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Hoboken Girl of the Week: 7-Year-Old Elise Papakonstantinou

by Arielle Witter
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Following your dreams is something all of our parents encourage us to do as kids. Often, however, those dreams we have don’t get fully formed until we’re a bit older. Elise, however, is a seven-year-old girl for Hoboken who’s already in the process of pursuing her entrepreneurial dreams. As the mastermind behind the tapioca business, Elise & Coco {which has had a pop-up stand at Alfalfa}, Elise has been selling sweet taro tapioca dessert all summer long. As this week’s Hoboken Girl of the Week, find out where Elise got the idea from, her dreams for the future, and more. Keep reading to learn all about Hoboken Girl of the Week, Elise Papakonstantinou of Elise & Coco — as shared by her father, Konstantinos Papakonstantinou.  

elise Papakonstantinou elise coco

About the Business 

Elise & Coco launched their yummy tapioca stand on Sunday July 28th and has run for four Sundays in a row. They’ve been working on it since the spring since this is their summer project.  They started with the idea of a lemonade stand, which evolved into a stand for their favorite dessert {tapioca pudding} at their favorite Hoboken spot {Alfalfa}.

The Inspiration behind Elise’s Tapioca Stand

Her grandma from China made her the tapioca dessert with taro and she fell in love with it.  Just sweet enough with great texture, super yummy. She’s been trying to replicate the dessert and after many failed attempts, finally succeeded.  And then, share came up with a second flavor, using banana instead of tapioca, which has been a big hit.

elise coco alfalfa

What’s been the hardest part about running the tapioca stand so far?  

Says her dad {KP}, “At first, it was the rejection. Saying ‘welcome, would you like to try some tapioca pudding’ and getting a stern ‘no’ in return was a bit hard on her.  But after doing it 100 times a day, now she’s used to it and easily shrugs it off. And she loves selling — explaining the different flavors, egging people to try both and pick their favorite. Now the biggest challenge is dealing with the lulls when foot-traffic drops in off-hours.”

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What has been the best part?  

PK: Cooking the tapioca the night before!  It’s a family occasion where everyone’s involved and has a specific task. Elise has been teaching Coco {her sister} how to cut the bananas so they’re just the right bite-size, and how to measure the cups of water that go in the pot accurately.  Sometimes she goes late into the night and she gets a pass on bedtime, which is a big bonus. And now that the project has been a success, by far the best part is donating the proceeds to the Boys & Girls Club. They are running super important programs for kids Elise’s age and she’s very passionate about helping out any way she can.

See More: Meet the Artist Behind Jersey City’s Pride Artwork: Swati Rastogi

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What does Elise hope for the future of her tapioca stand?  

KP: She hopes to inspire kids her age to start their own stands and other types of business. That’s why we started the Little Curiosity Lab and hope to share Elise’s lessons with other kids her age, help them bring their dream projects to life, and donate to great causes.

What is Elise’s biggest source of inspiration?  

KP: Elise wants to be a chef.  The guys at Alfalfa have explained to her the importance of trial and error in trying different recipes and have offered to introduce her to their chef and see him in action!  Alfalfa had to try many times to perfect their breakfast burrito, just like Elise had to work on her recipe for months to make it super yummy and get the right consistency.

What are her goals for this year?

KP: It’s been an amazing experience and they loved it so much that they’ll be doing more projects every year.  Their friends have been asking how they can start a stand or do a project, so the idea has been constantly evolving. Their Instagram is @elisecoco5 and their website is Little Curiosity Labs, “the incubator for young entrepreneurs” with lots more information about this and upcoming projects.  What’s up next for them – sharing their experience with their friends through workshops and an upcoming online academy.

elise coco tapioca

What’s a typical day look like for Elise?

KP: Elise & Coco’s yummy tapioca stand comes to life every weekend.  On Friday evening, we visit the Asian grocery store for taro and tapioca pearls and Trader Joe’s for bananas that have to ripen over Saturday.  And then, Saturday is cooking day. Elise needs to portion everything, prep, and cook the tapioca pudding.

Sometimes we have too much fun and it takes us well into the night, but the goal is to have all the batches in the fridge by 11:00PM so they cool overnight.  That way, the pudding has a nice consistency and refreshing taste on Sunday.

Sunday morning, we start early to get ready, package the pudding into our containers, put the stickers on top of each, and then we’re off to Alfalfa. We get started by 10:30AM and usually stay there until after 2:00PM or 3:00PM as long as it takes to sell out our 50 puddings}.

elise and coco tapioca stand alfalfa

What has been the highlight in Elise’s life so far?

“The tapioca stand project is a great way to have fun cooking and spend time with my sister and parents.  It’s not very often that we all have such a great time together. Sometimes it’s hard work, but it’s always fun. The best part is when customers tell me how they love the pudding, or when my friends come and say they’d like to do what I’m doing,” says Elise. 

KP: Elise really hopes that other kids will be inspired to start their own stands or other businesses just like her. Trying new things like the taro in her pudding or starting a business is a great way to learn and grow. She also wants to give back to the community because she loves Hoboken, and that’s why she will be donating all her proceeds to the Boys & Girls Club.  They have a great new program she’s very excited to support and will be meeting a lot of the boys and girls in the club in the coming weeks.

Read More: Hoboken Girl of the Week: Faye Brennan {of Cosmopolitan}

elsie alfalfa dessert

Tell us about another business in the area you admire.

“That’s easy – Alfalfa! It’s my favorite spot by far, and the only place that makes yummy salads. I love the Caesar salad in a wrap {it’s called something else on the menu}. And then a chocolate chip cookie with rainbow sprinkles. They go so well together.  The guys at Alfalfa have awesome ideas and they’re building an amazing business. They’re constantly evolving, they have perfect customer service, and they always listen to feedback to keep improving.  That’s how I want to grow my business, too,” Elise says. 

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What is your favorite restaurant in Hoboken? 

Alfalfa for their salads and doughnuts, Seven Valleys for their salmon and kebabs, and Vivi’s for their ramen. 

What is your favorite thing to do in Hudson County?

 Walking near Pier 13 at night and eating ice cream

How long have you lived in Hoboken  

All my life, since I was born almost seven years ago.

What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Hoboken?

 Stevens Park, where I meet a lot of my friends to run around and play.

Where do you go out with friends in the area? 

16 Handles near Elysian Park.

Keep up with Elise and her business via Instagram at @elisecoco5 and contact her via her website at Little Curiosity Labs

Want to be featured or nominate someone as an upcoming Hoboken Girl or Guy of the Week?

Fill out our application here

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