When Joseph Semprevivo was nine years old, he was diagnosed with diabetes. His doctor advised him to stay away from any kinds of sweets. Joseph’s parents owned an ice cream shop and you can just imagine how challenging it was for Joseph.

Three years later, Joseph decided he would make sugar-free ice cream instead of avoiding it all his life. With the help of his father, he was able to create an ice cream that not only tasted great but was also healthy. Eager to share his ice cream with other diabetics, a 12-year old entrepreneur emerged. Within three years, his ice cream brand became a fixture in over 197 ice cream parlors and grocery stores in New Mexico.

However, keeping an ice cream frozen can be a logistical challenge. An extensive power outage can lead to huge loss. After his parents were able to perfect a sugar-free cookie recipe which they called Joseph’s Lite Cookies, Joseph decided to focus on cookies altogether, and the rest is history. Today, Joseph’s Lite Cookies is regarded as the number one sugar-free brand in the world, with seven product lines ranging from cookies and cakes to peanut butter and maple syrup. The brand is available in over 42 countries.

 Perfecting the Brand

Even at a young age, Joseph understood that selling food is all about the taste. The problem with not using sugar in sweet treats like ice cream is that the treats would end up tasting bland. For his sugar-free ice cream, Joseph used fructose as sweetener. He came up with a strawberry-flavored ice cream that tasted great but turned into a solid block of ice when frozen.

Joseph’s father experimented with the ingredients until he came up with a perfect formula. Now that he had a perfect ice cream, the next step was to find a place where other diabetics could easily access them.

Joseph’s father drove him from store to store, but it was Joseph who did the marketing. The product label included his picture and this personal message: “At 12 years old, I created this delicious, sugar-free ice cream for all diabetics and health-conscious consumers.” It was a compelling message that store managers couldn’t resist.

However, it wasn’t all a smooth ride for the young entrepreneur. One day, when he was 15, there was a power outage that lasted for a night. By the morning, they had to throw away a thousand pints of ice cream. The next day, power went out again, causing him to lose another thousand pints of ice cream. That’s when Joseph decided to switch to cookies.

Starting a Sugar-Free Cookie Brand

Joseph’s first cookies were designed by his mom. He called them Joseph’s Lite Cookies, which was an excellent idea because the name created a sense of continuity with his previous product. It allowed the customers to easily associate the cookie with their favorite sugar-free ice cream brand and everything it represented.

Growing the sugar-free cookie brand was slow but steady. Just like his ice cream label, the cookie packaging included the story behind the product creation. Joseph approached mom-and-pop stores at first, and convincing them to display his cookies was not difficult. Larger supermarket chains were a different story, but he was persistent.  After months of numerous sales calls, his efforts paid off.

Fast forward to the present, and the Joseph Lite s is now the top selling sugar-free cookie brand in the US. According to Joseph, they produce over 2 million cookies a day at their 48,000-square-foot Deming plant in New Mexico. However, the brand has grown beyond cookies as the company now includes seven product lines of sugar-free treats. These include cookies, peanut butter, cookie puffs, sweetener, dessert coffee, maple syrup, and fat-free cookies.

While Joseph’s original goal was only to help fellow diabetics, his brand’s customer base has grown to include hypoglycemic, health conscious individuals, and even cancer patients. Some of the brand’s biggest fans are celebrities, and the cookies have already been featured in many TV shows such as Friends, Seinfield, and Will and Grace.

The Three P’s to Success

Joseph’s summarizes his business philosophy into three P’s – “performance, productivity and profitability”. Joseph says great business begins with committed and high performing employees. He makes sure that his employees are satisfied and happy by providing them great incentives. Committed employees are productive employees and so serve very important ingredient in a brand’s success. Small business entrepreneurs who wish to grow their own brand can learn from Joseph Semprevivo’s business philosophy.