Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Supplier Spotlight: Cinnamon Shtick

Not everyone has the courage to follow their dream. Rob Finkelstein did. The attorney and former nglccNY Chair of Supplier Diversity and former NGLCC Co-Chair of the Legal Industry Council recently launched Cinnamon Shtick, a recipe blog that offers his scrumptious dessert, bread and pastry recipes, including, but definitely not limited to, cinnamon infused delectables.  

Photo credit: Cinnamon Shtick

nglccNY Chair of Media & Communications Cindi Creager recently had a chance to check in with Rob about this inspiring pursuit. Read the Q & A below. 


Cindi: How does it feel to have this labor of love up and running? 

Rob:  It's fabulous. To be able to take a hobby that you are passionate about and turn it into a side-business … it's been super fun. 

Cindi: How did your blog come about? 

Rob: I always wanted to go to culinary school, specifically for pastry arts. In 2017, I decided it was time, so I just went for it! The program was 9 months long, 3 nights per week, and each class was 5 hours long. Even though I was also working full-time, running my law firm, I loved every second of it. After I graduated in early 2018, I spent the next year and a half baking and baking while considering how I could put my culinary education to use. 

In an ideal world, I probably would have gone to culinary school instead of law school and ultimately opened a bakery of some sort. (That said, I have no regrets.) However, at this stage in my life, I am not looking to start a new career. So, thinking outside the box about what I could do with my culinary education, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to spend time creating recipes. I've always been baking other people's recipes. While I had a few of my own, I wanted to start developing more and more of them.

So that's when I decided to create a recipe blog, figuring I’d just see where it goes. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing or that a recipe blog could actually be a full-blown business. I knew people were making money from their blogs, but I didn't really understand how it all worked. Fortunately, I was in a position where I could invest a little money to hire people to help me and teach me. I would never have been able to do this on my own because I have no website experience and, before I started, had no idea how to work a camera. 

Photo credit: Amy Mayes Photography

Cindi: How do you decide what recipes to post and when? 

Rob: Once I got my site up and running, I just kept baking. I still need to get more organized on what I want to publish, when and what recipes I plan to work on. Running this as a side-gig, I haven't had time to even make a list of all the kinks I need to work out.

It's been more like, "Oh, what am I craving now?" So, I will work on a recipe that will satisfy that craving. If it comes out amazingly delish, then I post it. 

Cindi: Who photographs your food for your blog? 

Rob: Actually, I do, although there are a few photos on my blog that the amazingly fabulous Amy Mayes took for me. 

The first recipe I posted was a Cinnamon Toasted Pecan Babka, which was truly a labor of love. I just took pictures from my iPhone and used those in the post. That's all I knew how to do, and at that point I didn't want to invest in anything else. I intentionally have not updated the photos in that post so I can use them as a comparison as my photography continues to grow.

Within a few weeks, I realized that, if I want my recipes to be found on the internet, my photographic content had to be much better. I saw a ton of food content from other recipe bloggers on Instagram and Pinterest. I was amazed that they all took such gorgeous photos of their food. I thought, I’m no photographer, and I will never be able to take such stunning photos. Then I quickly realized from their posts that they all took the same online food photography course. 

Cindi: Tell me about that course and how it brought you to the next level?

Rob: Another recipe blogger, who was a photographer before anything else, quickly realized that food photography is very different from other kinds of photography and began an online Foodtography School.

Since I started my blog only three weeks before the pandemic hit, I suddenly found myself with more downtime (not running around the City or going to the gym), so I decided to buy a real camera and a couple lenses and dive into her course. Her food photography course taught me so much, from how to use my camera, to proper lighting for food, to editing and styling photos. She throws in so much more to her lessons, like how to pitch to brands. Since it’s online, I watch it over and over and continue to learn. I still have much to learn! 

Then, in November -- just nine months into this -- a protein powder company, Isopure, reached out to me and ultimately hired me to develop a Hanukkah inspired cookie that uses their protein powder. (I have a non-protein powder version of the cookie on my blog.) It was a super fun project, and the best part is that they paid me to develop a recipe with a photo that they used on Instagram and their website. That’s when it really clicked for me that this is more than a hobby and truly a business. As I said before, I'm not looking to make this a full-time career, but it’s great to have some income to offset the expenses I have incurred to pursue this hobby-turned side-business. 

Cindi: Very inspiring, Rob! And as you have been working on your food photography skills, you also recently got Cinnamon Shtick certified. What led you to apply for certification from NGLCC?

Rob: Since partnering with Isopure, I hope to partner with more brands to develop recipes and photograph the end results for them. Most recipe bloggers out there are women, which is wonderful, but I suspect none of them are certified. So, I thought that, assuming I can get my photography skills up to their level, one of the ways I could set myself apart is by being certified. And, even though I stepped down in 2019 from a five year run as Supplier Diversity Chair for nglccNY, I hope to use my certification as a means to help educate social media marketing people representing big brands about the importance of supplier diversity.

Cindi: Do you have any favorites of your recipes so far?

Rob: Like any papa, I’m proud of all my babies. That said, anyone who knows me knows that I have no shame in playing favorites! 

I am super into breads and bread related treats and mildly obsessed with babka. Being Jewish, babka was a staple in our house. I have been having lots of fun developing innovative babka flavors. My favorite so far is my Blueberry Lemon Crumb Babka, and I am currently working on a fig babka. Two of my other favorite things to make are Cinnamon Raisin Bagels and Kichel, which are traditional Jewish bow-tie cookies. And, lately, I have made way too many batches of M&M Cookies. I can’t get enough of those!

Photo credit: Amy Mayes Photography

: Any advice for other nglccNY members about pursuing their dream entrepreneurial endeavors?

Rob: The typical response to this question is “follow your passion”. I never liked that response because it takes much more than passion to pursue a dream. So, building on that generic response, I will say this: follow your passion in a smart, strategic way that works for you. 

Cindi: Congratulations, Rob! We wish you much success as you continue down this recipe blog path! Keep us posted on your progress!

To keep up with Rob’s latest recipes, follow him on Instagram @cinnamonshtick and sign up directly at www.cinnamonshtick.com for his email alerts.