With DOUGHP being the latest addition to the local food truck gathering, Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center. They sat down with our founder, Kelsey, and got the scoop on life running this new cookie dough business! Personal growth, business growth, and even a few tips for fellow food entrepreneurs. Read on...
What excites You (Or scares you!) the most about participating at OTG:FMC?
The invite to be an OTG:FMC vendor was the icing on the cake (or cookie dough) for what’s shaping up to be one hell of year already. We just opened the doors of our new shop on PIER 39 and our catering business has been picking up some serious steam - but to get our story out in front of the thousands at Off The Grid…that’s next level for me. I’ve been a fan girl of OTG since moving to SF and it’s a true testament to this city’s love & support of small biz.
The Bay Area really cares about the people behind the food - it’s not just an awesome fried chicken sandwich or a crazy good scoop of cookie dough…it’s who made it and why they’re making it. I’m most excited about OTG for the opportunity to share my story that comes along with the cookie dough, and maybe inspire a few to take the leap and go after what they love. It’s a wild ride, but so worth the risk.
What defines your long-term success?
I just want to be happy and share this ridiculously tasty cookie dough with people….It’s such a rad thing to share this recipe with the world. We’re not just selling dessert, a scoop of cookie dough is like giving people a flashback to their childhood. Nostalgia by the scoop. I’m on cloud nine watching people enjoy DOUGHP and talk about memories they have of sneaking a bite of cookie dough. But that happiness is sometimes tough to maintain when wearing all the different hats it takes to run a small business!
I left a 10-year career in tech to follow this sweet tooth of mine, so working long hours wasn’t something new to me. But these new hours are more like 24/7. Owning your own company means you’re on, all the time; at least while we’re still small! It can be tough to find that balance between self-care & bad-ass biz owner. I believe this will be a big breakthrough year for DOUGHP, so I hope to focus on getting the right people on the team to share the load. Also, a good support system is crucial and I’m lucky to have very patient, supportive friends - admittedly, they may just be sticking around for the perks: free cookie dough. ;)
In my eyes, DOUGHP has a place in a few other big cities (LA, Austin, Las Vegas…). I’m also getting the gears moving on a DOUGHP Road Trip down the west coast in a food truck! To accomplish all this awesomeness, I’ll need some help. Something my grandma used to say to me, “Kelsey, you can do anything. But not everything.” So for 2018, success is finding the balance: kick ass and stay sane.
What piece of advice would you offer to someone starting out in the mobile food business?
Shit’s about to get real. Don’t give up, and ask for help when you need it. There are so many of us who have been RIGHT where you are. It’s overwhelming. Your to-do list has 10383709 items on it. It feels like you’ll never make it through. But you will! You’ve got a great product, now it’s time to figure out where to make it, who to sell it to, and the right avenues to sell it. If you’re not sure - just ask! Nearly every big decision (and lots of little ones) I’ve made for DOUGHP, I ran it by another contact in the food world. Hiring, scheduling, payroll solutions, health department inspections, etc. Someone else has been through it - they probably got a helping hand and would be more than willing to lend you one. I know I am.
There are things that come easier for some than others - marketing for example. That’s just not natural for some of us. Consider this common scenario: You make GREAT pies. You love your pie. You think everyone else will love your pie. But you don’t know how to market/advertise your pie business. You sell no pies. You are sad. DON’T LET THAT BE YOU! If marketing isn't your strong suit, find someone who can help you! The most important thing in running your business is knowing what YOU want to be good at. You don’t have to be good at everything, so outsource (when financially conceivable) the items that aren’t worth you learning/doing. Accounting, for example. Not my thing. So I hired a pretty legit accounting firm off the bat. Boom. Done. Off my plate. I save money by focusing on growing my business instead of looking up what GAAP means. :) Shout-out to the accounting crew at Why Blu for saving me from that misery.
Bottom line: Do what you love, do what you’re good at, and get help for the rest of it.
What do you see as the biggest obstacles to your business' success?
There are no obstacles - just new paths! :) Hehe. Well...I think our biggest area of focus is handling scale. We have something super new, unique, and the more word spreads - the more demand we get. Which is great! ("Good problems to have,” as they say) But I definitely feel the growing pains of how quickly (and responsibly) I need to hire and train the right staff & management to take advantage of all the sweet opportunities in front of us. It’s walking that line between overextending yourselves and missing out on a killer opportunity. It’s a pivotal moment in a company - but I’m loving every second of it.
The stages of growth are just awesome - Back when I started last April, employee-less and working every single event alone, I remember freaking out when someone said they had heard of DOUGHP. Like “Woah! someone that is not my friend or related to me has heard of this thing I started!?” And now, I was interviewed for ABC7 Bay Area last month (Hi mom! Hi dad!) and there are thousands of people trying our product at Pier 39 - often without even meeting me! The problems you face change so rapidly and now that it’s grown to the point where I can’t be serving every single scoop of dough (98% sure my wrist would fall off), you’ve got to focus on having people who can embody the same vibe you had and share that same passion for this product. Starting the business was a huge hurdle, but scaling it without losing the experience you’ve created is certainly my biggest undertaking yet.
