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The sweet success story of alumnus-founded business First Bite Cookies

Four cookies alongside a glass of milk are pictured on a white surface. Run by alumnus Christen Capobianco, First Bite Cookies sells an assortment of different flavored cookies. (Courtesy of Christen Capobianco)

By Elise Van Meter

Feb. 18, 2024 1:42 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 25 at 8:25 p.m.

Christen Capobianco is blending creativity, dedication and chocolate chips.

The alumnus said her business, First Bite Cookies, has evolved during her time as a student and afterward to enfold the effort and tenacity she has invested in it. With love and care enveloped in each cookie and order, the baked treats serve as reflections of her individual journey and growth, Capobianco said.

“When people eat my cookies, I want them to think of how much goes into making it,” Capobianco said. “People might think it’s a normal cookie, but that cookie has so much story behind it.”

(Courtesy of Christen Capobianco)
Dressed in a blue blouse with white stripes, Capobianco smiles for a photo. The alumnus runs the business First Bite Cookies. (Courtesy of Christen Capobianco)

[Related: UCLA student elevates banana bread with small business BBL by Zoë]

Capobianco said she financially sustained herself through her collegiate journey, opting to find gifts for friends and family that were heartfelt and cost effective. She said she wound up presenting her loved ones with home-baked chocolate chip cookies, which received exclamations of enthusiasm. During her senior year in an era of quarantine, Capobianco said she found positivity and inspiration in baking. Repeatedly met with the keen praises of her roommates, who affirmed the scrumptious flavor of her cookies and expressed their sincere willingness to purchase the baked goods, Capobianco said she was led to first conceive of a cookie business.

Upon graduating from UCLA in the winter of 2021, Capobianco began working as a consultant and soon uncovered a profound disinclination toward her chosen career, she said. In a wave of contemplation, Capobianco said she was reminded of her flair for baking and thought of Duffl, a multifaceted delivery service for college students. In anticipation of first connecting with Duffl, Capobianco said she began experimenting, meticulously amending her recipes to delight her friends and family. Once pleased with her culinary creations – a chocolate chip cookie and a fudge brownie cookie – Capobianco reached out to Duffl with the proposition of a partnership, she said.

Capobianco was invited to Duffl for a taste test, she said, and her cookies were immediately coveted by the store’s staff, kicking off their collaboration. Her cookies likewise quickly procured favor among Duffl customers, said fellow alumnus, co-founder and senior marketing manager at Duffl, Robert Dong. She was soon amplifying the number of cookies she baked to accommodate for the enthusiastic demand, he said.

“I remember the first batch,” Dong said. “She might have just brought in, like, 10 of each flavor, and they sold out within a day or two. And then, within a few weeks, she was bringing them in by the dozens.”

Though she believed herself to be an analytical individual, Capobianco said she unearthed her creative identity through baking. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she occupied her time by opting for artistry and crafting baked goods, she said. However, it wasn’t until a friend, a film student, noted her inventiveness that Capobianco said she recognized her imaginative capability.

“Up until then, I never identified as a creative person, and it took a creative person telling me that I’m creative for me to actually believe that,” Capobianco said. “So when she said that, it just clicked in my head, like, ‘Oh, you know what? I am.’ … I think that’s when I allowed myself to really dive into that creativity and explore that.”

Capobianco said she has since found great satisfaction and benefit in ingenuity, conjuring recipes that reflect the cravings of her customers. For instance, her adaptation of a snickerdoodle cookie reflects the desires of those who participated in her online cookie-preference survey, and her gluten-free chocolate chip cookie seeks to appeal to those who are otherwise unable to enjoy her products, she said.

“I realized if I’m going to improve my business and grow, I need to start listening to what customers are telling me or what they’re asking of me,” Capobianco said. “I think that part of being a business owner is being very, very receptive and paying attention to what people want.”

Capobianco’s eagerness to serve her clients and foster an embracing atmosphere and brand is reflective of her character, said Asha Irani, her friend and customer. Particularly in reference to her efforts to craft gluten-free options, Irani noted Capobianco’s considerate outlook as an expression of her inclination toward inclusivity.

Capobianco said she intends for her customers to be conscious of the love and passion that is invested in each cookie, as well as of the challenges that have disrupted her business. The tale of First Bite Cookies is not one without obstacles, she said, but is instead one of perseverance. In spite of substantial adjustments in her personal life that have periodically induced pauses in her business, Capobianco said she remains zealous and tenacious in her pursuit of baking success.

(Courtesy of Christen Capobianco)
Four cookies filled with white chocolate chips and Oreo cookie crumbles are pictured. Capobianco said she ensures that the different cookies she bakes reflect what her customers want. (Courtesy of Christen Capobianco)

[Related: Student-run business Vienna Bakes stirs up stunning cakes and cookies]

As her business flourishes, Capobianco said she wants to open scores of brick-and-mortar stores across the country, all while retaining the quality, adventure and heart she invests in each cookie. Endeavoring to embody her business’s slogan, “Love at First Bite,” in crafting cookies, she said she seeks to immediately infatuate her customer. From conscientiously creating each cookie to personally packing every order, Capobianco’s enthusiasm and devotion to her business and clients are evident, Dong said. Investing love, care and time into each business effort, her hard-working nature is impressive and exhilarating, he added. Though she is conscious of the challenges that lie ahead, Capobianco said she retains an optimistic perspective.

“Anything that is worthwhile is going to take a lot of time … and effort and consistency and discipline to make it grow,” Capobianco said. “Just because someone says no doesn’t mean that the door is closed. It just means that you just got to keep knocking on a bunch of doors until someone says yes.”

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Elise Van Meter
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