Cookies From Home, a business built from scratch By Barry Brooks - Cookies From Home
Approaching its twenty-fifth year in business, Cookies From Home has grown from a small mom and pop cookie shop to a multi-million dollar gift company through boot- strapping and creative marketing. So there we were, Susan and I had just opened our Victorian parlor cookie shop on Mill Avenue right before the holidays and we were so pleased with our first holiday season. But now it was January, February, March…where did the business go? We had to make sales and make them fast. That’s when we hit the streets. During those early years our commitment was to put a cookie on every tongue. Cookies From Home continually cultivated this grass roots marketing approach wherever possible. Through culinary festivals, cookie carts at art shows and downtown locations, and on office delivery routes where Barry would ask, “Would you like to try one of our homemade delicious cookies? I’ll be back in two weeks. Would you like to order a box or two?” Soon that expanded to 10 reps hitting all the businesses they could reach. Success? Sure if you define it as making people very very happy. Making money? Nope. Another tactic was needed and once again needed mighty fast. That was when the corporate gift giving approach was designed. We knew that businesses gave gifts. We experienced it during the Holidays. So now we needed to test it to determine if this was viable for all year long gifting. Susan recalls feeling that the phone weighed a 100 pounds when she tentatively made those first cold calls to businesses. Life is interesting. If it hadn’t been for those early years giving out so many samples and knocking on so many doors, the receptivity that we received for our gifts would not have been there. Calls truly would have been cold. But, we were off and running as so many people already had great first hand experience of our company and our product.
The next step was to begin customizing our gifts to feature our customers name, message and logo. A perfect blend…their custom gift with our handmade homemade cookies. Creating an in-house art department and print shop was just what was needed for fast turn arounds and truly custom work that launched the “Brand You” program.
When one has to watch his budget very closely, marketing decisions, always important, become critical. Like testing new media outlets. If one radio station brings results, slowly introduce another. Mailing 50,000 catalogs. That works…time to test 100,000, and then even more the next time. Pay per click on cookiesfromhome.com? Start with Yahoo…just a few key words. Bring on Google with even more. Slowly, steadily, and always, always listening to our customers.
As any business knows the line on the graph does not always go in one straight upward direction. Fortunately, over the years throughout many u-turns, no exits, and learning experiences, the line on our cookie graph has continued in an upward direction.