Meet Elyse - Author of "A Shark ate my Bagel" - Westport Moms

How old are your kids and how long have you lived in Westport? We have three kids – Chase (9), Blake (6), Olivia (6 months). We have been in Westport for almost 7 years.

How did you end up where you are now in terms of your job, or whatever passion project it is you might be doing? There’s so much to say here it’s overwhelming (because I happen to have a 310 page explanation on my hands!). I’m going to include an excerpt here to set the stage / answer this…

“My husband and I founded Bantam Bagels, a company celebrated for its delicious, addictive, industry challenging reinvention of an iconic food: the bagel. A company even better distinguished by its origins, the journey of two Millennial-nobody’s, who made something from nothing, who took the risk on a random (albeit delicious) idea and fought our way from one tiny hole-in-the-wall bagel store to a multi-million-dollar, industry-disrupting national brand featured in nearly every coffee shop and grocery store in America. 

Was our idea of mini stuffed bagels so insanely, mind-blowingly genius that nobody else could have come up with it? I’ll let you answer that. But honestly, probably not. This is not a story about upending the world with a prodigal invention. Rather, our story is about the risk and hustle it takes to pursue success in today’s America … Mine is the story of reacting, learning, and dodging our way within the changing entrepreneurial landscape in real time. One where success is not steady and not even close to a constant. Where the relationship between success and failure is so inevitable that we had to be both open to and be able to learn from the floundering, missteps, mishaps and calamities lurking in the wake of every single step forward. Our story is about having the faith, strength and resolve to dust off our knees and get back in the ring. And of the invaluable lessons collected along the way.

It seems everyone, at one point or another, has seen the lightbulb flash of a genius idea, or experienced a staggering burst of innovation, and at that moment they are faced with a crossroad: ditch the traditional 9 to 5 job and jump into the deep-end to own your destiny, or stay the course, play it safe, stay on the shore of life.

This is our story of taking a risk, of going for it, and becoming entrepreneurs.  It is the story of the highs, the lows and the hustle required to put everything on the line and make it through to the other side. It is a story of perseverance.

Here’s what you may know about me so far: Starting from an idea that materialized in a dream, in less than five years my husband and I – two ordinary, albeit resourceful, married, twenty-somethings living in NYC – forged our way from office jobs into New York City’s cut-throat food scene, best of the best bagel-verse, and pop culture obsessed media landscape with nothing more than the burning desire to do so.

I’ve been called a lot of things: an entrepreneur, “The General”, a Shark Tanker, a bagel-mogul, a crazy person, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a boss, and a bleeding-heart hustler. There’s truth to all of those. But at the heart of it all, in my true core, I am a never-give-upper.

Floundering in a volatile world, fueled by an explosive drive to take control over our own destiny, my husband and I risked everything for the pursuit of the American Dream. We rode the highs, swallowed the lows, sacrificed mind, body, and time to make our Dream come true.

But why?

Why did we spend seven days a week, 24 hours a day, bustling through financial struggles, rejections, pregnancies, births, miscarriages, crisscrossing the country (sometimes more than once in the same week), fighting tooth and nail for the sake of a new way to eat a bagel? Why did we keep going when we found ourselves millions of dollars in debt? Why were we so steadfast in the commitment to our dream even when the heaviness of real-life responsibilities piled on. Our first baby …and then second child… a mortgage… and business debt so great that the numbers felt incomprehensible, imaginary.

Why did we keep our feet moving forward if every time we received a business-defining purchase order, we laid in bed at night staring at the ceiling, wondering if this burst of growth was going to be the last straw and make the whole thing implode? How did we keep going if every time we made a step towards success it was coupled by an equally sized challenge or failure?

Because there was too much to lose. Because this business – Bantam Bagels – WAS our lives. It was our first child, our creation, our ego, our sense of purpose.

Because as human beings, the DNA pumping through our veins compelled us to fight for survival.

This is how we built Bantam Bagels.

What is the best/last book you read? Since writing a book I’ve become a memoir junkie! Some of my recent favs include: Scars and Stripes by Tim Kennedy, Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson, Pops by Craig Melvin, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Spare by Prince Henry, Lifelines by Melissa Bernstein, I’m Glad My Mom Died by Janette McCurdy, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry, The Fund by Rob Copeland, The Woman in Me by Brittany Spears,

What are two things still on your bucket list? All travel related. I’m fascinated by people and culture (was a sociology major at Columbia and studied abroad 4 times!).

First, spending a month as a family (kids included) touring SE Asia, including going back to visit Cambodia, Thailand and the other more remote, more unique authentic islands in and around Vietnam.

Second, returning to Costa Rica on a volunteering vacation with my kids. Living in Costa Rica for a youth Community Service trip was my first true “home away from home” experience. That experience had a profound impact on my entire life, including the way I view the world. I want my kids to experience that as well. In addition to learning the culture, experiencing the land, the language and the food, mixing cement by hand and cutting grass using machetes is good for the soul!

What is your favorite podcast? Smartless

What is one food you could not live without? Bagels!

What is your greatest indulgence? Travel shows. Massages.

What is your favorite family tradition? Game night! My kids are insane football fans, so we make bets against each other, and if the kids win, they get a family video game night, but if a parent wins, our prize is a family game night! A fav right now is Tetris the board game.

What is your greatest extravagance? Anything travel related I’m willing to splurge on! Having spent a near decade working 24 hrs a day / 7 days a week without weekends, I relish every moment that I have the freedom now to experience the world outside of my world. There’s very little else that I value greater than an incredible experience in a new place.

Are you a morning person, or a night owl? How does sleep fit into your life? Morning! I have a new baby, so with her unpredictable night times, I try to get to bed at night as soon as I have the big kids down.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Who are your heroes in real life? There are many who deeply influenced my life during my time growing Bantam Bagels and who were my genuine heroes in their generosity and humanity during our time together. Anecdotes of how these connections affected me have been recounted in great detail in my memoir due to how important each one was to our journey. Some of the key people include: Lori Greiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah, and Steve Harvey

At a movie: Candy or Popcorn? Popcorn. Anyone who knows me would assume I come prepared with a purse full of candy already ready to go.
Cook or order in? Order
Iced Coffee or Hot Coffee? Hot
Beach or Mountains? beach
Glass Half Full or Half Empty? Full!
Sauce on the Side or Sauce on Top? side
Crunchy or Smooth Peanut Butter? Crunchy
Guacamole or Salsa? Both
Attend a Party or Host a Party? Host
Call a friend or text a friend? Text
Vacation or staycation? Vacation
Before bed: Social media or book/TV? Book/tv. Not a big social media person
Watch or play sports? Play!
Stay in or go out? Stay in
Comedy or Drama? Comedy

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