Sunday, October 4, 2009

When I Met Rowena

When I went to the Fancy Food Show in New York I found out about Rowena’s. She makes gourmet cakes, curds, jams, and sauces out of Norfolk, VA. She offered us her signature Carrot Jam. We couldn't help but think how weird and hoped we could swallow it. To our surprise it was unusually satisfying, delicious and addictive. People tend to be skeptical that jam made from a vegetable can be any good, but its cinnamon clove taste wins them over. This jam has been the surprise best-seller at Rowena’s for 25 years. She also had us try some sugar free pound cake but didn’t tell us it was sugar free until afterward. It was so good we never would have known. Rowena’s cakes are not just wonderful to taste; they are shipped in a unique "spotted" shipping box and make welcome gifts for many occasions. The excitement begins the moment the beautifully decorated box arrives. Rowena feels she creates more than cakes; she creates happiness. We’ve been excited to sell Rowena’s gourmet offerings since we met her.

Rowena makes almond, lemon, chocolate, chocolate mint, and cappuccino pound cakes with and without curds. She also makes a Rose Shaped Cake, a Cranberry Torte and a selection of different Baby Bundt Cakes. She makes lemon, raspberry, and key lime curds, Heavenly Curry, Spicy Peanut Sauce and Devilish Mustard Sauce, and Peach Orange Clove Jam, Cranberry Nut Conserve and of course, Carrot Jam. She also creates sugar free almond, lemon and chocolate pound cakes and sugar free lemon and raspberry curds.

Here is some information about Rowena. Three backyard fruit trees and almond pound cake sparked what is today a thriving gourmet food business for Rowena Fullinwider, founder and president of Rowena’s, Inc, in Norfolk, Virginia. Fullinwider often baked for family, friends and church bake sales. People liked what she made and wanted to buy them. A friend offered to carry things in her store. After that, things just started to grow. She started with her almond pound cake, some jams and the lemon curd. As word spread about the “cake lady”, requests for Rowena’s specialty foods exceeded the capabilities of her kitchen. Rowena opened her gourmet manufacturing facility in May of 1983 and in 23 years, her facility has grown to 18 employees, a retail store, staff offices, call center, tearoom, two spacious kitchens and two warehouses. The Almond Pound Cake is to this day her biggest selling item.

Rowena and her company have won numerous awards over the years, including the coveted Blue Chip Enterprise Award in 1994 and the Women Business Advocate Award for Virginia and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Small Business Administration in 2004.

Rowena not only runs her successful business, but she also serves or has served on several boards (including president of the local National Association of Women Business Owners in 1996-97), mentors other women business owners, donates tons of time and product to charities, and gives tours of Rowena's to at-risk children. She lobbied Congress to help small business receive an exemption from the National Labeling and Education Act of 1990, served as chairman of the Governor's Small Business Advisory Board for six years, and was a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business in 1995, serving as the co-chair for the Regulation and Paperwork Reduction committee.
Rowena’s has been featured in national publications such as Lady’s Home Journal, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Taste of Home and Southern Living, and has appeared on Food Finds on the Food Network’s Food Finds, QVC, The 700 Club and The Today Show. Rowena’s is the first US small gourmet business to present at the Moscow World Food Fair.

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