I was Exhausted, Surrounded by Gift Boxes, and Totally on to Something
(Photo: me, 2015, tired and inspired)
The holiday season tends to be like a mile marker, allowing me to step back and appreciate the journey on which I have traveled the past year. I look in the rear view mirror, I look at images in my mind, review memories, choices, roads taken. Here today, riding the wave of bells, jingles, candles and festive paper, I’m considering the season itself, and just how I found myself here, once again happily buried under a sea of boxes, baubles, bows and of course Babies :-)
August 1, 2014:
10am - Century City Mall. Opening day at my first Jackie’s Cookie Connection kiosk.
11:15am - Someone asked, “do you do gifting?”. I said, “sure”!
11:20am - Ordered boxes online.
10:45pm - printed Jackie’s Cookie Connection on some stickers I picked up at Staples
August 2, 2014:
9:20am - on the way to the kiosk, I stopped at Michael’s for ribbon
10am - Jackie’s Cookie Connection was now in the gifting business.
December 13, 2014:
With my ENTIRE garage filled with tables (read, boxes, coolers and clothing bins crafted into make-shift workstations), I had about 150 open gift boxes laid out in make shift aisles, while I and a small band of faithful helpers (Marcy, Sandy, Tracy et al … y’all know who you are) sprinkled shredded “crinkle paper” into each. 1,800 individually wrapped cookies, several large cartons of silver customized holiday ornaments, and a couple of football fields length of thick chocolatey brown ribbon later, I was putting the finishing touches on my first big corporate holiday gifting order.
Kudos to our FedEx guy who made it seem completely normal that I opened my garage door and had a wall of cookies (it wold not be the last wall of cookies I would build, mind you) waiting to be delivered with care to places far and wide. He whisked them away with a smile … and a few extra cookies for the ride :-)
A blur. No more 2am runs to my shared commercial kitchen space. Now I had my own little bakery in West LA. I thought that would make it easier. It did … for a while. At least now I didn’t have to build gift boxes in my garage. Now I had counters and tables, which was more exciting than it sounds. At least it was exciting, until the piles on the tables and counters were too high and yes, once again we ended up building work areas out of cartons, chairs, and pretty much anything we could find. And yes, there I was again, in the wee hours of the night, in my bakery, sprinkling crinkle paper into gift boxes. But customers were ordering and we were getting rave reviews.
Speaking of reviews, this was also the year that I started messing around a bit more with Facebook. Initially I was just happy that people liked me. But now they LIKE’d me!
2015 was also the year we began doing the gifting for a major sports management firm, which not only brought some nice revenue, but placed my cookies front and center in some pretty high profile hands - like the kind that throw touchdowns and buzzer-beaters ;-)
During the 2015 holiday season, we tested a new gift item. After receiving a request for a “really special” premiere type gift, we came up with a cookie jar. But I wanted it to accomplish more than just being a one-time “wow”. I wanted it to solve another problem which was how to stay in touch with, develop and strengthen our relationship not merely with the person who purchased the gift for someone, but with the person who had received my cookies. Previously we had remarketed to the giftER but didn’t have the same level on contact with the giftEE. It was that new person, the one who may for the first time be trying Jackie’s Cookie Babies, with whom I wanted to have a relationship. Not only that, for anyone who has run a business and faced the challenge of managing customer acquisition cost, here was a great opportunity because these people were already enjoying the product. So how could I take advantage of that? From the need to solve that problem was borne, “The Magic Cookie Jar ™”.
We started including a free refill with the purchase of every Jackie’s Cookie Babies Cookie Jar. So it was like the cookie jar "magically" refilled itself. All the cookie jar owner had to do was to take a photo of the empty jar and email it to us (that was the critical part) with the subject line #EpicSadness and we would send them a free refill - just like that. The photo wasn’t actually all that necessary but gave us a nice collection to use for the #EpicSadness social media campaign we’ve been quietly developing. It also made it fun and prompted a personal dialogue with our customers. The Magic Cookie Jar ™ was a huge hit and our new top selling gift item.
Our holiday gifting program now had its legs under it and I could play. We added new items to the lineup, including a cute little gift set of six of our Mini Tubes, called “The Flight”, and a visually fun 12” x 12” box with 8 tubes of varying sizes all interconnected (although formally called “Round Pegs in a Square Hole”, internally we refer to it as “The Puzzle Box”). 2017 was our smoothest yet, with increased orders coming through our new production facility in Compton (Los Angeles), and for the first time to date, not a single package having to be wrapped in my garage, on cartons in my bakery or anywhere else but real tables on full production lines. Ah, progress!
New stuff! Big Stuff! Tasty Stuff!
The Magic Cookie Jar ™ gets an upgrade. In 2018 we launched the Jackie’s Cookie Babies Cookie Club with the center piece being our “Never Ending Cookies!” program. It was built around The Magic Cookie Jar ™ but now the jar didnt just come with one free refill. Now it had FOUR refills to get you through the enter year. There were other perks like an exclusive discount code, special easy-ordering privileges (just call, text or email and we’ll get it right out … no forms to complete, no advance payment required kinda stuff), and early access to new varieties and packages.
Also in 2018 I created my first exclusive holiday variety, Pepperminty Chocolatey Chip, which took our crazy yummy chocolate chocolate chip cookie and layered in real peppermint candy pieces, baked until melty with the slightest candy crunch in each bite.
This holiday season isn’t over yet by any means, but we’re already working on some really fun stuff for next year … and don’t be surprised if you see our holiday goodies in a lot more places!
And so that brings me back to today. What will today bring? What’s next that I’ll get to file away under the heading of “Rachel’s Road to Somewhere - mile marker 2019”. I'm not sure but I have learned that if you don't ask too many questions and open the door when opportunity comes knocking, the best is always yet to come ;-)