Our Adventure in Italy or Eating and Drinking All of the Italian Things

After a fantastic 2016 at Cookie HQ Jenny and I finally got to celebrate our October nuptials with a Christmas break. After buttoning up the shop and a quick dash to Cork to the family farm we flew to Italy for nearly three weeks of exploring, eating and relaxing. Pure bliss! We explored Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Umbria and Tuscany. Italy really is several countries in one. The scenery was breathtaking and the people are as nice there are they are here at home. One fun surprise – the whole coast was lit up with fireworks on New Year’s Eve. It was festive on a whole new level.

Italy is such a beautiful country with great traditions in food, coffee and wine. It was the perfect place for us to go. Jenny got to realise her Italian foodie fantasies while I soaked up the history and culture of the place. Of course we had to do loads of ‘research’ and ate every type of baked good we came across.  Washed down with amazing Italian coffee and Tuscan wine, of course.  Enjoy a few of our favourite foodie snaps here.

Giving Back

We are always happy to attend events and give any insights that may help other businesses. Two events that really stuck out for me in the last year were The Dublin Food Chain: Business of Food: Turning Ideas into Invoices and Dublin City Council: How to grow your business in a digital world

Business of Food: Turning Ideas into Invoices

This event was hosted at DIT and included topics such as:

  • Latest Trends in the Food Industry
  • Innovation in Agri-Food Technology
  • Third Level R&D Collaboration
  • New Business & Entrepreneurship
  • Developing New Ideas

I was delighted to be asked to join the panel of experts which included:

Repro Free: 26th November 2015; Dublin Food Chain with DIT Hothouse present at The Business of Food Turning ideas into Invoices at Gleeson Hall, DIT Kevin Street, Dublin was Picture Jason Clarke.

How to Grow your Business in a Digital World

This event was hosted by Startup Ballymun and Dublin City Council. I was thrilled to be asked to speak at the event along with some other amazing entrepreneurs including Ross Killeen of Event Junkies, Lorcan Bannon of Olytico, Salvatore Fanara of Travelling Languages, Auveen Bell of Blossom Ireland and Simon Cocking of Irish Tech News. My talk was on how our business uses technology. The event was picked up by a number of sites including: Meetup, North Dublin Chamber, Irish Tech News. See my presentation here.

It was a great evening with lots of great questions and topics for discussion.  We love attending and presenting at such events as they are great for networking, sharing ideas and picking up useful nuggets. Thanks a million to Billy Linehan and his team for the invitation.

Muireann’s Blog

The lovely Muireann joined our team for her transition year work experience earlier this year. She joined us every Thursday for 15 weeks and was a great addition to the team getting stuck into baking, mixing and serving customers. Here’s what she had to say about her time with us. Thank you Muireann!

My name is Muireann Murphy and I’m a Transition Year student in Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin. I recently completed a Transition Year Placement with The Dublin Cookie Company. I went in to Jenny and Elaine every Thursday from January to May and took so much from the experience!

I’ve always had an interest in baking and also thought it would be interesting to have an insight into what it’s like running a business, which was why I chose The Dublin Cookie Company for my placement. I saw the company go through big changes as when I began my placement Jenny and Elaine were based in Spade Enterprise Centre in Smithfield but by the time my placement was over they had moved into their own shop! In Spade Enterprise Centre I was mainly involved in cookie production which I really enjoyed. I also did a few sampling sessions gathering feedback in supermarkets which was interesting as it was nice to interact with potential customers. At the end of February, we moved to 29 Thomas Street and opened up on March 5th! The whole thing was very exciting and every week I went back there was something new or different. In the shop, I was involved again with cookie production but also interacting with customers. I got to go to Alltech Craft Brews Trade Fair and the Teeling Whiskey Trade Fair which I found very enjoyable as there was such a great atmosphere!

Overall, I feel that I learned so much from my placement. I learned about not only baking and cookies, but also about marketing, customers and running a business. The placement was so beneficial for me and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with The Dublin Cookie Company!

