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From Earnest Engineers to Epicurious Entrepreneurs: The Story of Mimi Truffles

Engineers turned entrepreneurs, Melissa Pallay and Megan Schultz, both SEAS ’11, are the founders of Mimi Truffles. Their delectable treats are now sold at Westside Market. Bwog’s Confection Correspondent Carolyn Ruvkun reports:

When Melissa and Megan participated in the 2009 CU Search Scavenger hunt together, a clue sent them to Jacques Torres and Max Brenner, two legendary chocolate stores. After sampling some truffles, Melissa and Megan decided they could easily make the treats themselves and created two batches: earl grey tea and raspberry dark chocolate. “It was a fun experiment,” Melissa recalls, “with only $20 worth of ingredients, we made 50 truffles and gave them to all our family and friends.”

Next came “magical” key lime pie truffles, hotel shampoo inspired orange ginger truffles and “kind of epic” cookie dough truffles. The end of 2009 marked the conclusion of what Melissa calls the “regular truffle era.” In this semester’s “cake truffle era,” the talented truffle-makers decided it was time to experiment with their own versions of the classic chocolate confection and created red velvet cake, confetti cake, strawberry shortcake and devil’s food truffles. (Melissa called the last truffle the “Quadruple Bypass” for its combination of four types of chocolate, but the nickname luckily didn’t get around).

At this point, Megan and Melissa realized that generously offering truffles to all their friends had its costs: “It’s one thing if you bring truffles to a potluck once and a while, but we were making so many truffles and just giving them out,” says Megan. “We wanted to break even so we could keep making the truffles our friends enjoyed.” Melissa agreed, “We definitely weren’t trying to make a billion dollar business—just starting off small.” Channeling their Girl Scout skills from years past, the budding businesswomen sold truffles door-to-door in Watt. Megan became the designated “finance person,” organizing their funds into an Excel spreadsheet, and Melissa took on the task of marketing, creating their logos.

“It was time to branch out and do our own thing,” Melissa recounts. Inspired by confetti cupcakes—those adorable cupcakes with surprising splashes of color inside—they created original confetti cake truffles and decided to make them available to masses. The chefs took initiative and brought samples of their latest creation to Westside Market. “We made them cute,” Melissa remembers, “We drizzled chocolate, bought some labels and drew on them by hand.” Ephram, the Westside baker, had faith in the eager entrepreneurs. He cut them a deal and ordered two dozen for a trial sale.

“It was like sending our babies out into the world,” Megan says about the first day Mimi Truffles were sold at Westside. The truffles soon sold out and Ephram ordered a few more batches. Their success continued until Spring Break, when Ephram told Megan and Melissa it was time to “become official.” As Melissa puts it, “Because it all started out so small, they were giving us just cash for the truffles. Our statement checks were mildly sketchy, and we needed to become a company to be legitimate.”

With this in mind, Megan and Melissa jetted off for Spring Break and brainstormed on the beach. “I found one spot with reception in the middle of the hotel lobby and purchased the stamp for our statement forms with our address and name,” says Melissa. And on that day, Mimi Truffles became official. Still, Girl Scout knowledge aside, Megan and Melissa’s business experience was limited. “We’ve never really thought about business. It’s completely out of our comfort zone,” Melissa admits, and Megan credits the nice people at the bank who explained the technicalities of tax forms.

The two make extensive use of their engineering backgrounds. “Maybe it’s just common sense, but I think the engineering mentality translates to cooking. You have to be innovative in a small kitchen with limited supplies,” Melissa reflects. Channeling their engineering savvy, the pair recall how they once fashioned a blender lid from a John Jay Dining Hall plate. They currently create all of the truffles from Megan’s kitchen in her Watt single.

By now, the two have even developed their own truffle terminology. “‘Truff me’ is what I say to Megan when I want her to hand me the truffle to dip in chocolate,” Megan explains. “Crumbing it up” is another favorite phrase.

Nevertheless, the dessert chefs are still constantly honing their skills and planning to take truffle classes at the Culinary Institute on coping with temperamental chocolate (pun intended). “We’re currently limited by homework and time to make truffles, but we’ve found a happy medium. We have many more ideas and adventures with our truffles.”

For the record, while filing this report, your correspondent abandoned her Jew duties and sampled a Banana Bread truffle. It was heavenly.

(She later ate the Devil’s Food truffle she was supposed to save for a fellow Bwogger–sorry, dude, I couldn’t resist.)

Photos courtesy of Melissa Pallay and Megan Schultz

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous the truffles are AMAZING!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This is why SEAS students rock.

  • huh says:

    @huh i thought you needed a commercial kitchen in order to be able to sell things to chain stores. guess i can start my grilled cheese business after all!

  • Varun says:

    @Varun this is absolutely amazing — makes me proud to be an engineer!

  • sad bwogger says:

    @sad bwogger I went to westside and didn’t find any. :( It was during the 6pm rush, so I’ll try again.
    This article had me salivating for some truffles!

  • These truffles says:

    @These truffles are delicious. BUY THEM. Ok bye.

  • nom nom nom says:

    @nom nom nom great article. nice work, Carolyn!

    there really is so much talent on this campus, including in the culinary world. wouldn’t it be great if there was a business that sold all student-made edible creations?

    i’m definitely going to look for mimi truffles next time i’m in westside. supporting fellow student enterprises is a great way to justify eating chocolate.

  • best says:

    @best be prepared for a run on them truffles!

  • Dear Dean says:

    @Dear Dean Pena- Mora. This is what makes SEAS a great place to do engineering.
    These SEAS students show how creative SEAS students are .
    Anybody would be thrilled to hire them.
    ………especially if they feed them truffles before the interview.

  • This is says:

    @This is a great feel good piece. Please keep more articles like this coming BWOG.
    Melissa and Megan- you should use this article for advertising your truffles in the future.
    They are amazingly good, and so is this article.

  • ps: says:

    @ps: these truffles are like a hug in a ball


    @WIFEY MC WIFESTER It has not been uncommon for me to buy 10 at a time.
    I am SO proud of these two for starting their own business and will forever be their #1 fan, customer and FRIEND!

    Love you girls<3
    Thanks Bwog for writing this adorable post.

  • thanks bwog for posting says:

    @thanks bwog for posting this . Enlarge the first photo for a good laugh.
    Westside really goes far to get its imports.
    It is all in the packaging.
    The wrappers the truffles are in are also adorable.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous They’re delicious!! Can’t wait to buy more!

  • a friend from down under says:

    @a friend from down under the truffles are divine! proud of you two :)

  • great article great truffles great idea says:

    @great article great truffles great idea Columbia students are totally amazing. Thanks for writing this Carolyn. Melissa and Megan are great, nice, smart and talented. I am proud to be a SEAS person

  • male says:

    @male mimi truffles by mini melissa

  • food coma says:

    @food coma love the truffles, hate the typos. desert =/= dessert

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