**GUEST BLOG courtesy of one bad-ass cookie dough photographer, Courtney Cain.**
What do you get when you mix together a sweet tooth, a love of photography, and a brand new cookie dough company? Fast friends!
Hello! My name is Courtney and I’m the camera behind some of DOUGHP’s dopest cookie dough photos. In August, on the day I moved to the Bay Area, my childhood best friend, Lizzie had lined up a meeting with Kels (DOUGHP's founder!) to chat dessert photos. At the time we’d just started creating content for a few small businesses and were looking to grow this passion.
Lizzie is a lover of all things sweet and San Francisco and caught wind of DOUGHP’s social media account over the summer. After a few months of semi-intense stalking Kelsey/DOUGHP - we felt like we already knew her and set out on a mission to befriend this passionate entrepreneur! We met for coffee in downtown SF and the rest is history! If you’re getting Ingrid Goes West vibes, I see you! Nothing has gotten creepy… yet. :)
By the second friend-date, things got serious. I met Kels at The Bread Project in Berkeley for a get-to-know-you photo shoot and ride-share into the city. We talked passions — mine for social justice education and hers for ethical, community-based DOUGHP development. The photos turned out wonderful; Nothing breaks down inhibition faster than cookie dough. In fact, getting to know Kelsey has convinced me that sugar might be a better conversation-starter than alcohol!!
In the following week, Lizzie and I traded Kelsey a batch of cookie dough for a batch of photos and ran around downtown SF to make it happen. We threw Fruity Pebbles and marshmallow topping across Market Street and snuck up to skyscraper rooftops to get wow-worthy shots. There was something really inspiring about merging the Bay Area grunge with scoop-able cookie dough (read: barbed wire and graffiti were our friends!).
From there our friendship really blossomed! We would continue to shoot photos for Kelsey as she opened up her first brick and mortar shop at The Myriad Market. Lizzie and I would occasionally pick up DOUGHP from The Bread Project in Berkeley, snagging a spoonful of dough waiting in traffic on The Bay Bridge. We shared cars and campfires, hammocks and hangouts. What started as a singled-out social media account lead to a successful business partnership and an extraordinary friendship.
Shooting for a small, growing business is so fun because there is so much space for creativity! Sometimes this means snagging bottles of cinnamon and pulling rose petals off backyard plants to shoot a flavor feature. It often means finding perfectly random backdrops and shade cast by picnic tables. We once dismantled a skeleton decoration in someone’s front yard to shoot a spooky Halloween staging. I swear we spent the remainder of that shoot thinking someone would chase us down the block for rearranging their lawn ornaments!
Lizzie (who is featured most often as the cookie dough-holding hand) is truly a saint for putting up with my stage directions — “A little to the right. Higher. Higher! No, lower. Left. Stop being weird with your thumb! Now wait for the wind….. Perfect!”
Sometimes our ideas turn out really cute and sometimes they’re just plain bizarre, but they’re 100% fun and inspired by Kelsey’s love for her work and the Bay Area.
As DOUGHP continues to grow, our friendship is sure to follow. Stay tuned for a blog post dedicated to all the dope bloopers I’ve seen in the last 8 months. Rest assured, behind every beautiful photo is a funny face and a crumbling cone.
February 14, 2018
Kelsey Witherow (415) 741-0799
DOUGHP in San Francisco, CA
Thanks to the help of the California Department of Public Health – we’ve got some updating to do on our product labels! It’s important you know exactly what’s in your cookie dough, and our containers failed to include flavor-specific information! The ingredients listed are that of the blonde cookie dough itself, but lack the ingredients/allergens of the mix-ins (chocolate chips, for example, and the soy product that they contain). The two items that were sold were:
With this new information in hand around labeling requirements, DOUGHP is recalling 100 containers that had undeclared allergen(s). The products were solely distributed in Napa Farms Market in Terminal 2 of SFO Airport. They are 8oz containers of cookie dough with a black label on the top and a side label stating just the base cookie dough ingredients.
We apologize for the mix up and are creating new labels that will accurately show the full ingredient list for our product! We’ll do our best to get this item back on shelves in Napa Farms Market ASAP! Thanks for all your support and please contact the company at (415) 741-0799 (from 10a-9p) with any comments/concerns.
Founder & Cookie Dough Enthusiast
Daaaaaang! The last 3 months have been straight B-A-N-A-N-A-S. I kept meaning to blog and then avalanche after avalanche (of awesomeness) kept piling on!
We loved our pop-up at the food hall (The Myriad), but we needed a little more space than the 10x10 popup allowed. So I'd been keeping my eyes peeled for a more official storefront to call DOUGHP's home in San Francisco. I'd submitted vendor applications to be in places like the Ferry Building and Pier 39 - knowing we want heavy foot traffic and, ideally, lots of fresh faces! New people to come in and try this treat they've probably never seen scooped up and served like ice cream! Tourist locations are prime for this!
Come November and I get a call from a women in Pier 39 leasing - saying they have a food spot that has become available for sale! Say what?! After nearly pooping myself with excitement, I went in to see the space and thought it would be perfect! A cute balcony, plenty of space, great seating and tons of charging ports & free wifi. It also came with an Illy Coffee license so we'd have a full espresso/coffee service! Then came the price tag - gulp. We've been doing well, but didn't have that kind of cash-on-hand. Coincidentally, a week before hearing from Pier 39, I was contacted by an investor interested in the company. Yet again - things fell into place right when I most needed them!