Spring of Excitement, Summer of Fun

What a Spring it was – it literally flew by! We opened the doors to our shop on March 5th and haven’t looked back since! So much has happened!:

Shop Face-lift:

We finally got around to finishing the front of our shop with a lovely bright orange fascia and coffee-white trim. You’ll also notice our window which has a massive ‘We sell cookies’ sign on it. Just in case you were wondering what it is we do :-).

Cookie Shop The Dublin Cookie Company

 

Food and Wine Magazine:

We were given a six page spread in the summer edition of Ireland’s Food and Wine Magazine. Here they featured a number of our products including our Lemon Burst Cookie, Flourless Double Chocolate Cookie, Hazelnut and Raspberry Shortbread Cookie, Strawberry Milk and Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie and Strawberry Shortcake Cookie.

Dublin Cookie Company

Events:

We’ve traded at a couple of the big Dublin food events including Taste of Dublin and Bloom in the Park. We created a range of summer cocktail cookies specifically for Taste of Dublin including Whiskey Sour, Pina Colada, Spiced Ginger and Rum and Strawberry Margarita Cookies.

Dublin Cookie Company - Taste of Dublin 2016

Cookies & Nookie:

We hosted our first event in our shop in conjunction with Yelp and The Dublin Food Porn Festival for Pride week. The lucky 30 guests who were picked to attend drank cookie cocktails while decorating Pride themed cookies. Check it out here.

 

We’ve expanded our menu:

Our drinks menu now includes ‘Cookie Milk’. And yes, it is exactly what it sounds like – cookies blended into milk!

Cool Treats – We’ve added a range of new treats for those hot days. We’ve recently launched our iced coffee range (named in the Top Seven Iced Coffees in Dublin and our re-introduced our ice-cream cookie sandwiches (yes, that’s right – you choose two cookies, you choose the ice-cream and bam – sweet sweet joy in your tummy). Watch this space as we continue to expand this range.

We’ve also added two flour-less cookies to the counter – coconut macaroon and double chocolate. These are proving to be quite popular – not just with the gluten intolerant cookie lovers.

And finally, we’ve made a start to our savoury cookie range with an aged cheddar and thyme cookie.

The Dublin Cookie Company Savoury Cookies

We’ve worked with, and continue to work with, some great people:

Ger joined us in January for her twelve week placement from the bakery programme she was finishing at DIT. She is a talented baker with a very bright future (watch out for Ger’s Cakes) and we learned so much from each other. Muireann was with us for her transition year work experience – a very smart girl who quickly became a great asset to us. And now Shane has just joined us from his food entrepreneurship programme at DIT.

Delivery Service:

We started working with Deliveroo for delivery of cookies and milk around the city. Yes, this means cookies to your door within 30 mins daily. Pretty cool. Check out our profile page for more.

Failte Ireland:

We started working with Failte Ireland and the ‘Dublin – A Breadth of Fresh Air’ campaign. You’ll now find our profiles on Discover Ireland, Visit Dublin  and Ireland.com.

Snap Chat:

We learned all about Snap Chat when we did our first live Snap Chat Campaign with Nicola from The Daily Edge.

Cookie Wedding Programme:

We get asked so often to cater for weddings with wedding favours, cookie tables and other delights that we decided to put together a cookie wedding programme. Watch out for the new wedding page on our website coming soon.

Dublin Cookie Company

 

What else is coming down the track you ask! Lots of exciting things including:

Pop-Up Shop:

Yes, that’s right. While the Leaving Cert students are celebrating their freedom this summer we will be carefully planning and our next big step – a cookie shop pop-up. Watch this space!

New Look Cookie Dough:

We are working on a new look for our cookie dough range and planning on getting it to a shop near you as fast as we can. Fresh cookies anytime, anywhere – now that is a dream come true.

Ger is leaving :(

After a great 12 weeks of work experience, the very talented Ger Colgan finished up with us in April. Ger is now off to set up her own cake business and we wish her massive success. We hope there will be time for a few Dublin Cookie Company cameos along the way :).

