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Koo-Weh Nana Bakery Makes State College Sweeter With Indonesian & Turkish Treats

Ann Kusnadi, the owner and head baker of Koo-Weh Nana, didn’t always plan to open a pastry shop. But after her husband’s background exposed her to the eclectic city of Gaziantep, Turkey, she decided to try her hand at the craft.

Kusnadi was born and raised in Medan, Indonesia. After receiving a degree in chemistry from the University of North Sumatra, she had the opportunity to pursue graduate studies in the United States. She attended both Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis and Iowa State University where she received an M.S. degree in biochemistry and a doctorate degree in food science and technology, respectively.

It was at ISU that Kusnadi met her husband, and after graduation, they moved back to his hometown of Gaziantep. The city is known for its remarkable baklava, so, naturally, Kusnadi fell in love with the sweet treat.

Following a move to State College and years of at-home experimentation, Kusnadi finally perfected her own baklava recipe. She was thrilled to serve it at gatherings with friends and family.

At one of these gatherings, a friend suggested that Kusnadi start selling baklava as gifts during the holiday season. So, she started baking as a side hustle while working as a researcher at Penn State.

It wasn’t until 2017 that Kusnadi started to take that side hustle more seriously. She started selling traditional baklava, as well as other Indonesian desserts. After debating with her kids over a name for the business, Koo-Weh Nana was finally born.

Although her passions are seemingly quite different, Kusnadi likens baking to doing research in a laboratory.

“The kitchen is my laboratory,” Kusnadi said. “Recipes are the protocols, and customers’ feedback are the results.”

Kusnadi said she faced many challenges while getting her business off the ground. From trying to find quality ingredients at a fair price to struggling with marketing, Kusnadi says she still in the learning phase. Since the pandemic began, she’s been taking online classes to gain marketing skills and develop her brand.

Koo-Weh Nana’s most popular item is the assorted baklava, but Kusnadi’s favorites are the nastar cookies and the pandan cake. She says that these two treats remind her of home.

As for the future of Koo-Weh Nana, Kusnadi has three goals: offer more variety, get her baked goods into more retail shops, and make it onto Oprah’s Favorite Things.

Orders can be placed on Koo-Weh Nana’s website for free delivery in State College.

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About the Author

Grace Cunningham

Grace is a sophomore advertising major and one of Onward State’s social media editors. She is also a co-host of our podcast, Podward State. Grace hails from Chatham, New Jersey—no, she doesn’t know Snooki, and yes, she will fight you if you tell her that Pennsylvania bagels are good. Grace loves buffalo chicken, the Yankees, and watching Cake Boss. Follow her on Twitter @gecunningham7 or email her at gracecunningham@onwardstate.com if you can get her an internship.

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