05-1-15 Meet a BGS member who turned his teenage desire for a cookie into a million-dollar company.
Baking up a Business
Meet a BGS member who turned his teenage desire for a cookie into a million-dollar company.
By Amanda Keefe
After school one afternoon, Joseph Semprevivo thumbed through an issue of the Deming Headlight, the small-town paper in the New Mexico native’s hometown. Inside, he spotted an ad for a bike-a-thon that benefited diabetes. Immediately interested (“What kid at nine doesn’t want to ride a bike?”), he studied the announcement more closely. In the corner, symptoms for diabetes were listed.
Eyes wide, the nine-year-old ran to his parents, newspaper in hand. “I have most of these symptoms,” he cried. “Am I diabetic?”
A single trip to the hospital confirmed their concerns: Joseph was positively diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. “My parents were told I wouldn’t live past the age of 17,” he said, recalling the two crying in the emergency room. That was 1980.
But age 17 came and went, and today the healthy 43-year-old is now President and CEO of his own company that caters directly to others in the same shoes.
Joseph’s Lite Cookies – the largest privately owned, U.S.-based sugar-free dessert company – was launched at the hands of Semprevivo and his parents, restaurateurs Josephine and Larry, in 1986.
And although the dessert company now cranks out more than 12 million all-natural cookies daily, it wasn’t always that way. No, the story of Joseph’s Lite Cookies goes back to the Semprevivo’s kitchen on a Saturday morning in the mid-80s.
“I haven’t had a cookie in a really long time,” the teen told his parents. “I’d love to have one. What if we made sugar-free cookies?”
“You might be on to something,” his father replied. “We’ll see what we can do.”
And while Semprevivo spent the day at a friend’s house, his parents whipped up a surprise in their kitchen. Curious how the process was coming along, he phoned home. The sugar-free cookies were a success. Eager, Semprevivo immediately returned home.
“To a normal teenage boy, it may seem strange to be so excited about a cookie, but to a kid with diabetes, eating a cookie was like walking on the moon,” he said. “This was huge for me.”
Thirty years later, that excitement still remains. Now a proud Beta Gamma Sigma member (inducted at Florida International University in 2014 while pursuing his second Master’s degree), the cookie connoisseur expects even greater things in the future.
After all, the sugar-free family dynasty is ahead of its competition in several capacities, from market tenure to ingredients to price. Semprevivo believes other similar products on the market are not only more expensive, but have less natural ingredients.
“Being a diabetic for 34 years, I’ve noticed that most companies overcharge their customers merely because the products are sugar-free,” he said. “My philosophy has always been, why not provide the best-quality cookie at the lowest price?”
Joseph achieved this goal, he said, by becoming debt free, increasing production quantity per day and continuously fighting for lower costs without sacrificing quality.
Today, a 6 ounce bag of Joseph’s Sugar Free Cookies sells for $1, retail, at Dollar Tree, Big Lots, Super Value and several other chains. He said other cookies in the market are selling for 300 percent more than his.
“And our cookies are award-winning, kosher, egg-free, dairy-free, all natural, have five to seven ingredients and amazing taste,” he added.
And it’s not just cookies. The company’s product portfolio also includes sugar-free cookies, sugar-free pancake syrup, dessert-flavored coffee and salt-free peanut butters. Of course he eats his own products, and so do his children. His oldest son “Little” Joseph is also diabetic, diagnosed at 10 months old.
“We cuddle up on the couch and eat our cookies while watching ‘Shark Tank,’” the older Joseph offered fondly.
Most recently, the CEO penned an award-winning book with his father, titled “Madness, Miracles, Millions.” Together, father and son tell their family’s story, highlighting the sacrifice and hard work necessary to achieve their dreams. The book took home an Illumination Award and a best-seller award for No. 1 in consumer industries, memoirs and business via Barnes and Noble booksellers.
“This book is a story of not only a million-dollar company and its humble beginnings, but of the family who built the company and the many obstacles, both personal and professional, they overcame to accomplish their ultimate success,” Semprevivo said. “This is certainly not a tale of silver spoons and enlightenment.”
And now a proud BGS member, he said the honor society reminds Joseph that everything done in life should be executed with excellence, honesty, honor and integrity.
“I loved Beta Gamma Sigma before I [joined] because the ideas taught by BGS are what I was taught as a young boy from my parents,” he added.
Further, Semprevivo believes “BGS delivers strongly in the networking arena and gives current and future members the ability to network.”
The cookie mogul anticipates pursuing another Master’s Degree soon, and said Beta Gamma Sigma will make it easier to take the GMAT, and possibly even land him tuition savings for simply being the “Best in Business.”
And, his advice for other budding entrepreneurs?
“If you stay focused on providing the best quality for the best price, you will succeed in almost any industry.”
For more on Joseph’s Lite Cookies, visit www.josephslitecookies.com. To learn about the Semprevivo’s book, “Madness, Miracles, Millions,” visit www.madnessmiraclesmillions.com, or purchase it on Amazon.