Naked Life Means New Life for West Hartford Entrepreneurs – We-Ha

West Hartford entrepreneur Ali Lazowski was honored with the 2022 Connecticut County Microenterprise of the Year Award from the US Small Business Association.

Ali Lazowski (right) presents mugs of hot cocoa for Lt. gov. Susan Bysiewicz (left) and Catherine Marx, Connecticut District Director for the Small Business Association. Copyright: Ronnie Newton

By Ronnie Newton

Ali Lazowski grew up in a family with a strong heritage of entrepreneurship, but she also grew up with some significant health issues — migraines, fatigue, joint pains, stomach aches — many of them related to, or made worse by, what she ate.

Switching to a healthier diet that was organic and free from gluten, dairy and sugar helped, but she really didn’t like the allergen-friendly foods she was able to eat.

A little over four years ago, Lazowski decided to commit to doing something about it, and Bare Life was born. “It couldn’t be in my DNA anymore,” she said of her determination and willingness to create her own solution.

“It’s the taste of childhood,” said Lazowski, 31, whose signature Bare Life coconut cocoa blend can now be found in more than 110 stores, is sold in all 50 states and is a top-rated product by QVC. She was recently named Connecticut 2022 Small Business Microenterprise of the Year, has been personally included in local and regional “Top 40 Under 40” lists, and has also won a ReSET Social Impact Award. Bare Life was awarded “Best Vegan Hot Cocoa Producer”.

Ali Lazowski in her West Hartford test kitchen, which doubles as a QVC set, in December 2021. Courtesy

Catherine Marx, District Director of the Connecticut SBA, and Lt. gov. Susan Bysiewicz personally visited Lazowski at her West Hartford facility, which serves as a test kitchen, QVC set and storage facility, to celebrate the award and taste the cocoa. The lieutenant governor said she had no idea hot chocolate contained gluten, and Lazowski said there were many common misconceptions. “If it doesn’t say gluten-free, it’s not gluten-free. It’s not a clean product.”

From dreaming of a healthy way to satisfy her sweet tooth to designing and manufacturing a product that she could sell, a plan was required, and Lazowski didn’t hesitate to put her natural business acumen into action. She participated in the ReSET Impact Accelerator program and also received an equity matching grant from the Women’s Business Development Council.

Ali Lazowski at a ReSET event at Dunkin Donuts Park. courtesy photo

“I really believe in asking for help,” Lazowski said, and Marx said it’s one of the most important things an entrepreneur should do.

Lazowski is now on the board of ReSET and is excited to be part of this community. “It’s so stimulating to be surrounded by entrepreneurs,” she said.

Bare Life has grown during the pandemic and has now sold more than 250,000 cups of hot cocoa in all 50 states, Lazowski said. It is available locally at Whole Foods stores in West Hartford, other Whole Foods stores in the area, ShopRite and the University of Hartford campus store, and online.

She has six part-time employees and recently landed her first corporate account.

Bare Life is sold in 10-serving sachets as well as in individual packs. Copyright: Ronnie Newton

Bare Life contains only five ingredients: Organic Coconut Milk Powder, Organic Coconut Sugar, Organic Cocoa, Organic Vanilla Bean and Himalayan Salt. It’s available in single-serving packs to mix with hot water (or non-dairy milk) or in a 10-serving sachet. Three tablespoons (added to six ounces of liquid) contain 120 calories.

“All packaging is also recyclable,” she added.

Ali Lazowski (right) presents mugs of hot cocoa for Lt. gov. Susan Bysiewicz (left) and Catherine Marx, Connecticut District Director for the Small Business Association. Copyright: Ronnie Newton

And while many consider hot cocoa a winter-only product, it’s actually non-seasonal, Lazowski said. “Smoothies, a smoothie bowl, fudgesicles, chilled hot cocoa martinis” are just a few of the concoctions that can be made using Bare Life as a base. It can be used to prepare a delicious mocha coffee replacing cream and sugar.

Lazowski developed the recipes himself and is always thinking of more. Hot cocoa bombs, but also ice cream, brownies and many other ideas can be found on the website.

“The fudgesicles are my absolute favorite,” said Lazowski.

As for the name Bare Life, Lazowski said she spent a lot of time finding the right name for her business — though she knew she wanted “life” to be a part of it.

“I was at my parents’ house, sitting on my childhood bed with all my stuffed animals around me,” she said. “Then I checked and there was my teddy bear and my father’s name is Barry…”

Bare Life is sold in 10-serving sachets as well as in individual packs. Copyright: Ronnie Newton

The recipes are tested in the West Hartford kitchen but made by a contract manufacturer using the ingredients she sources.

“We give out a lot of awards, but it’s really nice to meet you in person,” Marx told Lazowski. “You are such an inspiration.”

Marx urged Lazowski to keep applying for grants that could help with initiatives like translating the packaging into Spanish or funding trade show attendance.

“I’m so excited about where we’re going to go with this,” Lazowski said.

Ali Lasowski. courtesy photo

More about the Lazowskis

The legacy of the Lazowski family’s survival and business success is well known in the Hartford area (Alan Lazowski of LAZ Parking is her uncle) and stretches back several generations – and not just on the Lazowski side. Her great-grandmother, Miriam Rabinowitz, was one of the best-known pharmacists in Poland at the time, when that was extremely rare for a married woman. The book “Into The Forest” by Rebecca Frankel tells of the family’s escape from a Jewish ghetto in what was then Zhetel, Poland, in the early 1940s. The story of how Miriam Rabinowitz’s daughter, Ruth, married Philip Lazowski (Ali’s grandfather and Rabbi Emeritus of Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford) is told in his autobiography, Faith and Destiny.

Ali Lazowski’s cousin, Jesse Lazowski, is the creator of a successful jewelry line and boutique owner in Manhattan.

From left: Catherine Marx, Connecticut District Director for the Small Business Association, Ali Lazowski, Lt. gov. Susan Bysiewicz outside the Bare Life offices and test kitchen in West Hartford. Copyright: Ronnie Newton

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