One year into operations, Killa Bites is going strong, poised for growth and delighting sweets-lovers far and wide. The Ridgefield-based business is operated by founder Laura Jhaveri and partner Donna Suomi, who create and distribute gourmet popcorn, biscotti and their signature “Cake Bombs.”
The idea for Killa Bites emerged in July of 2011 when Jhaveri’s husband Akhil was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The fast-paced disease turned the family’s world upside-down. Akhil left his job in December of 2012 and Laura searched for a way to support her family.
“I have a degree in industrial engineering,” Laura said, “so I thought about looking for a corporate job. But people with ALS need a lot of care, so I needed a flexible schedule.”
That winter, a visit from her mother-in-law helped Jhaveri put the pieces together. It was her mother-in-law’s birthday, and Jhaveri created a pina colada cake for the occasion. She had long been a skilled baker, but had always considered it a pastime, not a career. Family and friends encouraged her to use her skills to start a baking-based business. In April 2013, she developed the Cake Bomb, a mini-cupcake-sized confection made of delicious cake surrounding decadent filling, and dipped in chocolate. Pina colada was the first flavor, and the company now offers a variety of flavors including raspberry white chocolate cheesecake, lemon kiss and German chocolate. They also create gourmet popcorn in four flavors that include masala madness and salted caramel, and multiple flavors of biscotti, including lemon lavender and cranberry white chocolate.
Shortly after developing the Cake Bomb, Jhaveri partnered with Suomi, the sister-in-law of a friend.
“I knew that in order to be successful,” said Jhaveri, “I needed a partner.
“After presenting the idea and Cake Bomb samples to Donna (who had her own small biscotti business), she agreed that we would be a good team and Killa Bites was born,” said Jhaveri. “The business was incorporated in October 2013 and we had our first sale November 20.”
One of the biggest challenges the team has faced is that their signature product is labor-intensive. Creating Cake Bombs requires close attention, said Jhaveri, and “we are continually searching for methods that will result in a consistent, beautiful product while minimizing the hands-on labor.”
Recognizing that growing too quickly might have a negative impact on their products, Jhaveri and Suomi are also working to control the size of Killa Bites’ market.
“We have focused on building a small, core group of customers who have worked with us by giving us feedback to help bring our products to the level of excellence they are at today,” said Jhaveri. “By keeping our market small, it allowed us to refine our recipes and processes. As we enter this second year of business, we are prepared to expand our volume.”
Killa Bites products can be ordered directly from the company, for large orders or events, and are also available at retail outlets across Clark County. Select coffee shops including Boomerang in downtown Vancouver and Old Town Battle Grounds carry them, and they can also be found at Chuck’s Produce, Ridgefield Pioneer Marketplace and Bethany Vineyard, among many other locations.
A full list of retail locations and product descriptions is available on their website, www.KillaBites.com.