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 herself. 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.”