So boom! Within two weeks I'd pulled together the funding & purchased the storefront! It was surreal to say the least - I grew up with countless trips from Sacramento to SF as a child and Pier 39 was a stop every. single. time. The idea that now I'd actually own a store on the same pier and be a part of so many families memories...UNBELIEVABLY COOL.
So those two weeks fly by and now I've got actual keys to an actual storefront on Pier 39. Now what?! Onto restaurant design! I worked with Hannah Collins Design to help mockup what the store should look like - mainly just aesthetic work as I'd taken over a cupcake/coffee shop so already had a great layout! From there I spent the next 20 days literally living at the shop...
My amazing friends came in clutch and got their hands dirty with me in the store! Bre and John came out for the VERY exciting task of stripping wallpaper from ~30' walls. Those clothes will never be the same as wallpaper stripper enjoys stripping anything it touches. We got a muralist (shoutout to GriffinOne!) to come in and do an insanely amazing mural full of San Francisco landmarks. 20 days after getting the keys, we had an epic - and most definitely doughp - storefront on the pier ready for business!
It's been an awesome journey so far - feels so good to look back at what we accomplished and I've got high hopes for the future! We're nearing that one year anniversary (4/20) and will most def be throwing a little bash for that! But before then, come in for one hell of a party at our Grand Opening shin dig...
See the new spot for yourself! We're currently in our soft opening and have a grand opening coming up on February 17th 6-10pm. Hope to see you there!
GRAND OPENING // PIER 39 // FEB 17 2018
I get asked pretty often what the best part about starting my own business has been. People expect me to say, “Being my own boss!”…or (and this is a close second) “Eating as much cookie dough as I can dream of!” But honestly, without a doubt, being able to have a positive influence on other people’s lives is the most rewarding – and maybe unexpected – part of starting DOUGHP.
The opportunities to give back have continued to pour in. We raised funds for a young cookie-dough-loving boy battling his second round with cancer, moved our dough production to a non-profit manufacturer, and donated $1500 for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. At every turn, I’ve continued to be amazed at the impact a company can have – no matter how small. [Learn more about each of these & how you can help by clicking "Read More" at the bottom of this blog.]
Many entrepreneurs say that they intend to do all sorts of wonderful things after their business is successful, but don't when success happens... If you plan to succeed, do so from the beginning. There may not be time later. - Paul Hawken
Another opportunity to give back arose last week. Caleigh Huber is facing wildly difficult life choices given recent news in her ongoing battle with Cystic Fibrosis. One choice she made easily last week was to marry her then-fiancé, Bryan. Her disease required her to get a double lung transplant in 2015. Already an insanely traumatizing ordeal, her body is now rejecting the transplant and it’s uncertain her body is eligible for a do-over on the transplant. Health issues aside...love is taking charge and in 6 days, they turned what was an engagement party into a full-blown wedding.
What typically takes a couple 12 MONTHS or more to plan, was now going to come together in 6-days . What’s more? With a mountain of medical bills, this needed to be a virtually free endeavor. Caleigh built quite a following online (@fight2breathe) with her inspiring story for both those in and out of the CF community alike. She contacted me via DOUGHP’s Instagram last week making a request that we cater the dessert at her wedding…in 4 days…for free. I’m a sucker for love, and this girl is a total badass --- DOUGHP was game to make this happen.
I pulled together the order for the dough we’d need and made all the necessary arrangements for us to cater the wedding this past Saturday. Thinking there might be a little something more I could do, I did some digging and got her best friend to shed light on Caleigh’s favorite candy. Milk Duds. (I knew I liked this girl! Yum!) I made a special batch of Milk Dud cookie dough and named it “Bryan’s No Dud!” for the wedding night.
I arrived on Saturday, nervous but excited to be a part of such a special event; two people uncertain of how much time they have together – yet devoted to living the best of each day they have with one another. I’m so honored that Caleigh invited us to be there – the dough was a fun addition to such an amazing day. Congratulations, Bryan & Caleigh. Everyone at DOUGHP is wishing you both the best, sending you lots of love, and more cookie dough whenever you need it. <3
For some insight on this magical love they’ve got going – here are Caleigh’s wedding vows:
On this day, I give you my whole heart. My promise to be faithful and supportive; and to always make our family's love and happiness my priority. I promise,that I will walk with you,Hand in hand, Wherever our journey leads us. Living, learning, and loving you. I will dream with you, celebrate with you and be your partner through whatever our lives may bring. I will always be honest with you, kind, patient and forgiving. I will comfort you when the Ohio State Buckeyes loose, I will give my shoulder when you're in conflict. I will always wait for you while you’re away for work. I vow be more selfless, more compassionate, more driven and more giving.
I'm sorry, my love, that you won’t always have me in your life, but I promise you every minute I’m alive I will dedicate myself to you. I will never stop fighting to stay alive. You inspire me to fight harder, to put myself through struggle, to look past chaos, to drink ensures and to take my medication. You have made me a better person, and I vow to continue to strive to be better every day. and the best wifey I can be to you. Forever and Always.
