Kelsey Moreira is the founder & CEO of Doughp, a cookie dough company with a mission. Kelsey has been noted by Real Estate Mogul and Shark Tank Shark, Barbara Corcoran as the most sophisticated store owner she’d ever met in her life. Why might you ask? Because this Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur ditched her decade-long 6 figure tech career with Intel and decided to bootstrap a cookie dough company from a $500 food cart to growing 500% year over year in profits the first two years by serving more than 250,000 cookie dough lovers. But the real magic has been their mission to reduce stigmas around mental health & addiction, including the donation of 88,151 MINUTES in mental health treatment time.
Being 5 years sober, this cookie company's fearless leader understands the struggles of addiction and getting sober. Working inside the fast paced tech industry as a high achiever, she turned to alcohol in order to slow down which led to being arrested, hospitalized, and alienated from loved ones. After a wild night in Barcelona, she decided to stop then and there and found the only english speaking AA meeting in the city the next morning. After getting sober, she focused on finding her "happy place" in the kitchen and began baking, stumbling on a great egg-sub that made her cookie dough safe to eat.
Since then her cookie dough and her mission-driven mentality behind it raised more than 1.2 million dollars, had multiple retail locations including the Las Vegas Strip, and after COVID has pivoted 100% online to ship nationwide through a strong e-commerce business. She has been featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, was named on Vegas’s 40 under 40, and openly shares her story and the stories of others confronting their mental health on her Soberpreneur podcast.
Have less fear of risk-taking. There's so many people right now that are in a unique position with what's happened this year to go off and create something new. And I think the world is destined to keep evolving faster than ever. If we're just less afraid. So I think dropping some of the fear and just diving in like I shared in my early days with Doughp. I just said "let's just do it." Move fast and break things, that concept of how can I just see what works. Find a minimum viable product and go out and start moving.
This article is sourced from the Evolve Podcast, a top social entrepreneur startup podcast. Listen or subscribe below.
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Want hear another founder built a community around their social mission? - Listen to Episode 050 with Ryan McKenzie, founder of Tru Earth, who shares some excellent advice on how to create a community around your product, how to nurture an emotional connection with them, and how to leverage your mission and marketing to do so. These practices took the bootstrapped startup from 0 to 2.5 million in monthly revenue in only 17 months while keeping 2-million plastic jugs out of landfills.
Brandon Stover: [00:01:01] Hey everyone. Welcome to evolve. I'm Brandon Stover and today's guest has been noted by real estate mogul and shark tank, shark, Barbara Corcoran, as the most sophisticated store owners she had ever met in her life. Why might you ask because this Forbes 30, under 30 entrepreneur itched her decade long six figure tech career with Intel and decided to bootstrap a cookie dough company from a $500 food cart to growing 500% year over year in profits within the first two years, by serving more than 250,000 cookie dough lovers.
But the real magic has been the mission to reduce stigmas around mental health and addiction. including the donation of 88,151 minutes in mental health treatment, time.
Being five years sober. This cookie company's fearless leader understands the struggles of addiction and getting sober, working inside the fast paced tech industry as a high achiever.
She turned to alcohol in order to slow down, which led to being arrested, hospitalized, and alienated from loved ones. After a wild night in Barcelona, she decided to stop then and there and found the only English speaking AA meeting in the city. the very next morning,
after getting sober, she focused on finding your happy place in the kitchen and began baking stumbling on a great egg recipe that made her cookie dos safe to eat.
Since then her cookie dough and her mission driven mentality behind it has raised more than $1.2 million and multiple retail locations, including the Las Vegas strip. And after COVID has pivoted a hundred percent online to ship nationwide for strong e-commerce business, she has been featured on ABC.
Shark tank was named on Vegas is 40, under 40. And openly shares her story and the stories of others confronting their mental health on her soberpreneur podcast. Today's guest is none other than the founder and CEO of dope, Kelsey Moreira.
But before the success of dope and being what she calls a soberpreneur for over five years, Kelsey was very driven as a kid and ended up working at Intel at just 16 years old. Where she was beginning to develop a Rocky relationship with alcohol, just to keep up with the demands of the tech industry.
Backstory: Kelsey's Relationship with Alcohol
Kelsey Moreira: [00:02:52] So I think like many people in the younger years, you're kind of passing off drinking behaviors as well, it's just, it's just that time. And it's just my age. And slowly but surely, like some of the things you mentioned in the intro, I was realizing I wasn't exactly like everybody else, you know, getting hospitalized or getting tickets.
And the drinking through my college years had gotten pretty bad and I think it was very easy for me to pass off what was a problem with alcohol, because everything on the surface looked pretty. Okay. I was getting great grades. I had a wonderful career at Intel and, you know, on the surface, everything seemed, seemed fine.
So it was really easy to say, well, it was just that night. It won't happen again. Slowly, but surely kept happening again. And our society, I think makes it really difficult to come to terms with troubles with alcohol, because you are just you're kind of an outcast. It seems if you don't drink, like how will I ever hang out with anyone?
How will I go on a first date again? How will I, you know, everything seems scary if I didn't drink, how was I going to do all those things? And it was it kind of just easy to lean on alcohol, you know, to. Have that to be the thing to cut the stress and Oh, it's been a long week. Let's go have a drink girl.
It's been a great week. Let's go have a drink and that's pretty boring. And at the end of the day, I wasn't really living. I wasn't really doing anything awesome outside of work that made me feel like me. So when I decided to get sober it was this whole unleashing of like everything I had inside me.
And what else could I go and do with my life?
Call To Adventure: Stop Drinking
Brandon Stover: [00:04:17] Yeah. When did you decide that enough was enough for you?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:04:20] I was in Barcelona, as you mentioned on a work trip and had one final, you know, hurrah out and woke up in a place. I didn't know where I was, who I was with, where my phone was. I was 24 at the time and thinking like, I just don't want to do this anymore. You know, I, I have, I.
