Stillman Alumna Shares Her Story With Students

By Andrew Aguilera,
Stillman News Editor

zest

On Tuesday October 17, Luciana Contuzzi ’13 held a presentation about her business, Zest, in the Faculty Lounge. The event was organized by the Entrepreneurship Club to celebrate Women Entrepreneurship Week. Contuzzi graduated in December 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Information Technology Management. Since she was a child, she expressed interest in entrepreneurship, having “room sales” in her room where she sold toys to her younger sister.

Throughout high school, Contuzzi was an extremely hard worker. She almost always had two jobs at the same time. She worked at a chiropractor, babysat children, and worked at children’s birthday parties. Over the course of her job experiences, she learned the value of money and the value in working hard. Working at the chiropractor’s office, she became interested in holistic health and cooking, spurring her idea for Zest. Zest sells smoothies, juices, and treats all made from naturally gluten and dairy free ingredients. Almost all of the foods are vegan as well.

During her time at Seton Hall, she was a member of the Gerald P. Buccino ’63 Center for Leadership Development, and had a variety of internships. While she began working on Zest, it continued to be something on the side. At the first ever Pirate’s Pitch competition, Contuzzi took first place for Zest. By the time she graduated, she had a ton of job offers and companies interested in her. She ended up taking a job at a prestigious corporation, but it was not long before she realized that it was not for her.

In her eyes, she felt that she was never busy enough working for someone else.
After six months in the workforce, she made the tough decision to quit her job and fulfill her dreams of working entirely on Zest.

She began ordering inventory and made a website right away. To make all of the foods, she rented a commercial kitchen in her town. She would then go to different cafes trying to sell her products.

“If I got one out of ten [businesses] to say ‘yes’, it was a good day,” Contuzzi expressed.

She created social media accounts for her company on Facebook and Instagram.

At that point, she had to decide whether or not she would sell wholesale or open a store.

After six months in the commercial kitchen, she wanted to move out. She found an 800 square foot location in Fairfield, New Jersey, where she would open her first store.
Without much marketing, other than social media, Contuzzi has seen so much success in her Fairfield location.

But more importantly, Contuzzi wakes up every day loving her job.

After her remarks, she opened the floor for questions.

One student asked about how she came up with the name, “Zest”. Believe it or not, she found the name after googling a bunch of food words and her friend at Seton Hall who was a graphic design major, created the logo.

Another student asked about her experience learning all of the technical skills in running a business.

She spoke about how her prior jobs shaped her into the person she has become.

Her variety of work experiences fully equipped her with the technical skills and incredible work ethic to run her own business.

Moving forward, she will be facing difficult decisions, such as the decision to open up another store or continue with one store.

She has long-term plans of making Zest a franchise.

Another continuous challenge for her has been the cost of her ingredients since they are naturally gluten and dairy free.

Nonetheless, the future is bright for Contuzzi and her business.

The Stillman community is excited to see the growth and prosperity of Zest.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 24th print edition.

Contact Andrew at
andrew.aguilera@student.shu.edu

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