PS: These two are headed off on a magical honeymoon, funded by their community of supporters – additional funds raised will go towards outstanding medical bills and to help others in similar situations. Please consider making a donation here: https://www.gofundme.com/fight2honeymoon
Photo Credit: Retrospect Images, http://weddings.retrospectimages.com
Here’s some more backgrounds on the other areas I mentioned at the start of this post...
First – on one of my first weeks selling DOUGHP I was lucky enough to meet Collin & his family. A cookie-dough-loving father & son were out for a clinical trial at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital staying nearby to the food park that I’d just started selling at. Collin is adorable and I was so moved by their story; his 2nd battle with cancer & at such a young age. Struggling to find a way I could help – I brought some smiles to Collin’s face by developing a special flavor (aptly named “The Collin” and filled with his favorite candy: M&Ms) we helped raise nearly $700 (still accepting donations here) for his family’s medical expenses. Even after the trial, they kept a special spot in my heart and on a spontaneous visit to San Francisco last month, his father (Ed) told me that Collin had just 3 people he wanted to see: his doctor from UCSF, a family they met when out here for the trial, and “Kelsey the DOUGHP lady”. I’m so honored to be a part of their journey and Ed continues to update me monthly with the latest on Collin’s battle with cancer.
Then – we found The Bread Project. A necessary means to the ever-growing demand for our dough, The Bread Project is a co-packer who can produce our dough recipe for us! By working with this non-profit, we’re supporting low income individuals to become self-sufficient members of society – they are sent through a thorough training program and leave the kitchen with the career skills they need to success. It’s a great way to support both our growth, and the growth of the Bay Area community at large. Donate to / fundraise for the bread project here.
Next came the summer of destruction – personally moved by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Though raised in Northern California, I was born outside of Dallas and have family spread far and wide across Texas. To top it off, my boyfriend’s family lives in Houston so this was a scary time for all of us. I decided to have DOUGHP donate a 10% of our sales for a period of time to The Greater Houston Community Foundation – totally $1500 to help with hurricane relief efforts.
Ah, the life of an entrepreneur. So glamorous! Be your own boss! Own your hours! Do what you want! Get a lambo! Buy a mansion!...ok I'm getting carried away. But you get the point. In America we hype up this idea of being an 'entrepreneur' as total freedom. And living in San Francisco - there are a lot of us! Whether moonlighting from our day job, or taking the leap and making our venture a full-time deal - being an entrepreneur is crazy. It starts off being just as (if not more) stressful as it is rewarding, but with some purposeful and mindful adjustment, the potential is there for an amazing, fulfilling and free-willed lifestyle. This is a bit personal, and quite "behind the scenes" for DOUGHP, but I hope this post helps other budding entrepreneurs to move more purposefully into this new way of living.
The first 6 months of DOUGHP absolutely flew by. It was so crazy, so awesome, and so fast - I couldn't really even stop to examine how the stress and my "all-in" mentality had begun affecting my personal life. It's only now, about a month into life with our store at The Myriad, that I was forced to stop and reflect on how well I'm adjusting to this new entrepreneurial world of mine.
After a decade of living that #cubelyfe in Corporate America, you sort of get used to a certain way of life. My life was predictable: Wake up, work out, make a smooth, catch the train, work for a bit, lunch with coworkers, work more, train home, dinner, sleep, startover. RIVITING, I know! So leaving that life for DOUGHP, I knew things would be different than my old corporate life, but I didn't realize how intentional I would need to be about adapting to these changes. The three things that are changing the game for me right now are:
Separation of Work & Life. Owning your own business can be pretty all-consuming. You've created something and its success or failures begin to define you. You pour every ounce of energy into making it successful, but without some division of your personal and work lives - you'll go crazy. (I stopped JUST shy of moving into Crazyville. I'm still a solid amount of crazy, but it's manageable and totes chill.)
"I'm gonna work from home Friday! Woo!" What used to be an exciting change of pace (and an escape from making the long haul on CalTrain), has now become the norm. Without a true 'office' to go to, in many ways my apartment turned into DOUGHP HQ -- albeit with no free food, laundry services, or sit/stand desks (Ugh, what is this dump?! Kidding.). My apartment initially started out as a storage unit, too, for our giant wooden serving cart, huge boxes of cups, and more cookie dough than any one person should ever have in their home! Slowly but surely found a home for the big equipment, and made a point to work from coffee shops much more often. I'm now making a much more conscious effort to separate my time at home to relax when I can and work out at some coworking spaces or local coffee shops. Home has begun to feel a bit more like home -- in fact, as I'm writing this, I'm looking out at the edge of Golden Gate Park, sipping some tea at Flywheel Coffee Roasters.
