meet kristen tomlan: new york city’s cookie dō queen
At just 29-years-old, Kristen Tomlan has created a food craze that has sugar coated her wildest dreams, and we’re almost positive you’ve heard of it: DŌ, the raw (but safe-to-eat!) cookie dough brand based in the land of trendy foods, New York City. Although online orders are now shipped by the truckload and lines regularly wrap around the block of her brick-and-mortar store, the cookie didn’t always crumble just right for Tomlan. We chatted with her about the creation of her booming business and how the moment she felt like she had lost everything happened to be the sweetest blessing of all.
"the idea came about when a bunch of girlfriends and I went to a cookie shop in Philadelphia. we decided to forgo the fresh baked cookies and instead try this cookie dough they were selling from the freezer. It was a lightbulb moment: “maybe there could be a whole store experience dedicated to our favorite thing: cookie dough.” after that, i started working on the business plan on nights and weekends when I wasn’t at my full-time job.
About five months in, I had a freak illness that put me in the ICU for 21 days – I had a very severe and rare reaction to an antibiotic I was taking. When I finally got out of the hospital, I was in recovery and had a little bit more time on my hands, so I took a look back at the business plan I had created and I just knew at that moment that this cookie dough idea would be incredibly fulfilling for me.
I decided that instead of doing the classic brick-and-mortar (because I didn’t have a ton of experience in that), I was going to launch the product online first and see what the response was. I wanted to see what my audience was like… or if there even was a market for this product."
LET’S DŌ THIS
"I launched online at the end of 2014. I was doing it on the side while I had my full-time job. After a couple of months, it was clear that it was unsustainable for me to be juggling both, so I decided to leave my job and pursue this full-time. At that point, I had a small kitchen space in Midtown Manhattan where I was making everything myself! We also had our kitchen address as one of the pickup locations, because if you ordered online and lived in the neighborhood, you could come pick it up.
Eventually, it started to spread where we were located and people started showing up at our doorstep trying to get cookie dough. I actually had to turn people away. It was crazy! I didn’t want to keep doing that, especially to customers who were seeking us out. So we changed things up a bit and starting making bigger batches and then packaging those batches into what we called “extras,” but once they were gone, they were gone. This just snowballed and people just kept coming.
About a year after I launched online, we had pretty steady traffic at the little kitchen I had. I decided I had to go back to my original idea and build a store experience around cookie dough. With a year’s worth of experience running a business and producing our product under my belt, I thought, “what do I have to lose?” It took about nine months to find the perfect spot, but we ended up signing a lease in September of 2016 and we opened our first store in January 2017!"
HOW TO BE A TOUGH COOKIE
"Before I was hospitalized, I was always talking about the idea to family and friends, but I just didn’t make the time. I was working full-time and life got in the way, as it does; next thing you know, a year and a half had gone by. I would catch up with friends and they would ask what was up with that cookie dough thing, and I was begrudgingly telling them: “well nothing, I’m not doing anything.” I didn’t accept that kind of behavior from my friends – all talk and no action – and I hated that I had become the person talking about a great idea and not doing anything to actively pursue it.
It was a matter of baby steps for me. I needed to take one thing at a time and learn as I went. Just having the faith that this idea could really be something big kept me going. And not letting anybody say “oh, that’s not going to work” or “I don’t know why you’re doing retail, retail is dying.” It was just having the confidence that this is my vision and you’re not going to understand it until you see it – just going for it!"
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE
"take it one step at a time. do something, do anything, to move it forward."
be sure to Follow @cookiedonyc on instagram (sorry, not sorry for instigating your cookie dough cravings).