niecy Nash


Nia Peeples


Michael Vartan


Maria Menounos


Malin Akerman


Lauren Velez


Jonathan Silverman


Jaime Pressly


Fred Willard


Eddie Hassel


Constantine Maroules


Cloris Leachman


Chris Harrison


Alfre Woodard


Aimee Teeghan







Cookies For a Koz on The Bonnie Hunt Show!

John Holdridge - Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Watch Roberta and Cookies for a Koz featured on the Bonnie Hunt show! Click on the video to play the clip:




Cookies For a Koz on Rachel Ray Show!

John Holdridge - Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Roberta and Cookies for a Koz were featured on the Rachel Ray show. Click on the video to play the clip:




Cookies For a Koz in the Santa Monica Daily Mirror!

John Holdridge - Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Cookies for a Koz was just written up in the Santa Monica Daily Mirror, Click on the image to read the article

Santa Monica Daily Press: Baking a Difference (Cookies for a Koz)

H2P Developer - Thursday, February 04, 2010
Cookies for a Koz was just written up in the Santa Monica Daily Press. To read the full article please click here

6/15/09 Cookies For a Koz on KIIS FM!

Joe Watkins - Thursday, June 25, 2009
Roberta of Cookies for a Koz was on KIIS FM again and in case you missed the interview we have just added it for you all! Please Click Here to Listen

5/9/09 Cookies for a Koz at 2009 KIIS FM Wango Tango

Joe Watkins - Thursday, May 28, 2009

1)  Mark Ballas - Winner of the 8th season  Dancing With The Stars!

2)  Black Eyed Peas enjoy the Cookies For A Koz chocolate chip cookies in the VIP room!

3)  Members of the band LMFAO enjoying Cookies For A Koz backstage at Wango Tango

4)  Singer/songwriter Kevin Rudolf taking a bite of a Cookies For A Koz cookie at Wango Tango!

5)  KIIS FM On Air Talent - Manny On The Streets - grabbing a taste of the chocolate chip cookie

6)  KIIS FM DJ - JoJo On The Radio - Enjoying Cookies For A Koz backstage at Wango Tango!

7)  Angela and Vanessa Simmons from Run's House on MTV -  Enjoying a taste of Cookies For A Koz at Wango Tango '09

8)  Millionaire Matchmaker star Patti Stanger receives a gift of Cookies For A Koz at Wango Tango '09

9)  Lead singer Tyson Ritter and members of ALL AMERICAN REJECTS eating Cookies For A Koz at Wango Tango '09!

10)  Corbin Bleu from High School Musical and recording artist backstage with Cookies For A Koz at Wango Tango.  Corbin is the Global Spokesperson for Starlight Children's Foundation which 10% of the proceeds from Cookies For A Koz go to support.

11)  Cast of "Secret Life of the American Teenager" enjoy Cookies For A Koz at Wango Tango '09

12) Holly Montag from The Hills on MTV - backstage with Cookies For A Koz at Wango Tango '09

13)  Recording artist Soulja Boy backstage with Cookies For A Koz at Wango Tango '09

14) Derek Hough from Dancing With The Stars having fun backstage with Cookies For A Koz at Wango Tango.