Meet the Snack Artist

SHIRA BERK, Founder

Life is pretty sweet for smart and sassy Goodie Girl Cookies Founder Shira Berk. The former New York City-based music marketing exec traded a corner office and high heels for spatula and quinoa flour in pursuit of the perfect gluten-free cookie … on a whim and dare.

“I didn’t set out to make cookies,” says Berk, 47-year-old mom of three. “I’ve always been drawn to the road less traveled, the unbeaten path so, in some ways, this makes as much sense as my current penchant for glittery high-tops. I also always knew I wanted to run a business. I just had no money and no idea how to even start. The success of Goodie Girl Cookies has allowed me to meld seemingly disparate lifelong passions for design, baking, nutrition and culinary trends into something I can proudly share with others.”

In 2010, Berk, who was known by friends as a talented, but untrained baker, was running the café inside her children’s preschool when a fellow parent challenged her to create a gluten-free cookie modeled after the ones baked at the café.

Game on. 17 months, endless attempts and countless bags of sugar, amaranth, sorghum and a host of other identifiable flours, Berk developed a delicious gluten-free quinoa chocolate chip cookie that started to outsell traditional cookies at the café. She knew she was on to something.

Inspired by trendsetting pioneers ranging from Milk Bar's Christina Tossi to architect Frank Gehry, restaurateur Danny Meyer and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Berk looked at the numerous challenges she faced in the kitchen as blank canvas of opportunity. She cooked up a plan for a complete line of cookies that would break the (often dry and flavorless) gluten-free cookie mold. After creating a gluten-free version of the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mints (called Mint Slims), Berk’s Goodie Girl Cookies received a full-page write-up in the New York Post. She left the café, set up production at a culinary incubator in Queens, and grew the line to include varieties such as Toffee Chaos, Midnight Brownie and Oatmeal Raisin, selling them in specialty stores in the New York metro area.

Her big break came after winning a coveted booth at the Fancy Food Trade show when/how where she met Greg Toufayan of Toufayan Bakeries. Toufayan and his family run one of the largest family-owned baked breads companies in the US and he and his team quickly decided to take Goodie Girl under their wings to help Berk scale production and distribution. A delicious partnership was born.

“Just like in baking, building a business is about finding that perfect blend of ingredients, taking the right steps, in the right order, to create something amazing,” added Berk. “I am grateful for all of the opportunities and inspiring mentors along the way.”

Berk, who lost 80lbs nearly 10 years ago, (and maintained an ideal weight every since) says her favorite flavor to this day is the original gluten-free Quinoa Chocolate Chunk. It is important to her that even small indulgences are “worth it” when it comes to great ingredients and incredible flavors. Her commitment to taste is matched by her dedication to maintaining a vibrant and fun brand character, evident in playful packing and inventive flavorings. She personally makes sure the brand stands out in a now active food category.

So what’s next for Goodie Girl? Long-term plans for the business include line extensions, partnerships and more cookies. Just launched: New Chocolate Slims and Vanilla Slims, a riff off the best-selling Mint variety.

“You can’t deny it,” says Berk. “There’s nothing like a good cookie to put a smile on someone’s face.”

Follow Shira on Instagram and Facebook @goodiegirlcookies and on Twitter @GoodieGirlNYC

FUN FACTS:

  • • Shira lost 80lbs at age 30 and has maintained her weight even while building a cookie company!
  • • Shira has three young children, including a set of twins
  • • Favorite bands: Fugazi, Rise Against, Sunny Day Real Estate, Husker Du, Helmet
  • • Favorite designer: Dries Van Noten, Pucci
  • • Favorite Film: Annie Hall. (And Win Win)

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LAUREN GROWNEY, Product Manager

It all started at a family run bakery, where she worked all through high school and college. It wasn’t just a job, it became an important stepping stone in Lauren’s life. With her brother, an awarded NYC chef, by her side, food was a family tradition. Working for a small business, supporting the community and being able to watch something grow right in your hands created entrepreneurial spirit in college. Being a part of the food industry is not a job, it’s a lifestyle and she’s passionate to be a Goodie Girl!



MICHELLE SUAZO, Branding & Packaging

Michelle Suazo is the founder of IndigoPark, a brand strategy and design firm based in Baltimore, MD. She has created campaigns and design solutions for a number of international clients in a wide range of industries from Goldman Sachs and J.P Morgan Chase to trend-setting fashion and cosmetics brands like Saks Fifth Avenue and Revlon. She has also developed a food rescue system that is launching in MD called MyFoodBridge.org through her non-profit U Empower of Maryland.. Prior to IndigoPark, Michelle was creative director of the interactive design team of Grey Advertising. She provided brand strategy and design for GOODIE GIRL COOKIES experience.