Business Rx: Trying to make it in ‘blissness’

May 29, 2011
The entrepreneur

David Botwick-Ries calls himself a “blissnessman,” because he says his company, Mike & Cookies, is not just a cookie business — it is a cookie experience. Inspired by his father, the “Mike” in Mike & Cookies, Botwick-Ries is starting his own fresh-baked cookie truck and will soon meander the streets of Washington selling his homemade creations.

The pitch

Botwick-Ries

“People love cookies and there is nothing like the smell of a batch right out of the oven. Our unique cookie truck with an oven onboard offers the fresh cookie experience with actual fresh-baked cookies every day. With the double convection oven, I should be able to bake approximately 700 cookies an hour — all from scratch. Each cookie is ‘baked with bliss’ and is named after a simple yet important message to slow down and enjoy yourself and enjoy what is around you — for example, I make a Transcendental Triple Chocolate cookie.

“I plan on using Twitter to let people know where I will be going with the cookie truck each day, specifying the time, location and the different types of cookies I’ll be baking that day. With the cookie truck, I’ll be targeting different customers based on my location. In general, my target customer it is a person between the ages of 18 to 40 who is working or visiting the nation’s Capital.

“Mike & Cookies is unique for a very simple reason: Washington has a handful of dessert trucks, but no one offers a warm cookie fresh out of the oven. We offer a differentiated product and a unique customer experience. The truck has a chalkboard painted on the side of it, giving people a place to play and have fun while interacting with the business. We can announce birthdays, advertise special cookies and allow people to share their favorite cookies or innovative new cookie ideas. I also plan on using Twitter and Facebook as a way to allow customers to share ideas. It will be similar to Ben & Jerry’s, where people are able to suggest names — it will allow people to be creative and take a shot at something fun.

“What I would really like to know is how can I prevent growing pains? More specifically, how do I prevent my business from being stuck at Point A when Point B is where it will flourish? Also, what route would you suggest for obtaining funding?”

The advice

Harry Geller, entrepreneur-in-residence, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“If you don’t experience growing pains, it means your business isn’t growing. Don’t be afraid of setbacks; rather be confident in your business model and your ability to deal with these obstacles as they present themselves. Once you start, you have to see how far you can scale your business. If it takes off, get more trucks and work on franchising the business. Look at other cities to expand to, try to model similar demographics and densities — maybe Baltimore due to proximity.

“One challenge I see you facing is hiring people to run the truck while you run the business side of things. Serving fresh-baked cookies is quite an advantage, but with that comes another possible problem — you might not be able to make enough cookies to meet the demand. Food trucks in Washington, D.C., are very popular and due to Twitter have gained their own cult following, and I think D.C. has a sweet tooth.

“As far as looking for funding, I would refrain from offering equity in your company. I highly suggest taking the friends and family loan route with a preferred return. At this point, Mike & Cookies isn’t a large enough business to offer equity in the company.”

The reaction

Botwick-Ries

“I have several friends who have already said they will help me with the truck, so I’m not too worried about hiring at this point. I will have to explore the friends and family route a little bit more when it comes to funding. I do however have a few meetings coming up with potential investors. How do I convey that I have a good idea and that I am not too big for my britches, since I am so young?

Geller

“I don’t see that being an issue for you, honestly. I’ve heard your pitch and you do a great job. If you do decide to present your business to outside investors, be yourself and show your passion. No one is going to invest in your business to get rich, but with your drive and enthusiasm I don’t see why some people wouldn’t want to help.”

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