Dublin Cookie Co

Here’s what Ger had to say about her time here: My name is Ger Colgan and as the final phase of my three year degree course in DIT, studying Bakery and Pastry Arts Management, I was required to do a twelve week work placement. Jenny and Elaine from The Dublin Cookie Co. agreed to take me on and the twelve weeks came and went in what seems like a flash yet somehow it feels like I have been there for years. During my time there I not only learned the cookie recipes and baking techniques but came away with a better understanding of how a small food business works. Jenny and Elaine very generously shared the knowledge they have gained from their own experience in setting up. I was very lucky to have been with them as they transitioned from production unit to retail unit and it was a very exciting time.

I really enjoyed that there was always something to do. An order to fill, a festival to get ready for or even a meeting about Haccp. My favourite days were NPD or New Product Development days! We got to play around with flavours and design and came up with a few great products.

Jenny and Elaine work very hard every day and yet still found the time to be supportive mentors while I was on placement. They made sure I always had opportunities to learn new things that will help me in my career. I enjoyed every minute of my time there and am very grateful to them for the experience.

We are 2!

We just celebrated our 2nd birthday in the most exciting way. We opened our very first cookie shop (see our last post)! We’ve learned so much since we started this cookie adventure and we wanted to share a few nuggets with anyone out there who is thinking about starting up or is just curious about our journey so far. We’ve learned by getting out there (tastings, markets, events, supplying to shops, cafes and restaurants), talking to other food producers and entrepreneurs and from myriad food events, training and conferences. Here are a few of our main lessons:

Elaine & Jenny popping the champagne

Starting a business is hard

Trust us. Everyone tells you it’s hard and you think you’re prepared for that but you’re not. It’s harder that you imagine. You will wake up every morning and fall asleep every night thinking about your business. You will obsess over every little decision and try to find the ‘right’ answer only to realise over and over that there is no right answer. You will be that boring person in your circle of friends who talks of nothing but work. People will tell you how lucky you are to be your own boss, and you are! You are living the dream. The dream that most people are too scared to live. But it won’t always feel dream-like. When you are washing dishes at 11pm after a 15 hour day in which you haven’t had time to eat– it won’t feel so glamorous. It’s also an emotional rollercoaster. The amazing feedback that you get from your customers will give you such a high. Such satisfaction! And when someone complains or isn’t fully happy with what you’ve delivered them it will be a stake through the heart. You will cry, you will sweat, you will feel truly exhausted. But, you will also feel pride, elation and job satisfaction like never before.

There are no overnight success stories in food

Every successful brand out there in food has taken years of hard work, dedication and adaptability. And even then, success is not guaranteed. So many food businesses fail due to external factors – wrong place, wrong time, a saturated market, recessions, a drought 20 continents away, the works. When you see amazing establishments with Michelin Stars closing, you start to understand how hard it is to be successful in food. All you can do is stay as informed as you can about food trends, changing customer expectations and hope you get the mix right.

Your product will not speak for itself

It should. But it won’t.  People are a lot more complicated than you think and having ‘the best tasting’ sandwich, cake, cookie, drink, coffee, sweet, chocolate, cheese …… is not enough. People are not as practical and logical as we think when it comes to purchasing. They buy with emotion. We all want to perceive value in what we are buying – and value is not about money. It’s about what we perceive as value for money. As small businesses we have an edge over large corporations in that we can meet and talk to our customers every day. We can take feedback on board immediately and make adjustments easily.

People will take advantage of you

But that’s OK as long as you have your eyes wide open. You will be asked to give free samples, you will be ‘given opportunities’ to distribute your product for free at events for the networking opportunities. Other businesses will try and sell you software, equipment, support that you ‘must have’. Just be aware. Remember that you, your time and your products are valuable. If you are sampling or giving your product out freely make sure you know why and know what you are getting in return.

