Farmers' Markets To Online Store: How One Man's Passion For Cookies Led To a Business And a Community #ClientSpotlight
“I'm going to make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.” This was the thought that led to the birth of Pinckney Cookie Cafe. Going from a career at Microsoft to an entrepreneur selling gourmet cookies online, Michael Pinckney has had a full career but this particular venture is driven by his genuine passion for cookies.
“I'm just a cookie monster and years ago, I was working in New York where there was this one place that had great cookies hot out of the oven and loaded with dark chocolate but they weren't open at 11 in the night when I’d be craving them,” he explains. His quest for the cookies he was craving, led him to years of experimenting with recipes. Building on feedback from colleagues and his children he perfected his cookie. They were a hit at parties and school auctions; and when he realised that people remembered his cookies a year on, he knew he was onto something special.
Pinckney Cookes sent an initial email campaign notifying customers who were missing the farmers’ markets, that they could still get their favourite cookies at home, and this has a whopping 71% open rate.
“I ended up with a really strong farmers' market business and when that started to take off, COVID-19 hit us. It was a blessing in disguise because my goal had been to transition from farmers' markets as a primary source of revenue to online. I wasn't making much progress because the farmers market business was so strong, which was obviously good news but I was always understaffed and couldn't make any progress on my online store. So with the farmers’ markets closed, I could focus on the online store,” says Michael. It was a plan that was in the works, nudged forward by the pandemic but he says it was still a difficult transition to make. "I've been very fortunate it's going very well thus far," he says.
Pinckney Cookies sent an initial email campaign notifying customers who were missing the farmers’ markets, that they could still get their favourite cookies at home, and this had a whopping 71% open rate. “It was just unbelievable,” says Michael.
His creative initiatives in response to the pandemic, like the "Caring Cookies For Healthcare Workers and First Responders", were a hit on social media. Michael also emphasises the value of listening to customers that lead to launching their line of vegan and gluten-free “miracle cookies” which have boosted business.
The move to start giving $5 for every order of a dozen cookies or more to charities during COVID-19 has also been well received by customers. So far Pinckney Cookies has raised $12,000 and some of the charities that are on the list are the local farmers’ markets associations. This latest campaign shifts the focus on donating to racial justice charities and includes a video and a blog with links to racial justice resources. Being able to keep the community engaged by building a sense of togetherness during trying times, has certainly helped Pinckney Cookie Cafe earn the loyalty of customers.
Michael says it’s pretty easy in the cookie business to feel like a family because of how people simply love cookies. “Over half of our online sales have different shipping and billing addresses suggesting that these are gifts. People think of an amazing cookie as coming out of grandma's oven but our cookies are special because of the ingredients,” says Michael. “We also go out of our way in every situation to try and provide a wonderful customer experience because I’m trying to build as good a company as my cookies.”
“It's a lot of hard work and probably the biggest surprise was that it’s as much about you and your readiness to do it than why you're doing it. Who you are has a huge impact and why you’re doing it matters."
With a long business career behind him, Michael was more prepared than most. “I’ve worked with the world’s biggest company and the world’s smallest company so I couldn't have had a better business background,” he says. Nevertheless, starting a business has been an adventure for him. “It's a lot of hard work and probably the biggest surprise was that it’s as much about you and your readiness to do it than why you're doing it. Who you are has a huge impact and why you’re doing it matters,” he says.
“11 years ago there was no such thing as Shopify, so I needed the developer to work with it and I could do some changes myself,” says Michael. “The integrated payment feature is really valuable because that's an area that I hate dealing with and Shopify has decent rates and is easy to use.”
“Shopify also has a lot of great resources and a responsive help desk which is important when you have problems you have to solve immediately. The blog has great information to learn from. Overall, I think they're great and I recommend them all the time.”
Michael’s vision for Pinckney Cookie Cafe is to build a national brand but to do it online. “I read about LeBron James being a Cookie Monster who’s totally into chocolate chip cookies. This gave me an idea for cafes where I could team up with celebrities. For example, I’d open one in LA and it would be Pinckney Cookie Cafe: LeBron’s place,” he says. “I would like to have an actual cafe one way or another but right now I’m focused on the online store and becoming a national brand.”
Having used Shopify to build his business, Michael considers it “a tremendous platform with tremendous capabilities”. Our team of designers, developers and business consultants at R&Co Developers make it easy for you to make the most of Shopify to build your business.