Another area in desperate need of some work/life separation is with personal relationships. I'm focused on becoming more mindful of when/how I talk about work-related things in front of my boyfriend and close friends. Being a sole-owner has its blessings and shortcomings at the same time. Occasionally you just NEED to hash out a new idea, issue arising, flavor you're dreaming up - but usually that person can't always be your significant other. While he loves what I'm doing with DOUGHP (and eats enough of it to feed a small army), he'll get burnt out if I am always rattling on and on about what's new with DOUGHP. Per some recent advice, we're going to try and delegate specific time to talk about DOUGHP and add in a separate No-DOUGHP-Zone for a Friday night date night routine! I'm focusing my immediate needs to brainstorm with a friend of mine who's willing/free to do so and can keep a more clear divide between relaxing time with friends and work brain.
Finding Routine in the Chaos Moving from an insanely planned & overly structured life (I used to have "Take a shower." and "Eat Breakfast" daily on my calendar). Every minute was planned out. Fast forward to owning your own company and Friday feels like Tuesday, Sunday could be Thursday - it's a whirlwind and all I could do to keep my head afloat moving as fast as I was over the last 6 months. Between meetings or running an errand, I open up my laptop and bounce around between 20 open Chrome tabs, 10 half-written emails, and a graphic design piece that's just been started. Talk about anti-productivity. I was drowning, feeling 'busy' but not productive, and had nothing to anchor or focus my time around. It was like spinning in an orbit of a million things to do and no north star. Now that things have settled and I can refocus on our growth and next steps, I realized how much I miss a routine - not the one I used to have per say, but I'm just longing for something a little more routine, a light structure for the day-to-day. So now I'm waking up at the same time each day, 6:15am. Get a workout in (if you don't do it first thing, it ain't gonna happen!). Make some breakfast. And spend the next 4 hours doing structured, focused work time; Marketing & Advertising on Mondays, Finance Tuesdays, etc. No other windows open on my computer, just a focused topic and it's accompanying to-do list. Hammer it out! This leaves the afternoons available to condense the errand-running, customer-meeting, firedrill-fixing life that can so quickly swallow up a whole day if you let it. I've also got a little built-in creativity time on Friday mornings to have something to look forward to and a promised break time to myself. Things are lookin' up!
Yelp Reviews & Daily Sales Cannot Rule Your Life We all remember that one time someone said we were ugly, or fat, or less-than. It hurt! It felt personal and it totally ruined your whole day (or longer!). Well owning a business is sort of like putting your own self-confidence up at auction and seeing what people want to say about what you've created. And honestly for DOUGHP, overall, it's good stuff! I would've closed up shop months back if this wasn't moving in the right direction, if people really couldn't get down with cookie dough like I imagined. But it's not the case. It's successful and I'm really humbled by the positive response we have received over the last 6 months. YET, day to day I have been riding an emotional rollercoaster based of those daily sales from our point-of-sale system - or a negative review on our Yelp page. CRUSHED! It didn't matter if I'd just met a couple who drove up from LA to try our cookie dough and loved it, or a new mom coming back for her 4th time that week, etc. That one, sad review would just crush my whole day. It was all I could think about, and it felt so very personal. I'd poured my heart & soul into this, so I shouldn't be surprised that an attack on the brand or our product felt like an attack on my heart & soul! A poor sales day could be right beside an unbelievably big sales day at a food festival or some large corporate catering gig we just closed. But seeing that low day totally counteracted the successes. So, in an effort to remove myself from this day-to-day ride, I'm taking advantage of the newly structured 'work time' on my calendar to look in at sales in a purposeful, actionable way. And another time to read and respond to Yelp reviews - good and bad!
So here we go! 6 months in, flying fast, and I hit a great time to reset and refocus so that I've got the mental wherewithal to really take DOUGHP to the big leagues! Best of luck to any of you out there headed on the same journey, I am here to help however I can!
I was wrong and I am genuinely sorry. I named our flavors with terms that originate from Black-American Culture - and using that language in our marketing - I was culturally appropriating. I apologize for the offensive use of the language/slang and will do my best to move forward with a brand that speaks generally to all millennials and Bay Area residents - not pulling from Black-American Culture.
The recognition of this wrong came after the San Francisco Chronicle's nod to our use of this language. The discussions resulting from the Chronicle article have been nothing short of eye opening and a huge learning experience for me - and perhaps for others following along on the interwebs, too.
We still hope to deliver a little happiness to this crazy world with our cookie dough, but we will work to right the wrongs we've done in marketing and keep a light-hearted, youthful vibe without stealing from a cultural that is not mine. I'll share transparently as continue to make changes, but right now I want to focus on the communities I hurt and make sure they understand how sorry I am. I'm dedicated to building a company that can give back to the communities I've upset instead of being seen as a white person just trying to profit off of another culture. Starting this company was never - and never will be - about making money and I should not have pulled so heavily from a culture that was not mine. I left a safe corporate job so I could make people happy. I want to keep doing that and being as respectful and inclusive as possible.
Again, no matter my intention, this conversation is important. It's difficult at times to remove ourselves from our own shoes and genuinely try to see something from another's point of view. In fact, it will be impossible for me to ever fully know what it's like to be a black person living in America. All I can do is work to gain a better understanding of their experiences - and equally important, an understanding of how my branding could be appropriating aspects of their culture.
