Changemakers: Turning a passion for cheese into a thriving snack business

Changemakers

Whisps Cheese Crisps may seem like just another cheese snack, but for Ilana Fischer it’s the culmination of a lifelong passion.   

“I am a cheese lover in my heart and have been ever since I was a little kid,” said Fischer, the CEO of Whisps, a cheese snack company headquartered in New York.  

Fischer spoke with PIX11’s Tamsen Fadal about making a professional pivot from a business consultant to CEO. 

“I was pursuing a more traditional business career and working as a consultant, but I worked at Murray’s Cheese Shop on the weekends just to be around cheese more frequently,” she explained. 

Fischer eventually made a connection at Schuman Cheese, a New Jersey based company and the largest importer of Italian cheeses.  

“They offered me a job to launch the innovation team there and I just thought I can’t turn this down,” explained Fischer. 

Whisps Cheese Crisps was the first product she developed for Schumann Cheese. Whisps launched in 2015 and they exploded in popularity, landing on the shelves of more than 65,000 stores across the United States.  

“We’ve grown a lot. We actually carved ourselves out of the cheese company, spun off into an independent company about two years ago,” explained Fischer. “We had two people on the payroll that day. Now we have 35 people.”   

For the first time, Fischer found herself the running a company. It was a drastic change from her years as a consultant.  

“There’s a whole side of business that, when you’re dealing with something physical like food, or beverage or anything like that, that is really hard and complicated to deal with,” she explained. “I knew nothing about that, so that was all sort of just learning on the job. That was a steep learning curve for me.” 

Whisps are made in the U.S. with cheese from Wisconsin and the company sources its milk from local dairy farmers. Fischer said she’s living her dream and believes it’s possible for others to manifest their dreams too. Her advice to make your dreams a reality is to talk about it regularly.  

“Make it a big part of your identity, even if it’s not your everyday job,” Fischer stressed. “Wf what you’re doing doesn’t feel like what you’re meant to be doing, talk to people — everyone that you meet — about what it is that you want to do and one of those people will have the connection. A friend will remember that and will call you someday. That’s what happened to me.” 

Whisps just celebrated its second anniversary as an independent company over the weekend.  They’re currently working to expand into a New York City staple: corner bodegas. 

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