This isn't me, you know, this isn't the Kelsey. I know I can be. And I know that my family knows I can be. And I had sort of blown up a relationship of four years without one final night. And it was this realization that I can have a good relationship with myself, much less anyone else, if I keep doing what I'm doing.
So yeah, getting sober was like a light switch of just like this, this isn't worth it. And the more sort of hindsight I have about it and looking back, it's like, Trying to think, like, why would one drink be worth nights like that? You know doing stuff where it's not who you want to be. And if choosing to not have alcohol in my life allows that to not happen.
I mean, I really don't feel like I'm missing out on too much else. So my life has really blossomed since then.
Brandon Stover: [00:05:23] Yeah. I mean, the amazing thing is you had to start rebuilding your life. You had to get new relationships, find new things to do one of those things being baking. How did you start to rebuild your identity from this old person that you used to be?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:05:34] Yeah, it was weird. It was kind of this, like, what do I, like? I was like doing paint by numbers, which I still like a little bit, I was like painting here and there. And just like you, like going through the list of like, what are hobbies? You know, like, try it, see if you like it. Keep doing it. And yeah, I remember I I'd always loved to bake like with my mom and my Nana.
My step-mom's a great Baker and they're all great cooks too, but I was always as a kid, like really into the dessert side. So with my kind of nights and weekends, I just really picked up not only like meal prep, cooking and like trying new recipes like that, but a lot of baking again, and it just felt right.
It was awesome to be back in the kitchen and. Baking is this like perfection type thing, and you've got to get all the measurements and everything's gotta be perfect and right. So it's quite meditative to be in the kitchen, just like I'm sort of like dancing when I'm in the kitchen, you know, I also make a mess and I know like the messier, it gets the better it's going to taste.
So it's just fun to be in there and be going crazy, trying new stuff. And. I was baking as a part-time vegan. I was pretty shitty. I love butter, but I wasn't eating eggs at the time. So I found a great stub for raw eggs. And now all this cookie dough that I was making to bake cookies was safe to eat.
And I like many people had always eaten a couple bites of cookie dough
Brandon Stover: [00:06:50] Right,
Kelsey Moreira: [00:06:51] I mean, come on. You're a crazy person. If you don't have some, you know, I'm worried about you. If you don't have that while you're making cookies. But this time I'm like, wow, it doesn't have exited. And like, that's what you've heard your whole life that you shouldn't be eating the cookie dough with rotten eggs.
So I thought everyone loves cookie dough and we all eat it like one spoonful at a time by ourselves in the kitchen. Like hoping no one catches us. What if you could have it you know, a whole cup of it and have it with some friends and share it as an experience.
Crossing the first threshold: Starting Douhp
Brandon Stover: [00:07:17] When did you decide that it was time to take this thing that you were doing in the kitchen? And did your 10 year career at Intel and go full in to doing cookie dough.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:07:26] Like probably way too fast, way fast or just awesomely fast. I mean, people think of ideas. Sometimes I hear about companies that are like, you know, two, three, four, five years of R and D. And I was certainly more of the mentality of like, I just gotta go, I gotta try it. I got to just do it and see what's going to happen.
I had one day, you know, finalizing the rest because it's just, it's. The cookie dough recipe I've made for a long time that I was able to make safe to eat. And yeah, I spent a day making the first four flavors that I would take out for dopes, like launch day, you know, to try and sell it for the first time.
It was from. February of 2017 to April, like February, I got the idea that was like, I should start selling this. Like, people would really like cookies. I should make a business. And like spent nights and weekends doing like the business licenses and figuring out the health department to the best of my ability of all that's needed.
There's a bit of like ask for forgiveness and then beginning, you know, when you're just getting started, there's a lot of people doing. Doing food who are like, Oh God, you know, I need to get this to so perfect. And it's like, don't pay to be in a commercial kitchen to make your first test batch, like do it's okay.
You know, get your KitchenAid mixer at home and like, and try out and see if it's gonna work. Or if you could make something that tastes good to you and your friends, and then when you want to sell it to the public, make sure you go and get, you know a licensed kitchen and everything. So. Those first few months of prep work and everything.
I was just like whipping stuff up in the kitchen. I had all my friends try these flavors and I'll never forget, like walking out to ocean beach in San Francisco and I had. You know, like the insulated grocery bags, like grocery bag full of all of these like cups that I had filled with dope and the different flavors.
And we're like walking out and we happen to sit next to this totally random couple. That was just enjoying time on the beach. And I was like, I'm going to start a cookie dough company, come over here. If you want to try it. And I wonder if they've ever seen dope again. Cause I, I had like the name and everything at the time and I wonder if they'd seen what happened to it now.
Cause like they tried literally like the first batch
Brandon Stover: [00:09:27] Oh, wow.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:09:27] of it. So yeah, it was very like just test and see in the beginning to get everything lined up and then. Four 20 of 2017 happened to be the first day of my sabbatical from Intel. Coincidentally four 20, which is a great day for people that want to eat desserts. I know you're already smiling, so, you know, yeah. So I got everything all lined up and on four 20 I had built this cart, like a cool looking. It was actually a metal cart. That I had these like fasteners to be able to hold the two carts together so I could break it down and fit in a car because I knew I was going to be trying to do sort of catering, like pop-up type thing.
They wanted something that could collapse. So it had like four cool, like wooden panels with this like reclaimed wood look. It was so awesome. That would hang on the front sides of the metal car. And then the two carts would attach together with these plants. So I got that already. I had like a dish bin with the four bins of the cookie dough for the top.
And went full on with the branding. Like I had little tags that said dope and the brand names of each of the flavors and had a pop up like tents, Vista print, you know, a full on in the beginning, just getting these like banners and stuff. And I was there on four 20 at Dolores park in San Francisco saying, come try some edible cookie dough.
