It’s truly a “sister act” for Leslie Bowers and Linda Olander, and they are quick to praise their mother for the influences she had on them that led them eventually to found their company, Elegant Brie.
“She was the original Martha Stewart, making clothes, home décor, wonderful cakes for every occasion. Our whole house and yard were a setting for entertaining, which she loved to do. She is a commercial artist, so presentation was very important to her. She created an environment where all our guests felt welcome and had a great time.”
Every holiday was celebrated at their home, and their mother especially went all out. At one point, Leslie came up with a brie appetizer for a family gathering. She removed the rind, layered it with filling, and wrapped it in pastry simply gathered up on the top of the brie. Linda later designed the special folding of the pastry and the pastry decorations.
The sisters had wanted to go into business together for some time. When the downturn in economy caused Leslie to lose her job, they saw it as the perfect time to begin something new together. Of all the ideas they had, the pastry-wrapped brie was the clear winner.
That didn't make it easy, however. “We threw out the first 20 we made. The next 20 were up to our standards, so we took them to a local farmers market and sold out.”
Farmers markets are a lot of work, but the feedback they continued to receive at them was invaluable. “It gives us such pleasure now to know that we are part of families’ traditions. When their kids come home from college, they hope mom and dad will have an Elegant Brie in the freezer.”
Also, important was joining the Specialty Food Association. A perk for new members is a free ad in Specialty Food Magazine. “Our first ad got us an account with HoneyBaked Ham Company to be in their catalog!”
Another important account was Draeger’s Market. “We made a little basket with our brie, took it to the corporate headquarters and asked to see Mr. Richard Draeger. He graciously met with us and gave us very helpful feedback. The store now carries our products.”
“We’ve taken a party staple and made it into a stand-out appetizer. It’s also so simple to have on hand in the freezer and make any evening special with a glass of wine. There’s a size for any occasion: small, medium and large. Online, you can customize your bries by choosing the sizes you want and the fillings you want.”
“We’re serious about entertaining and attention to detail. We feel that we are filling a niche that hasn’t been totally captured. And we’re continuing to innovate, with more products in the pipeline. We’ve even made a video on how to barbecue a brie.” (See link in sidebars.”
The sisters’ motto is, “Entertain like you mean it.” They take great pride in making appetizers that are as delicious as they are beautiful. Leslie closes with very good advice: “Make your own occasions. Life is short.” And, any occasion is taken to a new level with Elegant Brie.