It all started with a secret thrill.
When Kristen Tomlan was a child, sneaking a spoonful of raw cookie dough in her mother’s kitchen was a tasty treat that also felt, well, a little decadent.
Years later, that memory of homespun goodness inspired Tomlan to start her own business. Her New York-based store called Cookie DŌ is all about eating, celebrating, and sharing her passion for delicious, colorful, and safe-to-eat cookie dough.
One important key to her small business success was discovering how to ship delicious dough safely and securely.
But to fully understand Tomlan’s journey from cookie dough aficionado to successful Cookie DŌ entrepreneur, we have to go back to the days when she was a little girl watching her mother bake cookies and other goodies in St. Louis, Missouri.
Back in the day, baking with mom was the perfect apprenticeship. That included the ritual of grabbing a spoonful of raw cookie dough on the sly. “You feel like you're doing a little bit wrong because you've been told your whole life not to eat it,” Tomlan remembers.
Her dad also was in on the act. When he arrived home from work, there would be fresh baked cookies waiting for him on the counter. “But he would know to go straight to the refrigerator because I would always save him a little bit of cookie dough to eat,” she recalls.
The idea for turning her love of cookie dough into a real-life business came during a weekend trip to Philadelphia. When visiting a cookie shop with her girlfriends, instead of buying baked goods they left the store with a tub of frozen dough intended for baking. “We sat in the car passing it around, and that was the moment that I thought, ‘Why is this not a thing?’”
Having mused on the idea for a while, Tomlan eventually put pen to paper and sketched out a business plan. A new chapter in cookie history was about to begin.
The plan was always to have a brick-and-mortar presence, but launching a physical store was incredibly expensive in New York City, where Tomlan was working as a designer for a brand consulting firm.
She decided to start online instead, which gave her the opportunity to test the market before going all in. “I wanted to make sure that people would buy the product—and if they were buying it, I wanted to know exactly what they were buying.”
Initial orders came from former classmates and family friends, but it wasn’t long before sales began to snowball. After only six weeks, Tomlan felt confident enough to quit her day job and make the leap into full-time entrepreneurship. “I wasn't sure if this was all going to work out, but I knew in my gut that I had to give it my all,” she says.
Fast forward several years and Tomlan was finally able to invest the profits from the online operation into launching a physical store. The brick-and-mortar outlet she always dreamed of was about to become a reality.
The gamble paid off. On the opening weekend there was a four-hour line out the door in the middle of a New York winter. Demand was so high the store quickly ran out of product. Nowadays, the company has up to 85 employees during its busiest time of year.
Small business success brings with it growing pains, and one of Tomlan’s biggest challenges was shipping a perishable product. Raw cookie dough needs special handling to preserve its freshness in transit.
Working with UPS, Cookie DŌ implemented an improved system of temperature-controlled shipping using insulated containers and frozen gel packs. UPS also supplied testing kits with small digital thermometers for the interior of the containers. Tomlan and her team were able to monitor the temperature of packages all the way to her customers’ doorsteps.
With her enhanced shipping system in place, Tomlan could offer two-day shipping for the first time, which expanded her company’s reach nationwide. "It helped us ensure that the product stayed cold the entire time in transit, even in the middle of the summer,” she explains.
The firm also enjoyed access to UPS®Digital Connections, which connects small businesses to a range of leading technology vendors and helps customers buy industry solutions at discounted prices.
Through UPS Digital Connections, Cookie DŌ benefited from practical help with marketing technology and shipping solutions. The company could now ship its product more efficiently and with confidence.
It’s hard to keep a secret under wraps, particularly when your product is so delicious—take the firm’s signature chocolate chip or Tomlan’s personal favorite Heavenly, a sugar cookie base with NUTELLA® chocolate chips and sea salt.
Enthusiasm for Cookie DŌ quickly spread beyond the United States. “We had so many Canadian fans and friends who wanted our cookie dough that we had to find a way to get it across the border into Canada,” Tomlan recounts.
While shipping internationally is great for small business growth, it brings fresh challenges. From obtaining customs clearance for a perishable product to implementing the backend technology required to handle international orders, Tomlan turned to UPS for guidance.
“UPS helped us work on everything that we needed to safely get food through customs, and update our website to make sure that we can accommodate Canadian addresses,” she says. "We have so many requests from our friends and followers that we want to ship to even more countries, which we're working on now.”
For anyone thinking about starting a business, Tomlan’s number one piece of advice is to always trust your gut. “You have to go with your instincts. You know your business and your goals more than anybody.”
Amid the excitement of growth, Tomlan is also quick to recognize the importance of small business shipping in successfully scaling a startup. “UPS is with us every step of the way,” she says. “It feels really good as a business owner to have them on my side.”
Find out more about how UPS can help turn your sweet idea into a trusted recipe for small business success.
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