And I sold out in like three hours. So I think I brought a hundred pounds of cookie dough that day. And sold out in three hours, got moved by the police twice to different areas around the park. Cause they were like, you can't sell here, you don't have a permit. But again, you know, those beginning days where you're like, Oh, sorry, sorry, I didn't know.
Just move and just see what happens. And then finally it was like, okay, it's time to go. I sold out,
Brandon Stover: [00:11:02] Yeah. I mean, you just gotta get it out there. It just. Yeah. Ask for forgiveness later. Just get it validated. before you were like, you know what? I can actually do something with this. It can actually be,
Kelsey Moreira: [00:11:11] Totally. Yeah. So I had a commercial kitchen in Oakland to make that first batch, I packed it into Ziploc bags, like gallon Ziploc bags. Cause I didn't know about like food service, anything yet I was coming from tech to food. No one just tells you while you work at Intel, that when you pack cookie dough, you should probably put it in like food service containers, like large plastic containers.
No, I have Ziploc bags. So there's a great picture of me like looking so proud in the kitchen next to this big stack of Ziploc bags filled with could go that looked like a drug Lord, you know, standing in my stash or something. Hello. Is this fun to think back to how much has changed since then? You know?
Carting ingredients in a wagon to Oakland make all the cookie dough card it back to San Francisco and work events for the week. You know, pop-ups and food parks, then catering, Lyft, Uber, Google, Twitter. I was anywhere that would take me and wanted some cookie dough. I was there.
Ordeal: Sharing Sobriety
Brandon Stover: [00:12:05] This is Brandon Stover and you're listening to the evolve podcast with Kelsey Marrero. Founder of dope cookie dough. And just a moment, you're going to hear how Kelsey started to be more vulnerable and you start sharing her sobriety story with our customers on our second year sober and how it created a movement that became the center of what dope stands for.
But before we get there, I just wanted to let you know that all the resources and lessons from this episode are available as a free worksheet at evolve. the.world/episodes. Flash Kelsey Moreira. all the lessons that Kelsey is sharing are very, very valuable, but they're only as valuable as the ones that you actually put into execution.
That's why I distill all of the action items from the each episode, including this one into one, easy to use step-by-step worksheet. So now you can immediately apply these lessons to your life and business. These are lessons how to rebuild your identity, the secret to using your brick and mortar retail experience to skyrocket online sales and how to transition your online shopping in the middle of a pandemic and so much more. These lessons are all available at evolve. the.world/episodes by Kelsey Morera.
That's evolve the.world/episodes/kelsey Moreira M O R E I R a. Or you can follow the link inside the show notes of your podcast app. Now let's get back to the evolve podcast with Kelsey of dope as she describes what happened when she, she vulnerably opened up to the customers about her story sobriety.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:13:31] When I first started dope you know, I, I put a lot of thought into what I wanted the brand to be and feel and just making something that was fun. Right. That was relatable and fun. And didn't feel like a little kid's shop. I felt like dessert places were always so childish and I wanted something that could speak to me and my friends and people, millennials, you know, people in our age group gen Z, you guys are cool too.
You're allowed in, but yeah, it was initially like, how can I make something that's really cool for millennials? It feels, it feels relatable. Things got even more awesome in that context of wanting to be like authentic and relatable. When, as you said on my two years sobriety anniversary happened to be the exact day that we were going to open our first physical location for dope.
And it was like kiosks on market street. It was like 10 by 10. So this thing was tiny, but I was like elated. You know, we were finally going to have somewhere that wasn't my apartment to store all of the cookie out. You know, I had two part-time employees at the time and like, they had a key to my apartment to be able to get cookie dough for events if I was at another event.
And it was like, okay, we're finally going to have a real place. So the grand opening for that created a Facebook page and I put on there and said, If you come up and say, it's dope to be sober, you'll get 20% off. You know, we're celebrating my two year sobriety anniversary on the same day. So come get some cookie dough and celebrate celebrate with me.
So I didn't really think much of it when I put it out there. I had slowly over the two years prior leading up to that, gotten a little more comfortable sharing that I didn't drink. You know, you have, you've said it enough times at this point, it went from, Oh, training for a half marathon. I'm just not drinking right now.
You know, in the early days is very hard to. To like, make that hard shift to, yeah. Never drinking ever again, because I had a terrible problem with alcohol and it was tough to say at first, but I'd become more comfortable with it. And I, I just thought, you know what, let's just put this out there. Let's see.
Who knows. And when I got back in messages from people sharing, you know, things as early as I'm two weeks over, do you know of any good meetings in the city? You know, looking for outreach, someone that was. Newly sober and wanting some support and others who were many years sober saying that they'd never told anyone and how neat it was to see me sharing my story so publicly.
And I just thought that was so cool. And it was kind of this light switch in my head that was like, I think people really need to hear about this stuff more and talk about this stuff more. So I started to formalize what now is our dope for hope initiative at the company. And more than initiative or initiatives, it's like.
The heart of why dope exists. You know, we want to help break the stigma and make it less scary to talk about all the hard stuff in life from addiction to mental health. And yeah, I feel okay with all the stuff that is not so okay. In your past or your life now knowing that you can always change things for the better.
So we donate funds to nonprofits that work in the space. Right now we're donating 1% of all of our sales to community counseling centers. So they provide affordable mental health care and substance abuse treatment. We're talking with, you know, new nonprofits for next year and seeing more ways we can expand that work even further.
So I'm really excited meeting groups. Like she recovers that focus on women in recovery, creating more community. So there's a ton of great stuff. I really love leaning on. What the overall community is already doing in an area and how can I help it move faster rather than creating my own new wheel?
