Image credit: Chris Emeott Photography
All of our loyal customers know the story of The Cookie Cups: Creator Nicole Pomije baked cookie dough in a mini muffin tin when she couldn’t find a baking sheet. This fortunate “mistake” launched the bite-size bakery brand we are today — but in our five years in business, Nicole has learned a lot of important lessons along the way.
The road from home-based cottage food business to farmer’s market seller to multi-location bakery hasn’t necessarily been an easy one, but we’re proud to look back on our humble history and celebrate how far we’ve come, especially during this difficult year.
In this Q&A, Nicole shares some of the insights she’s gained over the years and what’s next for The Cookie Cups as we head into 2021.
Q: Before you started The Cookie Cups, you launched several other successful businesses. Were there any “business lessons” or skills that you were able to apply to your bakery brand, even though it was in a completely different industry?
A: I think the strategy with every business is going to be different, however, I was able to take some of my marketing skill set and create a plan that would work for the bakery brand. A good lesson (and one that I’ve used often) is to keep testing and trying new things. As COVID has taught us, you never know what will be successful with change.
Q: What was the most challenging thing about breaking into the food industry, and how did you overcome it?
A: A major challenge for me was just understanding all of the rules and regulations (there are SO MANY!) for our state, especially when building the bakery storefronts. There are also a ton of fees involved with the licensing and even having to get certified to run a bakery.
In the beginning, it’s hard to know what kind of revenue numbers you will realistically bring in so planning can be difficult but you have to be realistic in your projections. With store 2 I was much more prepared — I learned from experience.
Q: What do you feel has been your biggest success with The Cookie Cups to date, and why?
A: Our Cooking Classes and Birthday Parties have been our biggest success by far according to dollars. However, with COVID this year, we have had to adjust our strategy. We are hoping that our at-home baking kits will help make up for that loss of revenue.
Q: Is there anything you would have done differently (or done sooner) when you first started if you could do it over?
A: I think everything I have done so far has led me to where we are now — which I am happy with and proud of. So, no, not one change.
Q: You created The Cookie Cups Baking Kits as a response to COVID-19 closures, but they’re also a really great and popular product idea. What about the “Cookie Cups experience” makes your at-home baking kits so special for new and loyal customers?
A: The baking kits are a way to bring our in-store experience home to customers. Now, we have a way to reach outside our local market and increase our brand exposure nationwide. It’s really special because the kits are something that families can do together at home, creating a sense of togetherness and happiness during these trying times.
Q: If you were starting this business today in the COVID era, what advice would you give yourself to persevere and succeed?
A: Prepare for what we know. We know very few people are shopping in stores right now- so build the business around being online only if possible. Things will go back to normal but we have no real sense of timing and it makes more sense to put your money toward marketing online than it does to build a physical location right now.