Whoopie pies - a sweet new gig

@Money January 5, 2012: 1:45 PM ET

(MONEY Magazine) -- Had Julie Ganong and Alan Mons not both been laid off in 2008, the couple might not be making whoopie right now. Whoopie pies, that is.

Almost immediately after being let go from The Provident Bank, where she was a senior vice president, Ganong began searching for similar positions. But her husband, a business analyst at Sun Life Financial, "was not unhappy" to get the ax.

A restaurant manager and line cook in a former life, Mons had been wanting to shift back to a food-related career. And his wife had given him an idea: to perfect a mini-version of the whoopie pie, a Maine tradition she'd baked beside her grandmother that consists of two dense cookies sandwiching a fluffy filling. "Losing my job gave me the time to make this dream real," he says.

Ganong started helping him out between job interviews. In May 2009, she assembled a focus group for a taste test. The feedback was positive. So, that same month, when a friend informed them that a bakery in Newburyport, Mass., was up for lease, the couple sprang into action.

Spending wisely after recovering from tough times

They tapped a HELOC for $15,000 for equipment -- and opened Chococoa Baking Co. within three weeks. Ganong soon stopped sending out her résumé. "It became clear this business needed both of us," she says.

Their bakery launched just as whoopies began gaining traction across the U.S., elbowing in on the cupcake trend. Excitement surrounding the treat has helped Ganong and Mons establish sales of around 4,000 pies a week. At that pace, and a price of $1.68 apiece, Chococoa should break even this year.

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The couple, who once earned $160,000, took home just 10% of that in 2011. But a distribution deal in the works with a regional grocery could easily double their output -- at which point "we'd be in a position to really pay ourselves," says Ganong. Then they'll be living their sweet dream.  To top of page

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