We do have the dope for hope pledge on the website as well. So people can sign a pledge that basically says, you know, you'll answer honestly, when someone asks how you are, you'll be there for a friend when they need you and you'll reach out for help when you need them. Yeah. And, and we have policies for our staff around mental health.
I think it's really important to walk the walk inside the company. So we offer mental health days to all of our staff. It's like a note questions off, no questions asked they off when you need it. And though they don't have to say anything often. It does help open up the dialogue of like I'm having an anxiety attack or like this is going on in my life.
And I'm facing a depressive episode right now. And I really can't today. And they still are paid for the day and are allowed to have the day off, you know, it's like, More employers need to recognize that their employees are people. We all aren't perfect every day. And there are just some days where you're like, no, I'm not getting out of bed and I need to just not be there too.
Brandon Stover: [00:17:38] Yeah, I think it's really powerful as a company to basically be open and up front about that and be able to connect the community in a real way. You know, obviously everybody has something going on in their own mind, they're having their own battle in their head. So if you can be a real person and connect to other people on a day to day level, I think that's amazing.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:17:56] Totally. Yeah, it was really important that this isn't just a, for fun, like philanthropy side thing, like, Oh, okay, look, we donate, donate a redo this. It was like, how can I make this? Like what we live and breathe? You know, I want to be an advocate for change at my company and other companies to instill similar policies and.
Helping our general community, you know, spread a positive message with things like the pledge and then helping the nonprofit community make a change with the monetary assistance we can provide.
Brandon Stover: [00:18:22] To start working with and how do you start establishing those relationships?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:18:28] It's changed over the years. We actually used to have a voting system, so like the customers would vote for which nonprofit would receive the proceeds. And then this past year, starting in April we decided to partner with CCC here in Las Vegas. We'd opened our flagship store on the Las Vegas strip.
And CCC has been around since like 73, I think. So they've had a long run here in Vegas, the services for people. And it was just so in tune with what we go after, you know, sometimes we'd. Worked on tangential services that were related, but they are like, how can we help? I'll get people, mental health care and substance use treatment who need it, you know, at a more affordable price whatever works for them.
So they were really spot on for us really providing that treatment time and, and feeling like I was helping people, you know, get a, helping him that maybe couldn't have found it otherwise.
Brandon Stover: [00:19:18] Yeah, that's awesome. You mentioned quite a bit about what you do inside of the company. And obviously as a founder, you're the one to first set the culture. That's going to happen inside the company. Now with a lot of other tech startups, you know, there's drinking at a Christmas party or, you know, going out for drinks afterwards, how did you establish a new type of environment that wasn't the same as other startups?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:19:37] Yeah. Oh, it's so toxic. I think about like the kegs in the office and stuff. And it's like, then you feel like the weird one, if you're not invited to, or if you don't go over, when everyone's going to grab a drink at three on a Friday, or, you know yeah. It's, we're all kind of in an interesting world now being so remote, everyone is distributed now working from home.
But when we were in San Francisco and still in an office environment it did hold true to the fact that, you know, I don't drink and I like inspiring others to recognize that there are ways to have fun without alcohol. So when we had even had like a client vendor kind of like party at that office one time, and we did a full mocktail bar, so we had all these, like non-alcoholic cocktails.
Health aid kombucha, like co-sponsored it. So we had a healthy Caboolture there tons of ways to, you know, have a good time without, without booze. So, yeah, I feel like though in my day-to-day life, you know, I'm around alcohol. It happens like when you're at a restaurant, you're not going to stop the people you're with, at dinner, from having a drink and it's everyone's choice to do so.
But certainly when we're doing stuff, that's like a coordinated effort from dope, or say even like there's a, a new app we're looking at that's cross promoting different products after you get a purchase, basically like how can someone else benefit from the customer list that dope has and vice versa.
And I'm making the choice that like, I won't allow us to be shown or them, these companies to be shown if they're alcohol products. Right. So it's just, yeah, you've got to make a clear line in the sand of like what you are not comfortable with as a company and stick to it across the board, because it's just going to be a muddy message.
If suddenly you're selling out to the side ideas that don't align with the overall mission. CBD, for example, like marijuana has been. Bigger and bigger and bigger as the years go on. And I mean, you can't help, but think what the name dope though. I named it that because I think that was cool. And then I wanted to make a really dope dessert shop.
You know, it does have a connotation with weed and we've had a ton of questions. Like people being like, Oh, are you going to do a CBD line? Are you going to do, you know, CBD infused dope. And we have held strong that we're not, you know, it's Whatever sobriety looks like for someone varies for all sorts of people.
Right? And if you, for me, you know, not having alcohol it's not that I will never have a marijuana product in my life. It's not something I like to do. But as a stance for the company of not wanting to have mind altering substances, you just that blurs the best of life. And if you're going to stick with that yeah, it's really important to do it on all fronts.
So. I think we've had a really clear stance that everyone can live their best life without any additives or, you know, substances involved. And it's been nice to stand by that.
Brandon Stover: [00:22:17] I really think that's an excellent example of basically taking your own values as a person and bringing them throughout the entire company. And then, standing strong to that, even when, you know, it may not be the easiest or most profitable thing to do.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:22:29] Right. I mean, it'd be so lucrative that the CBD industry is crazy. Right. You could make a ton of money. But yeah, it's, it's kind of like, there's some moral ground to what you're doing, like stick with it. And I think it pays off in the long run. And yeah, dope is such a like output of me as a person, you know, like even when I was building the brand in the beginning, it was just like, Oh, I can finally like talk through my voice.
You know, I, I did marketing for Intel for all those years and sounding and looking and talking like Intel and everything and all these marketing briefs and stuff I would do, you know, don't use too many exclamation points and all it's like, Oh, you sound too excited in your copy. No now it's like a free for all.