One thing that helped me along in this discussion was someone online calling out that with DOUGHP, I (a white person) am choosing to indulge in only one aspect of Black American culture (music, language/slang, etc.) and not in other aspects to which they are subject to daily: racism, oppression, lack of opportunity, etc. It's awful and so unfair that they have to experience that other side and it's through that understanding I can respect that they would like me to not engage in any aspect of their culture through my DOUGHP brand.
As a result of this feedback, I’ve decided to pull back on some of the naming - flavors like The OG will now be called “The Original” and “This S’more Is Hella Lit” will now be “This S’more is Hella Awesome”. I will retain as much of the bay area & millennial vibe as I can, while getting rid of the more overtly hip hop and Black American Culture phrases. I respect everyone’s opinions and am continuing to seek out feedback from the community to understand how I can do better.
I’ve also pulled references to myself as a ‘doughp dealer’ and comments about getting ‘Hooked On Doughp’ — being now two years into recovery from my own addiction to alcohol, it was sort of nice to play on words and tout that I’m not addicted to this negative substance anymore and have traded it out for a serious sugar additciton. I wasn’t in anyway trying to marginalize addiction - an issue I have a deep, personal understanding of. Oddly enough, DOUGHP wasn’t even created as a pun for the drug initially. The play on DOUGHP as marijuana just fell into play and suited with the weed-loving culture we have here in the bay. But I see how it could be viewed as marginalizing the drug epidemic or making light of a drug addiction. It was a later adoption of the term 'dope' for my own marketing as DOUGHP really found it’s name as I have always said dope as in, “That’s dope!” and in a company name brainstorming session (going through endless ‘dough’ words) with a friend of mine actually said, “I just want it to be a really dope dessert shop, like a really laid back and chill place to hang out.” And before I could go on, she interrupted me and said “That’s it! Dope could have dough in it!” And the rest is history.
Before the article brought these issues to light, we had already done a handful of fundraising efforts (Raised $1500 for Hurricane Harvey and nearly $700 for a UCSF Children's Hospital family we met through DOUGHP). We also moved our cookie dough production to The Bread Project, a non-profit in Berkeley who employs low income individuals and teaches them skills for self sufficiency. I hope to continue providing opportunities and support for these communities through my work with DOUGHP. There’s no time too early to start giving back with a company and since the article I’ve taken an even stronger approach at where else I can lend a hand - looking into programs like The Hidden Genius Project and Youth Speaks to see where I can lend my time (mentoring, etc.), provide job opportunities (working for DOUGHP!), and provide funds where they’re needed most through fundraising. I hope DOUGHP can help underrepresented minorities both in our employment practices and also through various non-profit and philanthropic work.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks to those of you who raised your voices. You were heard.
BIG NEWS TO SHARE! Read on to find out...
Six months ago, my boyfriend and I were on a bike ride when I told him I wanted to start a cookie dough company. At the time, we were both happily employed in our tech jobs, so he sort of laughed it off - saying endearingly, "Yeah, that'd be nice...one day." Within two months, I started selling DOUGHP.
I'm like Charlie Sheen in a way (yikes -- that's something I thought I'd never say). But, like he once said, "I've got one speed, I've got one gear. GO!" I connect with an idea, decide I'm going to do it, and come hell or high water that shit is happening! Since launching the company, I've leveraged our time at Spark Social SF (a food park in Mission Bay) to test the waters...errr...dough, rather. Do people truly love cookie dough? Yes. Do they want to devour fairly large amounts of it in one sitting? Yes. Is it insanely fun to run your own cookie dough company? Hell fucking yes.
The last four months have been a great proving ground - experimenting with new flavors, selling the dough, launching awesome partnerships, absorbing all the feedback and working to scale our production (growing pains included...see our last blog). We're getting awesome feedback from customers, one message on facebook ending, "So glad we found your product and we can't wait to go back for some more! Thank you so much for making our dessert dreams come true!" *crying* So cool - DOUGHP is just out here tryna give the people what they want! That said - we are still very much in start-up mode, with employees coming to refill the cups, spoons and other DOUGHP-dealing necessities from my studio apartment before the head off for a shift at Spark Social. It's sort of comical - occasionally an employee coming back after a late shift and catching me finishing up emails in my pajamas (and eating cookie dough). I think I'll find this particularly funny in another year or so when we're super official and have an awesome office like Smitten Ice Cream, who I went to visit earlier this week. They have this big spacious, well-lit loft above what will soon be their very own commissary kitchen. I'll be there some day!
We're getting there and now it's time for our next big step in the DOUGHP journey! We're moving on up and will be opening our very first DOUGHP Cookie Dough Bar on Market St! OH YEAH. YOU HEARD ME! We are opening up shop in a super funky (and awesome) indoor food hall called The Myriad. I signed the lease today and will spend the next month readying San Francisco for the greatest Cookie Dough Bar EVER! We're talking 6+ flavors at a time. Imported crazy colored/flavored waffle cones from The Konery. Some experimental cookie dough confections rotating through. And - best of all - a new home base for DOUGHP so I can remember a litttttttle bit of work & life separation! My employees can restock at The Myriad and my studio can go back to just being a studio. :)
We can't wait to share more details as we go forward. Move-in begins this Monday and some serious remodel videos & pics are sure to go up on our Instastory so follow along on this insanely cool journey!
