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Meet Sofia Ksendzovsky of Coconuts For Dates in West Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sofia Ksendzovsky.

Sofia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Growing up in Communist Soviet Union, I never thought that I would become an entrepreneur. In fact during those times, having your own business was considered both dangerous and illegal. In 1989, my family and I took the yearlong immigration journey as Jewish refugees through Austria and Italy to the US to escape anti-Semitism, reunite with our family, and take a chance at a better future. This was right before the fall of Communism and at that time, much like today, the immigration climate was unpredictable with no guarantee that our journey would end in the US.

With a stroke of luck, we landed in New York City and did our best to become “Americans.” There were so many adjustments and individual challenges, but food always brought us together. My mom, an amazing cook, always instilled the importance of eating healthy and non-processed food in my brother and me, even when times were tough. In fact, her “fancy” school lunch sandwiches full of fresh veggies became a hot ticket item in our middle school as my brother and I traded them for our classmates’ classic PB&J’s desperately trying to fit in (sorry mom).

My early life’s journey of uncertainty led me in a conservative direction towards a career in marriage and family therapy, which ultimately brought me to Los Angeles. However, my passion for food and healthy cooking always remained as a creative outlet and a favorite hobby.

Despite my healthy eating habits, in my early 30’s I began to have chronic stomach problems. It was both confusing and frustrating since I had been a healthy eater. After numerous doctors’ visits with more questions than answers, I started to listen closely to my body. My health journey turned into a culinary passion. Eliminating many different foods from my diet proved to be my answer to a pain-free life.

Not being a stranger to change, with time, I adjusted and learned to love my new way of eating. Not only did this new change nourish me back to health, it also nourished my creativity. After meeting so many people with similar dietary challenges, my personal quest changed into a mission to help others and to prove that there is an easy, tasty, and clean eating path, focused on non-inflammatory ingredients.

I started making plant-based, dairy-free, and grain-free desserts and snacks for events and hosted dinner parties for friends. One of my most popular dessert creations was a vegan and grain-free version of a certain nostalgic cookie made with coconut and covered with a chocolate drizzle. The unexpectedly positive response surprised me as did the consistent suggestion, “you should really sell this stuff.” While I was flattered, I just laughed it off because I never saw myself as an entrepreneur.

After much encouragement to take the entrepreneurial leap, my boyfriend, who is a food-tech entrepreneur, introduced me to Tomas Rivera who owns Ammo by Salt Catering in West Hollywood. Tomas is a well-respected, highly experienced chef that has orchestrated numerous award parties for the Oscars and Emmys, as well as all of Beverly Hills Art Shows. I needed an experienced co-founder to bring this dream to a reality.

Tomas was initially skeptical that a vegan, raw, and grain-free cookie can measure up. Needless to say, he was sold after a taste test, and we decided to meet in the kitchen and see what magic we can come up with. Here I was in a real commercial kitchen working with a professional executive chef perfecting my six-ingredient cookie recipe-it was a blast! Before I knew it, I became an entrepreneur. About six months later, we launched Coconuts For Dates and began selling cookies at local cafes, gatherings, and online. We have grown immensely since that first day and continue to find creative ways to distribute our product.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being a completely new business owner there were a lot of growing pains and learning opportunities. I am still learning daily. Who would have thought that making cookies could be a complicated process? We had to figure outsourcing the best ingredients at the best price, scaling large orders, creating a website, building a brand, and how to do sales. I never learned any of that in my graduate studies. The learning curve was steep and I had to get used to not taking rejection personally. Instead, I let it motivate me to continue to improve the product and business model. I am very lucky with having an amazing and supportive co-founder and advisor (my boyfriend) that often help put things in perspective and allows me to see obstacles as opportunities.

As a most recent challenge, we, along with so many other small businesses that have been impacted, are trying to navigate through the uncertain times of COVID 19. We are continuing to stay positive, healthy, and committed to get cookies to all of our customers via online orders from our website and/or Etsy.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Coconuts For Dates story. Tell us more about the business.
Coconuts For Dates make delicious snacks full of flavor and free of processed ingredients. Our goal is to make simple foods that people with and without dietary restrictions can enjoy. We started with vegan, grain-free, dairy-free, raw, paleo cookies. We combine six 100% organic ingredients (coconut, dates, 100% cacao, vanilla, Himalayan salt and coconut sugar) to make a tasty, indulgent, and nourishing snack. Many of our customers tell us that they get a little jolt of energy after eating just one cookie and often eat it as a pre or post-workout snack.

Our cookies are locally made and are available in cafes throughout Los Angeles and can also be shipped throughout the contiguous US. We believe that we are what we eat and that even desserts should fuel and nurture the body. We stand by our mission to deliver clean, versatile, preservative-free snacks that not only taste amazing but are full of health benefits.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
In both my life and in business, I have lived by the quote “luck is where opportunity knocks and you answer.” With that, the more things I allow myself to see as opportunities the luckier I am.

While I had many challenges growing up as a first-generation immigrant, I am so grateful for each challenge as it has taught me to be resilient and gave me the confidence and ability to trust in myself.

In business, I was very lucky to be surrounded by amazing and supportive people without whom our company would not be possible. In fact, meeting my business partner, Tomas, was complete serendipity. My boyfriend just happened to start a conversation with Tomas at a conference and also just happened to have a sample of my cookies in the car which he had Tomas try. I would like to say that the rest was history, but the reality is that aside from luck, the rest involved and still involves a lot of hard work and continued effort.

Pricing:

  • 6 pack of cookies (12) -$24
  • 12 pack of cookies (24) -$43
  • 24 pack of cookies (48)- $79

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1437 S. Robertson Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90035
  • Website: www.coconutsfordates.com
  • Email: coconutsfordates@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @coconutsfordates
  • Facebook: @coconutsfordates
  • Twitter: @coconuts_for

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