Last fall I started a series here on my blog where I introduce you to my friends. Then I got distracted with other creative projects (as I do) and now I’m dusting it off the shelf, and am THRILLED to be kicking things off with an introduction to my awesome friend Tanya Gradet, who runs The Square Treat Company. I met Tanya because our husbands are lifelong friends (they went to summer camp together, back in the day), and she is just a warm, creative force of nature. Read on to find out why she’s been called the Walter White of desserts, why having a baby was more fun than she thought it would be, and why LA makes her happy.
You’re from Canada. What’s that about? (Or should I say, “aboot”?)
It means that if you bump into me, I’ll still be the one to say “sorry.”
You lived in NYC for like a million years. Then, a few years ago, you moved to LA. As someone who’s constantly obsessing over where to live, I wonder: Do you feel like living in LA brings out parts of you that didn’t come out to play so much in NY?
Yes, definitely. There’s more space in LA, both literally and figuratively. So much of NY is about the energy and the impetus to move forward and in my 20’s that was so invigorating and motivating for me. LA moves slower. I’ve become more social here. I talk more to random people. I feel like there’s room to catch your breath. And with all the driving, there’s more time to think. Then there’s also the literal space, both outdoors and the extra square footage for half the price. I could never have started The Square Treat in New York. Also, the sunshine just makes me happier.
What are your thoughts these days on the importance of where you live?
I think getting what you need from where you live is the most important thing, more so than a geographic or status location. You need to be in a place that has room for you to pursue whatever you love, you need to be in a place that you can afford to pursue it and I think you need to be in a place where there are people you love. For me, what made me leave NY was the realization that if I wanted to afford the life I wanted, I’d have to keep working at a job that paid well but that kept me working nonstop, thereby not giving me the time to live the life I was working so hard to afford.
You used to work in TV and film production on shows like Gossip Girl. Now you run a company that sells delicious square treats. How are these jobs the same? How are they different? Which is more glamorous? Which makes you happier?
Neither one is glamorous. Production may mean being surrounded by famous people but they’re just people – some are great, some are awful, most are just somewhere in the middle. And there’s nothing glamorous about what it takes to get a movie or a TV show made. It’s about a lot of talented, hardworking people working a lot of hours.
Oddly the two jobs have one big thing in common: Every day requires me using a variety of skills and problem solving. On a typical day on a show there’d be a dozen different things that needed to be handled and that was my favorite part. The Square Treat requires the same type of energy. There’s the creativity of developing and testing recipes, the zen of actually baking, the physicality of all the lugging and running around, the precision of keeping records, the social aspect of dealing with customers.
So far, The Square Treat makes me happier. Even when I’m making an order at 11pm, I have the satisfaction of knowing all the work I do goes right to benefiting my family and not the hamster wheel of a TV show or movie.
We became moms around the same time. Does being a mother feel inevitable to you, like it was always destined to be? Or do you pinch yourself? Or both?
I always thought I’d have a kid, so, in that sense, it felt like a natural progression. The big surprise was that I thought the baby phase would kind of be boring and that it would be something I’d get through until he was old enough to talk and play and be a kid. Instead, the baby phase was so fun. Just watching him learn all the little things…like holding a bottle himself for the first time or seeing him fling his arms around the dog. Now that he’s a toddler, watching him learn how to be a person or figure out that things are funny… I love it.
Also, toddlers are an excellent example for how to progress in your goals. No one ever says to a toddler, “Oh well, you fell down the first 20 times you tried to take a step. Guess you should just give up on walking.” Yet adults have those kind of thoughts all the time about their dreams. He’s a good daily reminder that everything takes time and that getting back up when you fall is no big deal.
What big audacious goal are you harboring for yourself?
I want The Square Treat to be successful enough to be able to make money and have a couple of employees so I can have freedom to delegate the more time-intensive parts of the job and leave myself free for the creative aspects. To be able to have the flexibility to work around Elliott’s schedule while continuing to make our lives as full as possible. In a nutshell, to be successful enough that I don’t have to work for anyone else again.
Why should people buy Square Treats?
I have been accused of being the Walter White of desserts. They’re that good.
Finally, a very urgent question: What’s your spirit animal?
Before Tanya started her company, I just thought of her square treats as the “crack” she made for parties. They are truly a thing to behold. And eat. (Mostly eat.) You can follow The Square Treat on Facebook.