Going Brick and Mortar: It’s Not All Sweet
Cookies from The Cookie Cups (Photo courtesy of Hannah Andersen Photos)

Going Brick and Mortar: It’s Not All Sweet

A Twin Cities entrepreneur shares advice on building a storefront, peppered with lessons she learned the hard way.

About the brand

The Cookie Cups isn’t just a bakery. Everything we make is shaped like a cupcake. Three years ago, I started baking my self-proclaimed ‘Cookie Cups’ in my home kitchen and selling them at local Minneapolis Area farmers markets as a Cottage Food Producer. The concept has always been a funny take on cookies and milk—a reinvention. We offer about 30 flavor varieties—nine you’ll find daily in the shop and the rest rotate in as seasonal items throughout the year and can be ordered anytime from our catering menu. Some of our favorites are made with fresh fruit; we also offer savory cups, like Mom’s Cornbread, and a 3 Cheese Mac & Cheese ‘Cup’, our secret weapon.

Why I decided to go brick and mortar

As a farmers’ market vendor, I was able to brand The Cookie Cups and build a small customer base but it’s like a hit and run. Your customers see you at the markets and shop but then have nowhere to go to find you aside from a website. I realized to build a larger customer base and scale this company, I would need physical locations. I see this as a potential national brand, like Panera or Dunkin Donuts.

Location

The actual spot we have in Wayzata was something I came across just driving around town. We live in the area and it looked like the perfect sized high traffic spot with lots of windows right across from a Lunds & Byerlys. I loved it, I was sold, and it didn’t matter what lay ahead—I was determined to open the doors to my new cookie cup home. We officially opened our doors in April and have enjoyed a lot of community support.

How to find financing

I went about the renovation project a little unconventionally, like most things I’m involved with. I self-funded as much as I was able with my income from my marketing business and then at one point I pulled a small personal loan and just about as many credit cards as the internet would allow me. It wasn’t easy between paying contractors, designers, rent and about a dozen other things. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Where to go for sourcing equipment

This will vary from business to business but for most of my baking and kitchen equipment I was able to finance most of my needs through Webstaurantstore.com. They have everything needed, although sometimes you can price compare and find a few cheaper options used on eBay and through local auctions.


Quirky advertising helps catch the customers’ eye outside of The Cookie Cup in Wayzata. (Photo by Studio Laguna Photography)

How to navigate state food requirements

BEFORE you start a project like this, talk to your city and county and get the information for what needs to be done so when you submit your plan and proposal you have a better chance of a quicker approval. Read through the food business packet which is available on the Minnesota State website so you understand (even if you are hiring an experienced project manager) and are able to understand the process and fees involved. Most of the time it is pretty easy to call and get the city planners on the phone to help with questions.

Hard lessons

Things I learned the hard way: I went into this whole project being a little naive. I stepped into the abyss known as construction thinking I was superwoman and could get everything done in a timely manner. Now I know that the construction business doesn’t work that way and not only do things tend to take longer than expected but things can go wrong and there is a certain order to things. Expect things to go wrong, like an oven not fitting through the front door. (True story!) Or a water heater that isn’t big enough has to be upgraded for an extra $600 to meet health code requirements. (Also, true!) Oh, and roofers can be expensive- budget for mistakes and extras. You can never be too prepared.

What the future holds

We’ve done better than expected through the course of a few months and expect a steady incline over the next few years as the brand matures. I didn’t know what to expect so my projections were conservative. We are continually getting higher walk in traffic with higher purchase amounts, more consistent repeat customers (about 20 percent) and just added a robust catering menu with more options for events.

Right now, we are gearing up for a busy holiday season. Next year, we are opening our second location in Chanhassen, which we will be able to fund with profits from our first location. The plan for 2020 is a Maple Grove location and our Corporate HQ.

Nicole Pomije
Creator/Owner
The Cookie Cups

Pomije has seven years of experience as a marketing and public relations expert under her entity, NB Talent Services. She created The Cookie Cups brand in 2015—a take on cookies and milk—and in 2018 opened her first location in Wayzata. Pomije has a Bachelor of Science from Florida State University and is currently on the ballot running for City Council in Mound.