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Pati Drumm Grady couldn’t believe that Cooperstown, NY, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and nicknamed by fans “the Vatican City of baseball,” didn’t have baseball cookies. So, after discussing this void with her husband over a batch of her freshly baked shortbreads, Pati stepped up to the plate and created The Cooperstown Cookie Company. Launched from her Cooperstown kitchen, Pati’s business debuted during the October 2004 World Series Gala at the Baseball Hall of Fame, is now an official licensee of Major League Baseball (MLB) and has sold over 525,000 cookies.
A seasoned entrepreneur prior to launching The Cooperstown Cookie Company, Pati owned a successful corporate research and executive search firm, as well as a retail factory outlet store. However, the world of baseball and cookies had a different flavor altogether.
Pati realized that the cookie business was unfamiliar territory, so she asked for help. Using her resources, she wisely surrounded herself with experts in commercial baking, packaging, finance, marketing and food science.
Pati was also fortunate to have the support and cooperation of the Baseball Hall of Fame, where she ultimately introduced The Cooperstown Cookie Company at the 2004 World Series Gala. Her all-natural shortbread cookies, made without additives or preservatives, were a home run and the baseball community took notice. Thus, very early in the game, Pati trademarked “Cooperstown Cookie Company®” & “Classic Baseball Shortbread®.”
When the New York Yankees came-a-calling in 2005, Pati knew she had an all-star idea. The baseball club needed 19,000 cookies for a Mother’s Day event. Unfortunately, Pati’s operation was unable to fulfill their request. Knowing there’s no crying in baseball, Pati built a relationship with the Yankees’ Senior VP of Marketing, a connection that led to her to meeting with MLB representatives and becoming an official licensee in 2008.
Becoming a licensee was huge for Pati’s small business. It allowed her to expand her line and sell baseball-themed gifts sporting any of the 30 MLB teams’ logos. Today, Pati offers a variety of MLB cookies and cookie gift towers, as well as baseball cookie mix, cookies by the tin and a selection of gifts under $10. Newest in her lineup are single-serve Baseball Cookie Bunt Packs©. A bunt is a smaller version of the original shortbread sold in a pack of three bite-size cookies and is also available in individual team branding.
When Pati’s business outgrew her kitchen, she reached out to Pathfinder Village, a community for children and adults with Down syndrome that had a commercial kitchen. Pati involved the staff in the baking process, and, although she has since moved to a bigger facility, they still help with packaging her Classic Baseball Cookie Mix. Pati donates part of her proceeds to Pathfinder Village and uses her company to create awareness about the community.
The Cooperstown Cookie Company is now strengthening its infrastructure and preparing for even more growth. Pati is launching a new website that will increase web traffic and better tell their story. Driving sales is also a major focus. In addition to ecommerce and the store, Pati now ships directly to wholesale businesses, and is using distributors and sales people to expand the company’s reach. Pat also has her eye on new ventures in the baseball gift market, including baseball stadiums, Minor League Baseball teams and the international arena.
Pati and The Cooperstown Cookie Company have enjoyed international exposure in the Los Angeles Times, Town & Country, Japan Times, Sporting News, Washington Post, and New York Times. Pati’s cookies are available online, at her store, in Nordstrom’s and at Whole Foods in the northeast. They have appeared on the Food Network’s Unwrapped and the classic baseball shortbread cookies were even named Rachael Ray’s Snack of the Day on July 4.
What we learned from Pati: “It’s important to know when you need help. Once I got to a certain point, I knew I couldn’t keep doing this out of my kitchen. I needed a cookie expert. So I went to the Cornell University Entrepreneur Office and enlisted the help of a female food scientist. Since money was limited, I offered her deferred comp for her sweat equity. I’ve also consulted experts in food science, commercial baking, marketing, finance and packaging.”
Baseball and Cookies – A Double Play
“I had no idea how big the baseball market was. It’s huge! I’m still amazed at how pervasive baseball is in America. There’s a lot of competition out there, but the marketplace didn’t have an all-natural, gourmet baseball cookie. That’s our niche. We were able to combine America’s love of baseball with their love of cookies.”
Money is the Scorecard in Business
“I’d advise entrepreneurs to talk to people doing a similar project. Find out how much things will cost. Remember that money is the fuel that keeps the machine going, so don’t ever underestimate the amount of capital you’ll need. Research market conditions & raise enough capital to sustain the business up to 5 years. It takes money to grow your business to the next level.”
Swinging for the Fences
“Our biggest challenge is driving sales and keeping production steady to fill orders. Sometimes they’re more than the bakers can finish. Handling the fast growth over the past five years has been a real challenge. We’re trying to put our arms around it and be strategic to involve the right people. We’ve made some mistakes. But if we hadn’t maybe we wouldn’t be fending off this financial tidal wave. This has international potential and we are definitely gearing up for the next level.”
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