I really did make something that's like a. Way of channeling myself, it was the hardest thing to do to pass off our social media, to a marketing agency, because the whole time it was literally like, you were just reading captions from my brain or my mouth talking as I talk and building that into a brand book and having a marketing agency start to live through that.
It's really an interesting experience.
Climax: Facing Covid
Brandon Stover: [00:23:33] After being on shark tank, you landed an investor and decided to open up a physical store, not ever being an entrepreneur before, or, you know, opening up a physical location. How difficult was it for you to do this? And what kind of lessons did you learn from opening up that first retail location?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:23:49] Yeah. So my very first store was actually up here, 39. I did open a store in San Francisco on the pier and yeah, it's, it's all such a learning curve in the beginning. You, I think the biggest piece of advice I have is just like, If it's something you don't know or you haven't done before, find someone who has done it before and ask I was just never afraid to ask for help and ask questions.
And I never said no to an introduction. So if someone was like, Oh, you should meet. So-and-so why in the hell would I do that? Okay. You know, some back of your brain, you're like, what could they possibly do for me? Just do it. Cause you just never know someone knows somebody or they hear some part of what you're explaining or some pain point you're having and they've got the right connection.
So those early days of opening a store in pier 39 and then the one here in Vegas lots of questions and asking and learning and trying to make the best decisions I could. But moving quickly, I just never slowed down. I was always like, we just gotta keep going, keep trying and. Be willing as 2020 has showed, be willing to pivot and be willing to be flexible.
And with business, it's all about the numbers at the end of the day, when you're like minus the moral high ground discussion. But when you're trying to make a hard decision on, you know, do we keep something or do we move away from it? It's really easy to have your emotions tied to it and be like, you know, Oh, I put so much work into this though.
And like, you know, the store was so beautiful and like, it was my dream of what I would imagine. Yeah, like things changed, you know, no one could have imagined that a global pandemic would come. Thank goodness. We had started focusing on e-commerce in November of last year, props to my husband. He joined the company and was like, we need to focus.
You got to do e-commerce, let's try and ramp that up. And we grew that business a hundred X in the first four months from launching it. So. When things started to shift this year and we were like, Oh, this isn't just like some disease happening in China. You know, we were hearing in January on the news lately and I was like, this is a really big deal.
Our store was shut down and we were fully online for three months in the middle of the year with the actual like lockdown of quarantine. And you know, we were able to have the sales skyrocket and realized like, Oh shit, this is a very viable business for us. And doing sales that were never even feasible with the physical location.
Meanwhile, you know, the physical stores, we've still got bills to pay. We've still got, you know, stuff piling up. So it ended up making a clear decision for us towards the end of the year to need to get out from the lease and close the store.
Brandon Stover: [00:26:15] Right now quite a few startups. Obsessionally retail locations are being forced to do business online. So I think it'd be really helpful for our listeners. If you could walk us through some of the things that you did to make the transition and how you increase the growth as you went through that.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:26:29] Well, the good thing is if you have a brick and mortar store, there's a ton of learning things you can apply. You basically have had like a crash course and already knowing what are your customers like the most? Do you know, what are they most drawn to? You know, your best selling products, you know, what price it moves that and now you have a very different way of attracting customers is all, you know, so you need to be really focused on, instead of relying on the split traffic that was going to come by getting ramped up on paid ads.
You know, we did go right into paid ads, starting mid December last year. We're so excited to be almost to 12 months of data. So we'll start to have something to compare to because when you do get started, you're just like, You know, you're shooting in the dark. In some ways I would do a lot of research on benchmarking and stuff to try to understand, you know, where kind of where we are on there.
But again, surrounding your people, surrounding yourself with people who have done it before, it's very helpful. So we did get a marketing agency though, much lower costs than where we are now at scale. You know, starting small and scrappy, but having someone who is the expert, right. Really important for a founder to like, know what you're really good at and hire for what you suck at.
And though I could learn everything else. Like I could learn bookkeeping if I wanted and I can learn. It's just not going to be my special sauce. Like it's not my zone of genius where I'm like really jamming. And I love it, like props to all the accountants out there, but it's not my thing. So accounting and paid ads are in that same vein for me where it's such a, it is a specialized skill to really understand the strategy of Operating paid ads.
And that will be the make or break of your of your business, right. Besides fulfillment. So that was the other big challenge for us was fulfillment, I think, getting people to your site and then being able to ship the product you know, manufacturing, it shouldn't be too big of a hurdle for most people.
You're either getting stuff drop-shipped or you are making it already at a co-packer. If you're making it yourself scaling up to a co-packer Was a decision we made when we hit the April spike, you know, things had gotten beyond what we could produce ourselves anymore at the commercial kitchen we were using here.
So we went back to a co-packer model and that's been great because they can move up with the volume and it's not on you to make sure you have flour and Brown sugar in the middle of the pandemic, which was crazy, like cleared out every Sam's club in the Las Vegas area from sugar in April. So, you know, things.
Things are really important to stay flexible and not side, but fulfillment was a whole nother animal that is very costly. If it goes wrong. We were doing it ourselves up until the end of April may, and then we had moved to outsource it. And you know, we had some challenges and had a lot of a lot of customers use that, you know, we were determined to make right at all costs.
So yeah, through the rest of the year, it was just a learning curve of how can we. Better the fulfillment situation and get things right. Shipping cookie dough in the summer is a challenging act to say the least. But yeah, I got all that ironed out and we're just in the most incredible situation now with a film center here in Vegas highly recommend getting everything co located.
We were killing ourselves with freight, getting stuff sent all over the country. You know, the Doe's made in California. We've got a film center in North Carolina and in cans and you know, it was crazy. So. The freight will really add up. So getting it centrally located in a city is really helpful. Wherever that may be, and you'll also be able to get better rates from the carriers.
