Joanne Lomanto, CEO of Brooklyn Brittle

There was no better location to sit down with Joanne Lomanto, CEO, and founder of up-and-coming health food company Brooklyn Brittle, than a local coffee shop in her neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island before attending college in Manhattan, Lomanto is a seasoned and native New Yorker with a proud Italian heritage.

 

I was first introduced to Joanne Lomanto through an internship listing on my school's database for job and internship opportunities. Never having heard of Brooklyn Brittle, the small business intrigued me. I submitted my resume and scheduled a phone interview with Lomanto. I was immediately impressed with Lomanto’s positive attitude and willingness to collaborate. The story of her journey with her business impressed me, and I immediately knew I wanted to work with people like her as I began my career.

 

As a fresh intern, I did not take initiative and was not as confident in my abilities as I would have liked. Despite these circumstances, Lomanto took me under her wing and guided me through many of the experiences she has undergone in beginning her business and continues to encounter as she grows her business. Meeting and learning from Joanne was the opposite of everything I had feared when I moved to New York City to pursue my education and career. Despite what is seen on television and in the movies, women will continue to support and empower other women.

 

Lomanto attended Barnard College of Columbia University, a private female college in the heart of New York City, and then went on to The Wharton School for her MBA. It wasn’t until after Lomanto chose to major in economics at Wharton that the school began to offer an Entrepreneurship and Innovation major, “I just missed it!” she lamented. Nevertheless, after graduation Lomanto began working in the corporate arena, focusing on health care and insurance counseling.

 

When it came to starting her own business, Lomanto was patient. “I always harbored the idea of begin an entrepreneur, even throughout business school in my early 20s”. It wasn’t until after Lomanto had left the corporate world to have her son that the dream she had for years would begin to take shape. When her son went off to kindergarten, Lomanto was itching for something to do and attended a talk delivered by her fellow Barnard college alumnae Stella Grizont and Bari Norman. Stella Grizont is the founder and CEO of WOOPAH, a company dedicated to helping individuals to flourish in their lives and careers. Bari Norman is the Co-Founder and President at Expert Admissions College and Graduate School Advising.

 

Empowered by these women taking their ideas to new heights, Lomanto dove right in and knew exactly where to start. “There was no question that I was going to start a business related to baking. It has been a passion of mine since elementary school, when I used to bake with my grandmother every Wednesday, from when I got dismissed from school until dinnertime.” Lomanto recalls.

 

Lomanto is no stranger to the bakery business, having previously run a generic bakery that supplied cafes with cakes and cookies. Lomanto runs her new business with a respect for tradition and the lessons she learned from her grandmother in the kitchen; that is, keep it simple and stay on intimate terms with your food, whether it be biscotti, pasta, or cookie brittle. It produces a superior product. Joanne knew that those were the ideals she would take with her into her new company. She also knew that her Italian grandmother’s cookie brittle recipe was unique and would set her apart as a business. “And since I’m a 3rd generation Brooklynite, it just made sense to call the product “Brooklyn Brittle”.

 

 

Despite her eagerness to emerge as a new business, Lomanto has had no shortage of challenges. As the sole CEO and founder, Lomanto has spent many long lonely days working to get her business off the ground. Lomanto worked hard to prove the legitimacy and worthiness of her business. Rather than be dismissed as just a woman who loved to bake, Lomanto wanted to show a proud Italian New Yorker who longed to share her love of food, family, and acceptance. Between baking, communicating with partners, writing business plans, managing finances, and raising her son, Joanne Lomanto is a true self-starter. Undeterred by the unknown, Joanne believes, “...the knowledge that hard work leads to success allows me to overcome these hurdles and forge ahead with persistence.”

 

When asked about certain types of challenges she has faced, Lomanto introduced me to the concept of “decision fatigue”. Even with confidence in the decisions she makes, the hundreds of decisions she has to make daily, ranging from company-impacting decisions to hour-affecting ones, can often drain a person. Confident in her abilities, but aware that “nothing that lasts was ever built by one person”, Lomanto is not shy of asking for help and has found that a majority of people are happy and willing to help if you put yourself out there. “I have gained so much wisdom from my brilliant and generous SCORE mentors” Lomanto shared, referring to a nonprofit organization that provides free business mentoring services to prospective and established small business owners in the United States.

 

As I inquired about future goals of her business, Lomanto was as prepared as an entrepreneur can be. “While the idea of racing toward my goals at breakneck speed is seductive. I acknowledge that there will be unexpected obstacles that will inevitably complicate my business.” Lomanto talked about reducing her current ongoing business expenses, increasing sales, delegating/outsourcing more work, systematizing operations, and many more goals ranging in size and urgency that she is working to accomplish. Many of which, provided insight to her aforementioned “decision fatigue”.

 

Regardless of the status of her schedule, Lomanto is more than willing to lend advice and help to those who reach out to her. As we discussed how she operates Brooklyn Brittle, she was adamant about giving credit to her partners and customers. Lomanto puts in the time and effort to cultivate her partnerships to ensure that they know that they are valued and essential to the business. Openness, honesty, and transparency are all key values that Lomanto holds dear when interacting with her partners, “At the end of the day, we don’t do business with other businesses, we do business with other people”. Lomanto has arranged multiple product giveaways with other local businesses, finding that collaboration is key when it comes to business growth.

 

This collaborative attitude that Lomanto carries into her business reflects her empowering personality. During our conversation, Lomanto acknowledged, “I make an effort to know my team members on a personal level, I’m honest, I admit to my own faults, and I give feedback in a positive way.” Lomanto encourages all entrepreneurs to build a strong and diverse professional network.

 

Lomanto achieves this by remaining as active in her community as her busy schedule will allow. Lomanto often attends talks and presentations at local schools to share her story of being a self-made entrepreneur. She also reaches out to local college students in New York City from Marymount Manhattan College in the Upper East Side to LIU Brooklyn Campus to build a team of young college interns such as myself. Lomanto treats her interns with the respect of her business partners, and does not let her title as CEO affect her ability to receive other points of view.

 

Joanne Lomanto has taken her experiences as a self made entrepreneur and empowered so many other women, students, and peers. From personally working with Joanne Lomanto, I have learned so much from a woman I greatly admire. Lomanto has provided me with insight into what it means to begin and run a business as well as work with a network of different people. Lomanto has also shed a light on small and specialized businesses, of which Brooklyn has its fair share of. As businesses like Brooklyn Brittle continue to grow, the knowledge that CEO’s such as Joanne Lomanto will uphold honest values while simultaneously empowering other businesses shines a bright light on what can be an otherwise ruthless industry.

You can learn more about Brooklyn Brittle and Joanne Lomanto at www.brooklynbrittle.com or on Instagram @brooklynbrittle