Product idea #6: Cracking Cookies
Taking a traditional product and transforming it into something great tasting and creative, founder Michelle Waugh discusses the business challenges of bringing her personalised fortune cookies to life
Founder: Michelle Waugh
Date launched: October 2013
The product: Flavoured fortune cookies with personalised messages
Reinventing and adding flavour to the traditional fortune cookie concept, Cracking Cookies offers delicious cookies with the choice of personalised, party inspired or traditional fortune messages.
The idea originated when founder Michelle Waugh spotted the untouched potential of fortune cookies and personalised gifts in the food industry. After a year of product development, since launch late last year, the brand popularity has snowballed – garnering lots of press attention and leaving Waugh inundated with orders.
Whilst the products are currently sold exclusively online, the start-up has big plans for next year with additional sales streams through speciality retailers on the cards, a new website and possible overseas expansion.
Priding itself on its high quality product; the cookies are made exclusively of natural ingredients – “no colours or artificial flavours will ever enter the doors of our cookie HQ” – according to Baugh, and with a range of enticing flavours including coffee and salted caramel, lemon and lavender and apple pie – it’s easy to see why these quirky treats are proving so popular.
Below entrepreneur Waugh talks to Startups about the cookie company’s business journey to-date and how the team’s passion for great tasting fortune cookies drives them forward.
Can you briefly describe your background Michelle?
I have worked in different sectors and job roles but never felt totally satisfied in what I was doing and knew I wanted to be the driver of my own destination.
I have always been very headstrong, determined and focused on any goals I set myself in life. And I have never felt more satisfied than when setting up and running a business and the freedom it allows. I have a very creative side and being self-employed allows you to take the reins and let those creative juices flow!
Where did the idea for Cracking Cookies come from?
I have always been a big fan of fortune cookies, but when I say fan I refer solely to the actual concept of having an unknown fortune message encased inside a cookie but was always quickly disappointed by the bland and terrible taste followed by quite often uninspiring and obvious fortunes inside!
Cracking Cookies wanted to take the original concept of a fortune cookie and transform it into something that would make even Willie Wonka’s factory look boring!
Describe how your cookies are disrupting the marketplace?
We have taken something that was bland and uninspiring, and created a product that is delicious, exciting and captures the true power of surprise in a unique and memorable way!
Our cookies are made with natural, signature flavours and the customer has the choice of a themed or personalised message. We have had an overwhelming positive response to the brand, which is fantastic and has played a huge role in driving the business forward.
What market research did you conduct to learn more about your potential sector or industry?
I have previous experience of working within the gift and food industry so I was aware of the potential within the food gifting industry.
After many late nights and deliberation Cracking Cookies was born to reflect the growth in the food gifting market, the demand for unique products and also the huge growth in personalised gifts. I knew the market well, and knew if we got the product right and created a brand around this we were on our way to a ‘cracking’ future.
What have you done to protect the IP of your fortune cookies?
We spoke to professionals in this field prior to launch, and have protected and trademarked our brand identity and designs. We have some exciting new ideas and innovations coming in 2015 and we shall continue to protect these to help the Cracking Cookies brand stand out from the crowd.
How did you finance Cracking Cookies?
Cracking Cookies has been completely self-funded to date with some support from local business grants. We have no immediate plans to look for investment and will continue to self-fund the growth of the business.
Describe your business journey to date, from having the idea for your fortune cookies to bringing them to the market.
From the initial concept to bringing the brand to life took about 12 months. This included months of creating our secret recipes for our fortune cookie creations.
Cracking Cookies was established in October 2013 to fill a gap in the market and a long overdue personal frustration. Our sole aim was, is and will always be to handcraft the finest tasting fortunes cookies ever – to transform and modernise an original concept and successfully launch it into the gift market.
In the last 14 months we have established and created unique processes and manufacturing methods that will allow us to support the demand and growth of the brand while focusing on its morals and values to hand make cookies with only the finest ingredients.
The initial and ongoing demand has been overwhelming and fantastic; we have had to change quickly to meet the demand of the business. Our main route to market is via our website but we are also adding to our sales channels in 2015 and will be launching into some specialty retailers.
Do you manufacture the cookies entirely yourselves? And if so how did you source suppliers?
Every single fortune cookie is handcrafted from start to finish and only ever using the finest ingredients to do so. We source our suppliers very carefully, using real and local sourced ingredients.
No colours or artificial flavours will ever enter the doors of our Cookie HQ and we pride ourselves on this.
How do you distribute Cracking Cookies? Do you retail through other online marketplaces?
Our main route to market is our own website but we are also a partner with notonthehighstreet.com. So far this is working very well for us as it’s great to have the control and to deal directly with our customers. However we do have plans to launch into the retail market in 2015 with specialist retailers, so watch this space!
Do you have plans to take Cracking Cookies oversees?
Absolutely! We do currently ship overseas and a lot of working is currently being carried out in this area to reflect the huge demand we have had with regards to international shipping.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs considering launching their own food product business?
If it is something you’re passionate about and you feel you can offer something different and unique to the marketplace then go for it!
The food sector can have its challenges but what sector doesn't; this is part and parcel of setting up and launching a new business. After all it’s far better to have the challenges in a sector and job you love than to have challenges in a sector and role you don’t. Keep focused on your goal and never underestimate your potential!
What are Cracking Cookies future plans?
We have lots of exciting plans to grow the Cracking Cookies brand and to become a well-known brand within the gift and celebration market.
Our plans include introducing our products to the retail sector, the launch of a new interactive website, exciting new product development and new seasonal flavours, and a focus on international markets.