That's another animal for this year. If you're going into e-commerce, you're not going to have the track record to go out with getting really great rates from the carriers off the bat. It took us a long time. Negotiating and negotiating and negotiating and talking and trying to prove that we did have this volume and that we could get a better rate.
You have to offer free shipping. If you charge shipping on your website, your conversion rate will drop in half. Like we tried it, we did the ABC test of it, same end price, but that it was split out with a lower cost plus shipping or higher cost free shipping, free shipping by and large will perform better.
So that's another really big learning to take away.
Return With The Exlixir: Advice
Brandon Stover: [00:30:27] Yeah, I really think that's an excellent set of advice. One of the things that you mentioned in the beginning was using some of the data and experiences that you had gained through the actual physical location and being able to transition and use that online. So how have you directed your marketing and your customer experience online? And can you give a few examples of how you've done this?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:30:46] Sure. Flavors for one, I mean, I think for us, we had a do it yourself bar at the Vegas store. So it was like, you could mix your perfect flavor or you could choose from our remixed. And that pier 39 was our more traditional model where we had done like six preset flavors for people to choose from.
So between all of that data and watching what people liked the most in their cookie dough, you know, we were able to pretty confidently go out and say, these are the four we're going to offer. And from, I think February through September, We had only offered those four flavors and really streamlined while we were doing.
And that was, it was the right answer to get to scale and to really be able to grow the company online in the beginning, knowing that like these are four, like generally agreed upon flavors. Most people are going to be down for it. We offered a variety pack or you could get all of, one of the four flavors.
And then over time, customers will tell you what they want to see. So we listened all year to people saying, Oh, I want to customize my own pack. I want to mix and match, or I want to see new flavors. They're like, you know, you should make a blank. You should make a blank, you know, insert flavor here.
Everyone has their idea of what the best cookie dough flavor would be. So in September, we started doing monthly seasonal releases. So we do four flavors every month. And. We're going to start reducing that to three flavors in January. Not that making four is impossibly difficult, but it's a lot of operational changes to be doing four flavors.
And I think now that we have our build your own pack page on the site to customize it's easy to release just just three new flavors in there every month. So it's great to have something for people to come back come back for and be looking forward to, you know, now everyone knows at the end of the month, If you're in our top two reward tiers, you get early access to the new flavors and good stuff to keep people back.
Retention will be the next best thing for you. Once you get fulfillment down and get the early acquisition down, getting people to your site, being able to retain those customers is the next most important thing. You've spent a lot likely and paid ads to acquire them. And it's up to email and SMS retention strategies to hold them and, and get the most out of them in the long run.
You know, keep them eating that cookie dough.
Brandon Stover: [00:32:55] The most in your marketing efforts online. So, I know you talked a lot about doing paid ads. Are you putting forward the mission a lot or are you focusing on the cookie dough? What are you guys doing in that arena?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:33:09] Yeah. You know, it's been an interesting world and for any mission German companies out there you'll butt heads likely with at least one agency who says, Oh, people don't care about the mission. It's not going to get clicks. You know, you need to just. Just push the cookie dough. We just need more pictures of people eating cookie dough.
You know, they, they just like, you know, these closeups of people eating like slow motion and stuff. But I actually, I'm really happy with the agency we've moved to now. We've been looking at some data that's showing. One ad in particular is our best performing ad of all time now. And it starts with buy dope, give hope and talks about our mission in the beginning.
So. I think if you stick to it, you know, there's a way to make it work even as somewhat from the glance, unrelated mental health and cookie dose theme. It's almost more eye catching. We're working on a new ad actually that is like the closeup of someone eating it. And it says like this founder is breaking mental health stigmas, like big block letters coming up on the, on the screen while you're watching someone eat cookie dough.
So. There's still fun ways to get someone to click and be interested in like, well, what are they doing to do blank? You know, how are they accomplishing that mission? Or Oh, that's something I'm really interested in. I want to support it and I like cookie dough, you know? So I think it's really exciting to see that there's a better combination there than just the classic, like.
Oh, we were on, we were on shark tank. Look, it's good. You know, it's so good at safety. You can bake it. It's awesome. And look at these flavors. That's fun, but it's really nice to share more of the stories. So we're working on a longer form piece where I'm sharing my sobriety journey and talking about dope for hope.
That'll be an ad we're running. So we're also reading some reviews, kind of like people read mean tweets. Sort of thing. We're reading some five star in some, one star reviews, some of the funny ones. So there's good ways to rope in what we do with our mission there. Particularly the five stars we have, like the type of customer loyalty you build, when you give a shit about something and really give a shit about it and do something about it.
It's awesome. People really resonate with it. And even if they didn't see it, when they bought the like insert in the box, you know, that's talking about it. We have like our. Customer manifestor, that's like a letter to our spoon likers on the back. And it's like, it's very the heart of what we care about with mental health.
So people see that and then they're just like, Oh, what a joy, how cool that I supported this company? Or, Oh wow. They donated 1% of, of this purchase to mental health. So it's really nice. What can happen with customers that are aligned with your mission? There'll be your biggest supporters.
Brandon Stover: [00:35:33] Yeah. How have you guys continued to nurture and promote that message in the community? You know, when you have a physical location, you can talk to customers in person. You can have things up on the wall, and share it in that kind of way.
How have you guys nurtured that in an online environment?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:35:46] So we've got a couple of different things. So we do have the pledge on our website as well. And then we got a little more in the forefront with a website redesign we did in September. Like a ticker on the homepage that says like a portion of every purchase is donated to mental health and non-profit mental health and addiction, recovery non-profits and redid our whole about us page to be really forward with the message and making sure people know something good is happening with it.
Retention. Marketing's a big place for that too. So our email strategy is, is heavy on it. We have a welcome series that goes out after people sign up for our emails. And one of those emails is dedicated wholly to the dope for hope campaign. So people can know from the start, you know, what we're all about and our origin story.