Help is at hand

There are fantastic supports available to food businesses. Between the Local Enterprise Offices with their Online Trading Vouchers, Priming Grants, Feasibility Grants and Export Grants; Enterprise Ireland with their Innovation Vouchers; Bord Bia with their Marketing Assistance Programme and Step Change Fund and great programmes like FoodWorks, Food Academy and many more. There are also great organisations like The Dublin Food Chain who host events throughout the year, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Bord Bia who host fantastic events that support businesses with information and networking opportunities. But, the best help, advice and support available out there is from other food producers. From simple things like information on markets and events, advice on insurance and other services, sharing of information on HACCP right up to sharing of equipment and helping each other out at events. This has been invaluable to us and we have been surprised at just how supportive a community food business is. We have now adopted a ‘pay it forward’ policy and try to help other small businesses out if we can. A rising tide lifts all boats as they say and the more each food producer can do to help grow the craft food industry, the more we all benefit. Our friends and family, as always, have been a steady and invaluable source of help and support, too. From pitching in at markets to listening to every madcap cookie idea to selflessly testing our new products, they are there. You know who you are and you are the best!

Starting a business is exciting

Last but not least – starting a business is exciting. People will respect you in a new way because you are now that brave person that they wish they could be. Planning your own path and seeing it happen before your eyes will make you feel more proud of yourself than you thought possible. Realising that you can make a difference in the world, that you can build something from nothing, that you can make your own path will change your life. No matter what happens, you will not regret trying and being that brave soul.

Our First Cookie Shop!

Dare to dream! Since we started this little company we have dreamed of opening our very own cookie shop. And now, that dream is coming true! As we type we are planning, drawing, brainstorming and designing our very own place right here in the heart of our favourite city.

20160223_133506

For those of you familiar with some of Dublin’s best historical and cultural spots such as Christchurch Cathedral, The National College of Art and Design, The Guinness Storehouse and Teeling Distillery; and innovation hotspots such as The Digital Hub and Guinness Enterprise Centre, we are but a stone’s throw away at 29 Thomas Street in the historic city quarter of The Liberties.

20160223_133604

Our entire production facility will be moving on-site too so you will literally be able to see us mixing, measuring, scooping and baking our creations. And if you’re lucky, they will still be warm from the oven when you visit us. Because quality is so important to us, we will be partnering with the fantastic Clement & Pekoe for their speciality tea range and with Coffee Culture for their fabulous coffee roasted right here in Dublin. We will also have a range of milks on offer including flavoured and nut milks. Sure milk and cookies – is there anything better?!

The Dublin Cookie Co Choc Chip

Our grand opening will be on March 5th at 12pm. Drop in, try a cookie and say hello!

Elaine & Jenny

Early days in the new joint.

Gary’s Blog

We were thrilled to have Gary Ryan do his first year work experience from his DIT Cullinary Arts programme with us this summer. Here’s what he had to say:

My name is Gary Ryan and I recently completed a four week internship at the Dublin Cookie Company. Going into the internship I was nervous and unsure of what to expect however all my worries were quickly put to rest when I met Jenny and Elaine. Their friendly welcome and patient nature reassured me early on that I would enjoy my time with the company. I was promptly  brought up to speed on everything I would need to know during my first few days, making me feel very comfortable.

During my time with the company, I spent most of my days involved in the production of the cookies, however I was very lucky to be given the chance to experience many other aspects of the business such as product design and marketing, as well as  hearing direct customer feedback at the the many frequently visited markets. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Dublin Cookie Company and look forward to the possibility of working with them in the future.


The Dublin Cookie Company
 The Dublin Cookie Company

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in Ireland!

We had a fantastic weekend in Dingle last weekend at the Blás Na hEireann Food Awards and the Dingle Food Festival. We went there with the hopes of being proclaimed the best cookie in Ireland. Our Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie made it to the final 5 but, alas, we did not make the top three.

Huge congratulations to Gookies – Triple Chocolate Cookie Dough Bia Ganbreise Teo who took the Bronze, Holmes Bakery Butter Shortbread who go the Silver and Cranberry & Oat Cookies The Artisan Food Factory for taking home the Gold award.

