What could be sweeter than a scrumptious dessert? Perhaps a luscious handcrafted treat made from Fair Trade, organic or local ingredients. After years of preparation and planning, Andrea Reubin launched Just Sweets in March, with a business model that connects “people, planet and process.”
While quality ingredients and decadent flavors are emphasized at Just Sweets, how the farmers are treated is equally significant to Reubin. “I have a big sweet tooth,” she laughs. “But when I eat something sweet, it has to be worth it.” She points out that the farmers who produce Fair Trade ingredients receive livable wages, which provide clean water, food, shelter, health care and education and reduce poverty through hard work and not aid. “I am a social entrepreneurship business, and I’m for-profit,” Reubin notes. “I was really interested to find a way to make this as equitable as I could, so I started with Fair Trade-certified ingredients.
Among the local ingredients used in Just Sweets desserts is honey harvested from three hives in Reubin’s own backyard. “My husband (Gary Goodman) and I do the honey together—but he’s better at it,” she explains. “Producing our own honey really brings the whole issue home. Two of my products are made with our honey: Ginger-Honey Mini Cakes with Italian Caramel Buttercream and the Sweet Buns, which is my healthiest offering.”
Besides harvesting the honey, Reubin does all the baking for Just Sweets herself at the Midtown Enterprise Center, a business incubator located in Midtown. “And I do my experimenting at home,” she says. “My ideas come from many different places— some come from things I grew up with like the Babka, which is a yeast-raised Eastern European-based coffee cake. The idea is using the best ingredients and coming up with the right balance of sweetness and texture. That’s something I try to achieve with everything I make because the dessert has to taste wonderful, and that’s what I mean by my own sweet tooth standards: It has to be worth it. And when you use a Fair Trade ingredient, you are not compromising on quality or taste—in fact you’re using a betterquality ingredient.”
Seasonally inspired desserts include Italian Polenta Cake with Apples and Sweet Potato Criss-Cross Squares. “Every month, I offer a seasonal dessert for subscribers,” she says. “There are two ways to order—one is a single dessert order, whether it’s one, two or six items or more. For subscribers, it’s less expensive, and you can determine your selections monthly.”
So how much fun is Reuben having, operating a green business with such a sweet yield? “I love it! I just love it! I’ve taken what is considered a traditional profession— baking—and I have made it my own based on my experiences and what is important to me.”