We also have a, pop-up reminding people to sign the pledge if they're like, I think it's the third time visitor has purchased or something like that. It'll pop up with that. So there's. Delicate ways to bring this information to light looking, be a big part of your story. And at the same time, you know, you're not sacrificing your sales or overly distracting or detracting at all.
I think they're really complimentary.
Brandon Stover: [00:36:49] Yeah. I think if you can find ways to interweave the values that you have as a person inside of your message in every little thing that you do here and there, it really starts to add up And start to permeate throughout the entire business.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:37:01] Yeah, it's on our Instagram too. So if you follow, Instagram's been a really lively community for us since we first got going, I think we're like almost the 50,000 followers, which is super cool. And we do mental health Mondays. So people know if you follow us every Monday, you're going to get like an uplifting, awesome mental health related post.
And that's more of the work with the nonprofits. I'm looking at some more connections with another nonprofit next year on mental health Mondays. Having mental health advocates and coaches coming on to talk on Mondays different topics and, and how to have a positive mental health.
Brandon Stover: [00:37:33] Hey this is Brandon Stover, and you're listening to the evolve podcast with Kelsey Moreira founder of dope cookie dough. And just a moment, you're going to hear about one of the most important people in Kelsey's journey, her Nana, And the words that helped Kelsey remain resilient through sobriety and the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
If you're struggling right now in your life or startup, I promise that you're going to want to hear this advice, but before we get there, I just wanted to let you know that all the resources and lessons from this episode are available as a free worksheet at evolve, the.world, flash episodes, flash Kelsey Morera, all the lessons Kelsey are sharing is super, super valuable, but they were only as valuable as the ones that you actually put in execution.
So that's why I go ahead and just tell all of the action items from each episode, including this one into one, easy to use step-by-step worksheet. So now you can immediately apply these lessons to your life and business
lessons include how to rebuild your identity, the secret to using your brick and mortar retail experience to skyrocket online sales and how to transition to online shopping in the middle of a pandemic and so much more. These lessons are available at a vault.world/episodes/kelsey Moreira that's evolve the.world flash episodes slash Kelsey Moreira M O R E I R a.
Or you can follow the link inside the show notes of your podcast app. Now let's go ahead and get back to the evolve podcast with Kelsey of dope, to hear the empowering words of Kelsey's Nana that guided her through sobriety and tough times.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:38:59] One of my favorite phrases from her was You can do anything, but you can't do everything. And that has helped in so many aspects of my life with work and with personal stuff, you know, and just, and with dope taking on. More than you can chew, you know, like this idea that you got to remember, you can do whatever you want, but you just can't do it all right now.
So trying to take things one day at a time, you know, another big thing that she would say, and mantra from the AA community is like one day at a time. Like you can just get through today. Just one thing, you'll be better off one, one foot after the other, you know? So yeah, anybody out there that's struggling.
I think it's. Really important to remember that you've just got to make it through one day, reach out to one person and try to have someone to talk to going through things alone is incredibly challenging, but you can do it. And you know, you're only one step away from a really awesome life unfolding. So it just takes six, one choice.
Brandon Stover: [00:39:56] Are there any books or habits or resources that have helped you the most with your own mental health?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:40:01] I think meditation has probably been one of the best things for me, and I know it's not easy for everyone. It's not easy for me. It's a difficult thing to get into, but it really can help with you just having a better ability to take on what's going to come in the day. There's an app called 10%, like 10% all written out.
And it's great for like people of all stages of meditation, if you could call it that, you know, like ascending to some degree. Yeah. It's they have like really awesome stuff. Literally one of their meditations called, like, I don't want to meditate today and you know, it's just great. It's really nice.
They've got like video intro, some meditations that are really like teaching you better strategies for communication, or like, you know, managing stress and then goes into a five, 10, 15 minute meditation. So it's kind of a great, like for beginners way to get going with it. Not sponsored by them. They're just awesome.
Brandon Stover: [00:40:53] How do you think as people we can better support each other's mental health, whether it's family, peers, or employees.
Gosh, I think just a little empathy, you know, it's like, we all just need a little more empathy and. A little moreKelsey Moreira: [00:41:06] remembrance that we're all going through something, you know, it's, when you start to get that mindset around, like, I wonder what they're going through, you know, someone's an asshole at the grocery store or like someone's cutting you off in traffic.
Or, and it's like, I just try to hold some space for like, I wonder what they're going through in their life right now. You know, if someone's totally rude on the phone or like snaps at you in an email or an employee lashes out or something, you know? And it's like, I wonder what's going on in their life.
That's making this happen because usually people aren't just like innately an asshole. Right. It's not like we don't wake up going, like it's going to be fun to be a total jerk today. So I think yeah, just trying to understand that we're all going through something you don't know if their mom just died or if they just lost their job or if like, you know, there's that a miscarriage or there there's just so many things that are painting so many of us and it's all.
So quiet so often, you know, we either don't have anyone to tell or we're telling very few people and you just feel like you're the only one going through it. So a little more empathy for those unknown woes and a little more yeah. And encouragement to share what's happening in your own life, because it can open the door for someone else to share something they've been wanting to talk about.
And the more we all stay behind these like cold walls, it's just sad and lonely, you know, back there. So. Yeah. Being a little more open and empathetic with each other, I think would make the world a better place.
Brandon Stover: [00:42:28] Yeah, I realized something that's really impactful for me is if I'm empathetic to myself and realizing that if I look at my own insecurities or what struggles that I'm going through, I can realize that, Hey, if I'm playing this stuff in my head, that there's a good possibility. Other people were playing something similar.
