STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Having always been passionate about health and fitness, 18-year-old Sophia Mezzacappa became vegan/vegetarian about three years ago.
As a student on the go, the Grymes Hill resident found her new diet led to her consuming an excess of processed protein bars.
“I started noticing that all of this processed food wasn’t the best for my stomach or my body. Meanwhile, I thought I was being ‘healthy’ for choosing to eat a protein bar instead of junk food,” said Mezzacappa, who at the time was a student at Xavarian High School who was busy with sports, including the Brooklyn-based school’s cheer and tennis teams.
“When I began to notice this, I decided to make my own [protein snacks]; that way I knew exactly what ingredients I was including in them. And [this would] ensure that everything was natural and fresh,” added Mezzacappa, who began attending Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., this fall.
After friends and family started to enjoy her protein balls, she thought to herself: “I should start my own protein ball business.”
“And so I did. As my college went online for the semester, I figured this would be a great way to stay busy, and also give back to my community by promoting healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle,” said Mezzacappa, who is majoring in biology and hoping to pursue a career in medicine.
With no hesitation, last month Mezzacappa launched Sophie’s Sweets, specializing in flavored protein balls, from strawberry shortcake to cherry vanilla.
“All of the ingredients that I use are natural, organic and vegan. But, natural and organic don’t always necessarily mean healthy. Those are [often] words to get consumers to buy the product just because they associate those words with ‘healthy,’” she explained.
With that in mind, Mezzacappa made sure her protein balls actually are created with all organic and vegan ingredients.
“They are made of good proteins and good fiber. So, not only will they help to boost your energy levels and get your metabolism pumping, they are delicious and sweet too,” she said. “My protein balls are the perfect snack for an on-the-go college student. As we all know, college students don’t have a whole lot of downtime. So, most resort to grabbing unhealthier foods or snacks, since they are more accessible. But, my protein balls can help fix that problem.”
She developed five flavors: Double Coco Crunch, Strawberry Shortcake, Cherry Vanilla, Baha Blast, PB&J and Cinnamon Raisin.
“I made sure that I had a range of flavors to ensure that everyone’s palette is satisfied. The oats that I use are gluten-free, and I also offer a nut-free flavor, Cinnamon Raisin, to accommodate those with allergies,” said Mezzacappa.
Although college courses are remote for the college student, she said she’s very busy with schoolwork. So much so, she looks forward to her “downtime” — when she can create her protein balls.
“After sitting at my desk in my room all day, I actually look forward to making the protein balls. It helps me relax and decompress after a long day of schoolwork and staring at a computer screen for so long. It is nice to take a break from technology, as it is now one of the most important parts of my daily routine,” she admitted.
To market the product, Mezzacappa created an Instagram account, where you can find pictures of the protein balls, an “about me” page and pricing information.
“I also included an Instagram highlight titled ‘Why Vegan?’ I think it is important to show people the many benefits of veganism. Not only are you helping your body become healthier, you are helping the Earth,” she said. “In addition to an Instagram page, I also have a Facebook page to target a broader range of people on a different platform. My protein ball business usually gets around by word of mouth too, and for that, I can thank my many friends and family.”
HOW TO ORDER
With the products geared toward busy college and high school students, Mezzacappa said people can order through Instagram or Facebook by direct message. She said she is in the process of developing a website to help streamline orders.
SOPHIE’S SWEETS AT A GLANCE
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New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island businesses owners.
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