Growing up, Natalie Potter said, the one snack that could almost always be found on the kitchen counter at her family's San Marcos home was rice crispy treats. She and her mom, Laura, loved making the dessert squares and many other sweets from scratch together.
The other thing the recent college graduate remembers from her childhood is a dream to one day own a business with her mom.
Two years ago, that dream was realized with the launch of Bliss & Baker, a mother-daughter enterprise that makes and ships several hundred crispy rice squares all over the country each week. Bliss & Baker's treats come in a variety of flavors, including salted caramel, churro and peanut butter.
The treats are sold in a handful of local restaurants, but the majority of sales are online through an e-commerce website, blissandbaker.com. Orders come in every day and ramp up sharply each holiday season.
This month, lots of parents have been shipping boxes to their kids studying for college mid-term exams. Next up, the Potters are prepping for Easter, when they'll offer a seasonal variety with marshmallow clovers and other shapes mixed in.
"These are very simple to make and I think that's what appeals to people. Everybody made them with their kids, so there's a nostalgia factor associated with them," said Laura Potter, a former executive assistant who stayed home to raise her kids, Natalie, 22, and a 26-year-old son.
After settling on crispy rice treats, mom and daughter experimented with dozens of recipes before they found a winner with homemade caramel sauce and sea salt.
The "Salty Caramel" variety was a hit with family and friends and today remains the company's top-seller. The Sugar Cookie version has rainbow confetti sprinkles on top, Vanilla Bean uses real vanilla, and El Churro has cinnamon and sugar stirred in. There's also a variety with a layer of peanut butter and a coconut caramel version.
Bliss & Baker
Co-founders: Laura Potter and Natalie Potter
Product: Flavored crisped rice treats, sold via e-commerce and wholesale
Flavors: Salty Caramel, Sugar Cookie, El Churro, Vanilla Bean. Also available online: Coconut caramel, Peanut Butter and seasonal specialties
Where to find them: El Pescador, La Jolla; Green Acre, La Jolla; Ebar, Nordstrom Fashion Valley, as well as online.
Where to buy: blissandbaker.com
The bars are made, packaged and boxed up several times a week in a rented commercial space at SAE Kitchen in San Marcos. During those marathon cooking sessions, the Potters will have three batches of treats on the stove at the same time.
Each batch has a stick of butter, a bowl of marshmallows and a bowl of crisped rice, plus mix-ins. In the early days, they used Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal, but it has a malt flavoring that contains gluten, so they switched to an unflavored generic brand that's gluten-free.
Natalie, who recently earned a sociology degree from Cal State San Marcos, said the trick to making the bars successfully is not allowing the marshmallow to cook too long or they'll become too chewy. They also bake and ship within a few days of every order to ensure peak freshness (Laura said the individually packaged treats have a two-week shelf life).
The bars are sold online in four-packs ($18 plus tax and shipping) that can be customized with stickers and a personal note. They're also sold individually at Green Acre and El Pescador restaurants in La Jolla as well as Ebar at the Nordstrom in Fashion Valley.
Laura said the mother-daughter partnership has worked out very well and morphed with time. Laura now oversees business operations while Natalie focuses on social media, marketing and sales.
Next up are plans to expand their restaurant wholesale business outside San Diego County and they're looking at expanding their product line.
"I'm a big fan of brownies," Natalie said. "So is my mom, so I think we're looking at that as a possibility but we'll need to put our own spin on it."