In some way, having their own struggles. So you have to realize what's going on with you is probably going on with them. Also,
Kelsey Moreira: [00:42:49] yeah, absolutely. It's like, We can all sort of have these masks on and pretend like everything's fine. And then it's just a bunch of freaked out people pretending that everything's fine all standing around together. So yeah, it's really nice to kind of like lower the barriers and just have some honest conversations.
the isolation of 2020 is having a real effect on people's mental health. They would just encourage anybody out there, you know, more than ever call your grandma, call your grandpa. Call your mom, call that friend from high school that you haven't talked to in awhile and ask how they're doing. A lot of people already felt alone in this world, and now there's close to zero social interaction.
That's capable outside of zoom, you know, thank goodness for zoom and FaceTime, but it's not the same. And you know, we all just need to be a little more connected, easy to have these days roll on when you're just waking up, logging into work, going into bed, do it again tomorrow. And. You know, you can start to feel really alone.
So reaching out will help someone else and it could help you too.
Brandon Stover: [00:43:48] I was excited for it in terms of dope and pushing this initiative forward.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:43:53] You know, I'm really excited about she recovers. I'm like just in the early stages talking with them, but what a partnership could look like, but it's fun to find a group that is so aligned with the philosophy I have around recovery. There's not a one size fits all path. You know, they're very about like the 12 steps program doesn't work for everybody.
It's not exactly the way everyone wants to get sober, but we all do need connection. And they've done a great job of building it over 300,000 a women group on Facebook now, and they do these like in-person retreats and. Yoga and daily check-ins with coaches on zoom and everything. Just awesome.
Like a neat way to look at recovery for women from all sorts of stuff. So they talk about addictions with drugs, alcohol, sex, food pretty much you name it and you can be recovering from it. So just, I, I love that. And I'm looking forward to finding more ways to integrate with their nonprofit and help provide more resources to the dope community.
Brandon Stover: [00:44:47] Cool the way that you're approaching to solve this problem, a lot of people will see a problem and start asking themselves, how am I going to ever solve that's where you're approaching it with a frame of reference of. You know, who's already doing this and how can I support somebody that has already put a system in place to solve this problem and make them go further, faster
Kelsey Moreira: [00:45:05] yeah, absolutely. You know, I first got this realization when I was working at Intel. My last role at Intel was actually in sort of this nonprofit realm that they were doing. Called hack harassment. And we were working on building an algorithm to help fight online harassment. And as part of that coalition, we brought together all these non-profits working in the space.
And I just had this big light bulb moment where I was like, you know, we're finding a half dozen nonprofits that are virtually doing the same thing, you know, to fight online harassment. And it's, we're so often compelled to do something. And so we go create our own siloed thing and yeah, I just realized like, There's a lot of people with great ideas and we were doing this on purpose to help foster collaboration and bring them together to co-fund projects, you know, that they wanted to do to help fight this issue.
And so I felt the same way with mental health and addiction recovery, that there are just great people out there doing awesome work. And now I can just help elevate the conversation and lift up what they're doing. Add, you know, my time and services and support where I can and yeah. Try to make things better.
Brandon Stover: [00:46:08] before I get to my last question, where can everybody find you in dope?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:46:11] Yeah, so dope email@example.com. I just age myself, I'm sure. Gen Z is like www like whatever. Dope.com and it's D O U G H P a. It's like cookie dough with a fee. Dope.com. And we ship nationwide free shipping to the lower 48. I'm at Instagram at and it's M O R E I R a. Yeah, and I mean, we're at dope on Instagram's fund.
Follow us there if you want those nuts off Monday, sign up for our newsletter and you'll get some excitement in your inbox too. So yeah. Thank you for having me on.
Brandon Stover: [00:46:47] Excellent. Well, my last question is how can we push the world to evolve?
Hmm, how can we push the world to evolve?
Kelsey Moreira: [00:46:55] The world needs so much evolving right now? I feel like it's quite related to the thought around having a more empathetic worlds. You know, I think people that will help a lot, but I, I guess the biggest thing was just. Less fear of risk-taking, you know, there's so many people right now that are in a unique position with what's happened this year to go off and create something new.
And I think the world is destined to keep evolving faster than ever. We're just less afraid. So I think dropping some of the fear and just diving in like I shared in my early days with dope, it was like, let's just do it. You know, it's like move fast and break things that, that concept of like, how can I just.
See what works. Find a minimum viable product and go out and start moving. Start in all the
Brandon Stover: [00:47:40] That is excellent advice. And I thank you so much for coming on the show, sharing your story and sharing everything that you're doing with dope. It's an amazing company and I love what you guys are doing. Yeah.
Kelsey Moreira: [00:47:50] Awesome thank you for having me. Nice to meet you.
Brandon Stover: [00:47:53] that was Kelsey Merera founder of dope, a cookie dough company that has committed to reducing the stigmas around mental health and addiction recovery. Now, the amount of lessons Kelsey shared about closing her physical location and using everything she had learned about her customers from in-person sales to transition on mine was absolutely astonishing.
Many retail locations are facing turbulent times right now with the pandemic. But if you're savvy like Kelsey, you can use all the data and customer feedback from your years of operation to better market and position yourself online.
You just have to realize that you're not starting from zero and you may actually be in a better position than you think. And actually be able to hundred actually for sales, by embracing online shopping like Kelsey.
Now, if you want the lessons from Kelsey's playbook that we shared today, along with all the other insightful advice from the episode. They are available as a free downloadable worksheet at evolve. the.world/episodes/kelsey Merera. You can also find all the show notes and transcripts for this episode at evolve, the adult world slash episode slash Kelsey Moreira.
The Evolve Podcast is focused on evolving the world through evolution of the individual. Brandon Stover unpacks the stories and mindsets of extraordinary social impact founders, visionary leaders, and social enterprise experts as they share how they built startups that are solving the worlds greatest problems. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.Leave A Review