I AM SO EXCITED.
LIKE, REALLY REALLY STOKED. :)
They say a baked cookie was first created out of a failed cake recipe. That person must have felt like a total failure, looking at this flat pathetic attempt at a cake – and then their friend walked over, grabbed it, took a bite and said, “Damnnnnn, this shit is bomb!”….or something like that. I’m paraphrasing here. But it’s true, sometimes it takes a second look at a mistake and see something totally awesome.
We’re going through some growing pains at DOUGHP right now! At 5’2”, I’ve personally always wanted to have growing pains, so I am very excited to be growing at all! But business growth bring along a different set of side effects…We're going through 3-4 times more dough each week than when we first started. To keep up with demand, we started exploring the use of a co-packer. (It's ok. I didn't know either. This was me 4-weeks ago: "What the hell is a co-packer?") This means we can use a company to produce our delicious recipe on our behalf and that lets us take on the increased demand and also frees up my time to keep growing the business instead of living in the kitchen! I can go in and make my fun flavor experiments to keep growing our menu, but the recipes I’ve crafted that you guys know & love now – I don’t have to be hands-on with every pound!
So a few months ago I met the folks from The Bread Project over in Berkeley, CA. I was still early in my DOUGHP days and didn’t think I was ready for a co-packer, but I was totally intrigued by what they were doing and what they stood for. I envisioned a co-packer as some big scary manufacturing warehouse where everyone is silently trudging along at a factory line job. Seemed scary and pulls away from the homemade, small-batch aspect to my dough that I love! The Bread Project was the antithesis of all of that.
The Bread Project employs low-income individuals in an effort to build a more self-sufficient community. They go through intensive kitchen training and career-building sessions and even have a graduation celebration for the “students” who have completed the training. So the students are trained and act as kitchen staff for The Bread Project’s co-packing services. The students are making over minimum wage and able to really set themselves up with skills to make a real income! How rad is that? I am now at the point where I need some help keeping up with the DOUGHP production and I don't have to work with some scary manufacturing plant where they’re paying peanuts. So we decided to move forward with The Bread Project and we had one initial test production go swimmingly. We made the leap that day from my previous biggest batch in a 60-quart mixer, to using a 120-quart mixer! That’s a shit ton of cookie dough.
The next time (about a week later), I go in to teach my recipe to the student who will be leading the cookie dough production. We go through the motions like I’ve done countless times – and then I taste the final product and instantly knew something was off. I was getting this intense hit of flour – this was NOT my dough! Immediately I thought it had to be the person I was training – maybe he measured something incorrectly. This recipe has been tried & true since day one, how could it be failing me now?! We now had nearly 300 pounds of dough that gave off a slightly savory taste and have a week full of events awaiting more dough!
After some at-home experiments to see if there’s anyway to salvage it, I realize I can’t bring it back to life – but I have two workarounds to make something of the dough!
The next day, I’m feeling a little crazed that I now will lose another day in the kitchen. Time is money when you run a business alone and I thought I might actually die spending another 5-7 hours in the kitchen instead of meetings, emails, planning, and – obvi – instagramming. But nonetheless, I’m telling myself I trust my recipe; we just need to go in and be extra careful measuring.
After I get the first few ingredients in, I start sifting out our heat-treated flour. The flour needs to be heat-treated in order to kill bacteria since you guys end up eating this shit raw, so we have been purchasing heat-treated flour from an online supplier for the last few rounds with no problem. And then sifting it helps give a consistent texture – no one wants to bite into a nugget of flour in their cookie dough! Anyways - the second I get going with the flour I immediately recognized something was off. But this time the smell of the flour was so strong, like it had been over-toasting (burned, even?!) in the heating process. To test my theory, I go back to the home-sized 5Q mixer and whip up a mini batch, perfectly measured – and sure enough, that flour taste is coming on strongggggg as hell. #notchill
I had to go forward using the flour given the time crunch I was in – but altered the recipe to try and reduce the amount of flour to sugar ratio in hopes that the sweet factor can takeover a little bit. So, we did what we could do and it’s given us a week’s worth of dough that is pretty tasty but it’s SERIOUSLY paining me that it isn’t our exact recipe. Consistency is everything – and I want everyone’s first, second, and 1000th taste of DOUGHP to be the exact same. This is my first soiree with a supplier issue and we’ll now be going back to the old days and heat-treating the flour ourselves! Best to do all you can in-house vs. trusting a supplier to keep their process the same.
So we’re out slangin’ the cookie dough (and those s’more baked cookies!) this week, but we’ll be back to the original glorious, buttery, sugary, amazing recipe ASAP!
Thanks for understanding. You guys are pretty doughp :)
A building burns down. A crane might fall. The power goes out. Packages can't get delivered. We get evacuated with minutes notice while mid-production. 200 pounds of cookie dough lies in wait to be finished and taken to a giant food festival the next day.
A few weeks ago, I attended a summit called FOOD FUNDED. One of the sessions was for entrepreneurs to share their mishaps - those times when shit literally hit the fan. The stories were unreal - turmeric kombucha explosions in a home kitchen, homemade hot sauce filling a warehouse floor an inch thick. These stories were rough. I remember sitting back and thinking, "DAMN...I don't have a story like this."
