With her family background, Lisa Wojcik could have ended up making any number of sweet treats. The family’s move to Sacramento when Lisa was 5 meant she could see a lot of her paternal grandmother. “Lucky for me, she was a wonderful cook, baker and gardener, and I got to spend weekends and summers with her. When we visited my mother’s mother in Denver, we baked cookies for Santa together. Mom’s sister is famous for her caramel corn. Mom’s brother makes peanut brittle. Mom’s best friend makes orange rolls, and she’s the best jam maker in the world. Her fig-walnut jam is my request for Christmas every year. Growing up, there were people baking around me all the time.”
Every holiday season Lisa and her mother made candied pecans. “We made them as long as I can remember. Hers is the original recipe that I follow today. A favorite family story is of the time she had packaged a lot of tins with candied pecans to give to folks who dropped by, neighbors, friends, co-workers at my dad’s pharmacy. When she came home from shopping, the tins were mysteriously empty, the pecans had magically disappeared. I guess you could say that my brother and sister and I were her biggest fans.”
“I didn’t learn how to cook, but I learned how to bake,” Lisa laughs. And her siblings carry on the family tradition as well. “My younger brother, James, Is always experimenting in the kitchen. He makes phenomenal cheesecakes. My sister, Anna, has always been the birthday cake maker in the family, and she is also a really talented cook. She’s a person who can look over what’s in the fridge and make a delicious meal from it.”
Lisa may have inherited the mantle of candied nut maker, but it wasn’t the first professional path she took. At UC Santa Barbara she got a degree in English, and after graduation took various jobs, none of which inspired her. “Then I heard about the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising. Every one of the courses in the visual communications major sounded like a dream to me. Even though I had no idea what I would do with it, I just knew I had to go. So I quit my job, dropped everything and moved to San Francisco to go back to school. It was the perfect decision for me.”
Lisa graduated third in her class and built her career from that school experience, the people she met, the connections she made, and the confidence she built. For the next ten years, she was the visual merchandiser for a number of San Francisco companies. When her employer opened a new corporate office in Santa Barbara, she took the opportunity to go back there. Expecting to be with the company for a long time, she found herself frustrated by corporate politics.
“After a couple of years, I realized that I was not going to be happy unless I was running my own show. For years people had been telling me that I should make the candied pecans, and I started to explore the idea. At first, I kept my day job and worked nights and weekends on Black Bow Sweets. I wasn’t getting much sleep, but I was so excited and so focused that it was fine. With my background in design, it was exciting to design for myself. The fact that it was for me, made even the hard stuff, like permits, license, etc do-able.”
“The thing I love the most is that I am never bored. At first it seemed stressful and overwhelming, but it turns out I like the fact that my work is never done. Black Bow Sweets gives me a purpose, fulfills a really big part of my mission in life.”
“My business is so much a manifestation of who I am and my personal aesthetic, the classic lines, the black and white palate. The nuts are classic, and when people respond with such joy, it’s the best feeling in the world. I write every day in my gratitude journal that I’m grateful that I could create my own brand from scratch and that I can do this for a living.”