Irene Costello and Joan MacIsaac

Photo: Joan Seidel

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Irene Costello, 50 (left), and Joan MacIsaac, 49
Hyde Park, Massachusetts

Effie's Homemade

The Goods: Two friends turn an old-fashioned family recipe into a best-selling cookie-cracker hybrid.

Their Idea: MacIsaac and Costello, a chef and a financial services professional who taught cooking classes together on the side, had talked for years about selling MacIsaac's mother's "perfect" oatcakes. An old New England staple, "they have the perfect balance of sweetness, butter, salt, and toasted nuttiness," says MacIsaac—and everyone who tried one loved it. When the pair got wind of a local holiday fair in 2006, they baked a few trays of the oatcakes in MacIsaac's kitchen. "They sold out in an hour," she recalls. A few fans even called to request additional batches.

Their First Steps: Emboldened by their success, MacIsaac and Costello consulted with food industry contacts on a business plan. Then they borrowed money from friends and family ("Banks aren't going to lend you any money!" says MacIsaac with a laugh) to help cover start-up costs like computers, a Web site, and packaging.

Their Big Breaks: In 2008 the duo took their oatcakes to a trade show in New York. There, they impressed a sales rep from Vermont-based Grafton Cheese, who ordered 45 cases for gift baskets. ("Grafton's two-year-aged Cheddar on our oatcakes is pretty awesome," explains MacIsaac.) Months later, Effie's was featured in the New York Times' holiday gift guide after a reporter tried the oatcakes at a store near her vacation home. "We still have people calling and referencing that article," says MacIsaac. The oatcakes are now sold in specialty stores all over the country.