At the recent Sydney bike show I was lucky enough to meet Emily Miazga who is the effervescent woman behind Em’s Power Cookies & Bars. Canadian-born Emily runs her own business from the south island of New Zealand and agreed to answer a few questions to help unravel the secrets of her success.
When did you first start making your power bars and cookies?
Back when I was a teenager, I used to make yummy cookies for myself as well as to give to friends, etc. I found people loved yummy cookies and it was fun giving them away, including to my high school teachers! Over the years everyone used to say I should sell my cookies. I ended up studying to be a registered dietician, so followed the foodie-career route. My recipe also evolved. When I started travelling and ended up in NZ, I needed work. So it was a perfect time to launch my power cookies! That was Feb/March 2004.
How did you move from cooking at home to the commercial kitchen and a serious business?
From the start I rented kitchen space because you can’t really bake at home and then sell legally. After just a few months of this I found a bakery manufacturer who did it under contract. I could only do about 200-300 cookies/batch on my own. The bakery started with much bigger batches, around 1000-2000 to start with. It was better to be able to work on the business rather than to be doing the baking myself. But moving to a commercial operation was challenging in that I had to sell more to make it work as a viable business. And this was not easy! There are costs for the economy of scale and this takes money. The market was very competitive, and I did everything myself. I was not a big corporate with deep pockets for big advertising campaigns. I had to do all the marketing myself. Winning races helped. I am still very small, but it is viable and the brand is getting some good traction.
How do you manage to live in a fairly remote location on NZ’s south island and still run a business?
The power of the internet and travelling. Lifestyle and living somewhere I love is most important to me, more so than living in a city. I do miss out on certain events but that is the trade-off.
I know you’ve achieved quite a lot as an athlete, please tell us about your achievements on the bike?
Most of my racing success was in the NZ Speight’s coast to coast multisport race. I won it 3x. This involved a lot of cycling training because especially at the end of the race we had to ride a 70k TT. The way the C2C course is, finishing in Christchurch, more often than not there is a strong headwind. So after 10 or so hrs of racing most people dreaded this final slog. Not me. I got really strong on the bike with TT, and really looked forward to this part of the race! I knew I could ride the 70k in sub-2hr which included the transition from out of the kayak. Much faster than all the other women, and my times were competitive with the top men, so my claim to fame was to make the guys drink beer out of my trophy if they rode slower than me on the final bike. Most of them had to drink!
How many bikes do you own? Which one is your favourite?
At the moment I only have a specialized epic MTB and I love it!! Prior to that I had a tarmac road bike, but sold it after not road-racing as much. My TT bike was an Avanti team Chrono.
How can cyclists use your products?
Em’s are really best as a pre-training snack because they are low gi and don’t cause any stomach issues. Plus they are yummy! If going out for longer than 2 hrs then I strongly suggest using another power cookie or bar about half-way through. This is in addition to your sports drinks and maybe 1-2 gels. The real-food idea during longer session has proved to be invaluable. For really long rides, have one of my cookies/bars every 2 hrs. Post-training, I suggest having a yummy smoothie or maybe a healthy sandwich and some fruit/juice.
Where can readers buy your products?
Most good bike shops should be stocking them like Ashfield Cycles!! As well as Anaconda, Macpac, Mountain Designs, etc. My distributor in Australia is Velo Vita and their website has a list of retailers: www.velovita.net.au
For online sales, a couple of retailer partners sell online like 99 Bikes or Pushys.