Blas na hEireann 2015 Classic Chocolate ChipThe Dublin Cookie Co. Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie

However, since ours was the only chocolate chip cookie that made it to the final – we are claiming the self-awarded ‘Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in Ireland’ title! Yay us! :-)

Blas na hEireann 2015
Elaine and Jenny at Blas na hEireann 2015

Ray’s Blog

Here at The Dublin Cookie Co. we’ve been so lucky to have the help of family and friends since we started but we’ve also had some great staff! Raymond Collins was our first work experience student and came on board as part of his 3rd year work experience from N.U.I. Maynooth where he was studying a B.Sc. Product Design, Marketing and Innovation. Here’s what he had to say about his time with us.

Raymond Collins

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I started my placement for The Dublin Cookie Co way back at the end of January. I went into it with a lot of mixed feelings. Both nervous and excited I started my first day which had my stomach rumbling from the get go. I was constantly surrounded by cookies whilst researching cookies. My first task was to see what is already out there on the market, how they present it and how well they are doing. As with many of previous task I have done, research is key and it was not different here as I instantly started to see patterns between companies. As the day came to end we had a small meeting to discuss what I had been doing and also to discuss my next task, a quick-fire brainstorming task. With The Dublin Cookie Co making an appearance at a Digital Biscuits event I was thrown in the deep end on the first day to try and pop out some creative ideas for the event. Let’s just say the event was eventful. The following day was all about more research, who the customers were, what they were buying and why they were buying so what better way to find this information out than go to a market. Being at two markets in the first week I noticed some key points to bring back to Jenny and Elaine which then ended up sparking an idea for the new takeaway boxes. Again with every previous project I have undergone, research is always the first thing to be done so it was no different here even though the task at hand was something entirely different to me.
With the days going by I started to transform my research into a more hands on approach regarding everything. Point of sale was a huge factor with more and more cafes looking to try and sell the delicious cookies. More festivals were on the radar, which had me working on the layout of the stall and finally releasing the takeaway boxes. After about a month of research, ideation and prototyping the takeaway boxes were here and were set to go on sale at my first festival, Alltech Craft Beer and Food Fair. With the new boxes on show, compliments came flooding in on these little carrier boxes that roamed the convention centre carrying delicious treats. It was a proud moment to see these highly recognizable boxes from a distance even after I have left the convention centre.
Alltech was over and after so much prep work it was time to start a new project. Selling individual cookies was new step for Jenny and Elaine and with their cookies being on sale right in the middle of Temple Bar more research had to be done in order to develop the perfect packaging. Another few weeks passed with the usual steps being done to develop the individual cookie packaging. Whilst all this was going on, in the background the big project, which was the main reason for my placement still had to be done. After everything I had done so far it was hard to believe that I was only half way through my placement and still had a huge project to undergo.
The design of the cookie dough packaging was a long one. I spent weeks seeing what is out there and how well it worked. Again I used the same method as I always do which is drilled into my head from college for a reason as it works. As we came to the prototype and testing stage there was something new that cropped up. We had two focus groups, one for the packaging itself and one for the design. These focus groups had an enormous effect on the outcome of the cookie dough packaging. The most valued solution was a wild card and we never would have thought it would have got so much praise. Seeing as it was only the prototype phase the solution had much work still to be done but all that hard work was worth it as the finished product will be on sale in SuperValu in just a few months. With my projects prior to this placement all being marked and graded just for college I have never had the pleasure of sharing my work with the world and to see that it will soon be out there on sale representing The Dublin Cookie Co is most definitely an honour. On top of all that yet another piece of my work will be on sale in shops soon. After revisiting the takeaway boxes we now have some new and improved designs coming soon.
The last six months has been non-stop and with many other smaller projects being completed in The Dublin Cookie Co it’s hard to believe my time there is coming to a close. It has been a pleasure working for and with Jenny and Elaine as they make their vision a reality and I am glad I could be a part of their story. In the short time I have been working there I have already seen a huge difference in work and what they can achieve and with so many big things on the way for Jenny and Elaine I look forward to seeing what is next for the girls.