It had all gone pretty well since starting DOUGHP. My first time using my commercial kitchen, Kitchener Oakland, I remember the owner looking at me like I was crazy - I was moving from only having ever made the recipe at home in a 5 quart mixer...to making an enormous batch in a 60 quart mixer. Those were big leaps. I flipped the mixer on, took a deep breath, and voila! Perfect cookie dough. She couldn't believe it and said it usually takes 2-3 years for someone to jump a recipe up to that size batch.
So as I sat amidst all these other entrepreneurs, chuckling at their missteps, I couldn't help but feel this ominous sense that a story like theirs was coming for me.
The story came last Saturday.
DOUGHP's been picking up steam lately and my production schedule has tripled since I first started. (The people want their DOUGHP!) So I made arrangements to do another large prep day on Saturday, July 8th - one day before the Ice Cream Sunday Showdown - a food festival expecting 1-2k attendees! I ordered my heat-treated flour in advance and was all set to knock out a huge batch of cookie dough with 4 different flavors (including the inaugural round of our Cold Brew Is Bae!) almost 30% more than I usually do in a day at the kitchen.
Then the sky started to fall. On Friday, I caught wind of the Oakland fire and slowly but surely realized it was only 2 blocks from Kitchener. Insanely huge loss for the building owners who had spent millions erecting the apartment building that now sat smoldering - but also so upsetting to the hundreds of people displaced in the immediate area, unable to return to their homes. Luckily, no one was injured, and I figured by the time I got to the kitchen the next day it would be nothing more than some rubble and caution tape surrounding the former construction site.
Turned out the Kitchener was behind that caution tape, too. I manage to make it to the kitchen, carting my wagon of ingredients under the yellow tape and past a cop who looked pretty confused as to what I was doing but let me go on nonetheless. I found out the 100 pounds of heat-treated flour that I order had not been delivered as expected due to the emergency situation and UPS said there would be NO way to get the package until Monday. The kitchen owner, Sophia, came to my rescue and had begun heat-treating 100 pounds of flour herself to give me a head start on the production day.
The next blow was the power. PG&E turned off the power in the area to avoid risk of the construction crane (slightly singed from the fire and ominously swaying in the wind) falling and striking a power line. Sophia's magic came on again and she managed to get a generator for the kitchen - you can imagine the financial nightmare if all the food in our walk in fridge and freezer was lost. Yay for power...but not enough power.
Homemade cookie dough needs a mixer. A shit ton (scientific term) of cookie dough needs a big ass mixer. The 'big ass mixer' in discussion requires a lot of power to get moving and it was too risky to try it on the generator - blow that and we lose all hope of power to anything! So we downgraded and managed to scale my recipe to do three simultaneous 5-quart mixers (like you have at home) + one 20-quart mixer.
After a few adjustments, we had a recipe down and were cranking away rounds of the dough. I was feeling like we were really in the groove; my boyfriend sifting the 100 pounds of flour, my employee Raymond working the three baby mixers at hyperspeed, and me working through the Cold Brew is Bae recipe in the 20-quart....Then came another blow and another, much larger, piece of the sky fell.
Sophia had run out to get gas for the generator and I let my boyfriend go home and get some rest - Raymond and I had it under control! Then the cops came into the Kitchener and tell me some of the most ridiculous news of all time..."You have 2 minutes to evacuate, we're going to be removing the crane and we have to clear out this area while they remove it." WHAT?! Leave...mid-production...just walk away? I was so bummed because we were just getting things going and now we'll have to leave for what, 30 minutes? No. The cops estimate, "Could be anywhere from 5-8 hours."
In absolute shock, Raymond and I pack up what we can, throw everything in the fridge and leave the Kitchener after ~4 hours of production with another 3 or so of work remaining...The rest of the day was a mix of insanity that can only be described as comical in hindsight. We sat on the curb in Downtown Oakland for another 5.5 hours until we were let back in. There was an electrical fire in Sophia's car when we were going to throw in the towel and head out for a bit. Raymond got roped into walking a lost older woman home for an hour-long escapade. Sophia and I got harassed by an insane man on the street who started yelling nonsense at us, saying we look like we're 10 years old and that I have bad acne (it's not even that bad - sheesh!) Ha. At the end of it all, we couldn't help but laugh.
When shit hits the fan, all of the shit has to hit the fan at the same exact time. I was so grateful to have Sophia's help through it all and we joked that it was actually forcing us to have some downtime in our wildly busy lives while we waiting to return to the kitchen. I got through all of the dough production and made it home just past midnight. At the food festival the next day, DOUGHP was a huge hit and we made lots and lots of happy customers with our cookie dough - even if I nearly died making it!
After a few minor breakdowns, I came to realize you can only control so much and at some point you have to let go of expectations and just roll with what you've got. MOST importantly, everyone is safe. Yes, I was inconvenienced but we’re lucky no one was seriously injured from this fire. I love cookie dough, but it does come second to human life. So, while this may be my first "Holy shit. Will I make it through this?" story, it sure as hell won't be the last! Stay tuned... :)
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