Less than a year after graduating from Emerson, Oliva Strauss ’21 launched her baking company, Liv Sweetly, which she cooked up in the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3) program.
Liv Sweetly offers recipe kits that teach customers to reduce stress and anxiety through baking. Customers receive a recipe, ingredients, and an informational wellness card, all in a reusable, 100-percent recycled bag.
Strauss has been researching the emotional benefits of cooking and baking since high school. She points to the popularity of baking during COVID, which also led to a yeast shortage.
“There’s a positive sensory effect that happens when working on recipes. The focus on caramel is really good for reducing stress,” said Strauss. “I can’t think of anything else [while making caramel] because I need to have my mind on one thing. Caramel is hard to make. You need to be paying attention, and after you make it you feel better. You feel that release of stress because you spent 15 minutes not thinking about anything else.”
Strauss grew up attending cooking camps, and decided to focus her energy on baking. She wanted to be in the E3 program before she got to Emerson, and enrolled in two marketing classes, specifically to develop a brand portfolio for Liv Sweetly. Before Emerson, she took a gap year and worked at a bakery.
“I’ve always loved baking, and I’ve been stress baking forever,” said Strauss, who came in second place in the 2021 E3 Expo. “In E3, I knew my business would have to do with baking.”
Since graduating, Strauss has stayed in touch with Lu Ann Reeb, assistant dean of the School of Arts and director of Entrepreneurial Studies and Business Studies.
“We meet every few weeks, she gives me feedback on what I’ve done and guides me on next steps. She’s a welcomed mentor,” said Strauss.
Strauss’ E3 business idea was subscription-based, but since then she’s realized that the model needed to be simplified.
“The model I had with subscriptions [was] harder to figure out details like mailing, refrigeration, melting chocolate. Those are tricky things,” said Strauss. “I came up with a more simplified version to sell in stores.”
Strauss launched Liv Sweetly in March and has two recipe kits so far: caramel brownies and rainbow shortbread cookies. A third recipe will debut in June. They’re available online at LivSweetlyBakery.com and, so far, in two stores in Massachusetts: Shubie’s Marketplace in Marblehead and The FULLer CUP in Winchester.
Strauss has been working on growing Liv Sweetly’s social media through Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. She’s also been shipping online orders, working on getting more stores to sell Liv Sweetly, and developing new recipes in the kitchen.
She often starts with recipes from magazines, online, and cookbooks. Recipes get tweaked over time, sometimes two recipes are combined, and Strauss picks out elements of recipes she likes and determines measurements that work best.
“There’s other times I will make perfect chocolate chip cookies by doing half a stick of butter instead of a full stick butter, changing the amount of granulated brown sugar, trying egg yolk instead of a full egg, until I get to what I’m imagining in my head,” said Strauss.
Strauss returned to Emerson and the E3 Expo last month, when she spoke about Liv Sweetly’s launch and handed out recipe kits.
“It’s been a busy couple of months, but it’s also super fun,” said Strauss.