Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ross Canter, Owner of Cookie Good, located in Santa Monica, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are Cookie Good -- a mom & pop cookie shop in Santa Monica. We make cookies & brownies inspired by our favorite desserts, sugary breakfast cereals, candy bars, ice creams, and really, whatever makes us feel cookie good. We ship all over the country, so our customers range from local Angelenos looking for a sweet treat to people on the east coast sending gifts (cookies make great gifts!).
Tell us about yourself
I was an out-of-work screenwriter during the Hollywood writers' strike in 2008, and picketing was surprisingly grueling. Melanie (my wife), tired of paying the bills with no money coming in, suggested we start selling cookies -- I had always loved baking and built a (tiny) reputation for my fun flavors amongst our family & friends. We sent out an email, and the orders started coming in. Ironically, the strike ended, and I was quickly back to work -- but we didn't stop taking cookie orders, so I split my time writing and baking (sometimes for the same people!). As demand grew, we left our home kitchen and found a commercial bakery to rent a few hours a day (and just a few days a week) -- that soon became very limiting, and we knew we had to find our own space. With no retail bakeshop experience at all, we opened our store in 2014, figuring we'd make it up as we went along...which we did, and we've been baking and growing ever since. I love coming up with new flavors -- the process of creating a cookie is surprisingly similar to writing a screenplay (the initial inspiration, coming up with a plan/recipe, frustration, re-imagining, and, hopefully,/ultimately, success). But, I'd say my biggest motivation is our team -- we have an amazing group here, and the fact that everyone gives so much of themselves, that they work so hard all in an effort to make Cookie Good thrive, really gives me fuel to keep going day after day.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
That's a hard one -- there are so many different kinds of accomplishments. I'm really proud of our Cookie Corn (it's an insanely delicious/crunchy/sweet cookie and caramel corn hybrid that never existed before we made it here). Passing the $1,000,000 mark in 2019 was a huge moment for us all at the shop...but maybe the biggest accomplishment was recently signing our lease for a third 5-year term. When we leased our space in 2013, we thought we'd be lucky to last all five years (we figured if we were still baking after year one, that'd be an accomplishment). So, with almost ten years now behind us and (at least) five more, it's pretty crazy!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Again, so many possible answers to this one! There are the practical stressors -- rising costs of EVERYTHING, the difficulty finding good employees, and the fact that if someone can't come to work, we get to fill in everywhere (and sometimes for more than one employee at a time). But I think the hardest part for me has to stretch myself to do things out of my comfort zone. Running a business is not the same thing as being able to make a good cookie -- I also have to be a marketer, a social media buff (and I don't get social media at all!), a financial planner, a camp counselor, a customer service representative, a cookie ambassador, a mediator, a stylist... I think you get the point.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You can take little steps, not giant leaps -- it's easy to feel overwhelmed by anything and everything, but if you cut the big moves into smaller ones, it can make the goal seem attainable. Sitting at home, the idea of opening a cookie shop was huge and ridiculous. But, starting by baking for friends and then friends of friends and then friends of friends of friends...moving to a part-time commercial kitchen wasn't ludicrous. And then, baking in the part-time space, growing our customer base, and pushing ourselves to our limits, opening our own bakery didn't seem so crazy (I mean, it's still crazy...just not as crazy as it would have been years earlier from the comfort of our home).
- Pivot. You are absolutely going to make mistakes. Learn from what doesn't work, change it and do better. Don't be afraid of making mistakes -- that's where growth comes from.
- Take pride in what you do. Whatever type of business you have, it's pretty safe to say that lots of people can do what you're doing...they just don't do it the way you do. Push yourself to be your best in all aspects of your business but always be authentically you -- you are what makes your business unique/special.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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