In an attempt to recreate her mother’s cookie pops decorated like people, Aymee VanDyke wound up making a batch of cookies that more resembled a former East Asian dictator. They were nothing like the adorable cookie characters she remembered from her childhood, but they kept her laughing for days.
Thus began The Wacky Cookie Company. VanDyke decided on the name because she wanted to turn her lack of decorating skills into a positive experience.
“That way, the name implies that the cookies are wacky, whimsical and fun rather than these perfect-looking cookies, and that takes the pressure off of me,” she says.
VanDyke has been selling her cookies online successfully since 2009, and she extended her shop to Etsy last year. She’s a natural entrepreneur who first started selling cupcakes to neighbors at the age of 9 or 10, and has tried various small businesses throughout her life.“Who knew cookies and candy would be so rewarding, and bring me success and personal satisfaction on so many levels?”
Her parents had come to the United States from Cuba in 1970, and built a business from the ground up, VanDyke says.
“I think that set an amazing example for me, and that is what this country is all about,” she adds.
Because of her parents, she believes the cliché that if you work hard enough in this land of opportunity, then anything is possible.
After what VanDyke describes as a disastrous divorce and several failed business attempts, she decided to follow her gut—and not her head—in order to give cookies a try.
“Who knew cookies and candy would be so rewarding, and bring me success and personal satisfaction on so many levels?”
VanDyke creates custom-ordered cookies, cupcakes, mini-cakes and candy, and offers a variety of themed products for holidays, weddings and parties. In her shop, you can find cartoon or sci-fi characters, animals, insects, flowers and just about any other idea under the sun.
She’s already booked for Halloween orders, which is a testament to her cookies’ popularity. VanDyke also opened a candy shop in 2011 and participates in sampler shops on Etsy.
Ingredients for success
While VanDyke continues to improve on her decorating skills, she places her emphasis on the quality of ingredients and flavor in her products. She believes that is one reason why she has been so successful.
“I have been told by clients that, as soon as they open the box, they can smell the delicious aroma of butter and the citrus we use in our cookies,” VanDyke notes. “To me, that is part of what I am selling; it’s an experience.”
She agrees there are many talented people selling gorgeous cookies on Etsy, but she often finds the taste is lackluster. The dedication to her own cookies’ presentation, ingredients and flavor—as well as her customer service—allows her to justify higher prices than her competitors’ products.
In fact, the company’s mission statement underlines the idea that we live in an age where it’s becoming more and more important to be loved and feel special, and VanDyke’s contribution is “to uplift the human spirit, one cookie at a time.”
“For me, cookies are more than just sugar, flour and butter,” she says. “I am one of those people who feel that one of the most important things in life is to contribute to others in a positive way.”
Making an impact online
The customer feedback on Etsy testifies to how much her products are appreciated, and VanDyke reports it means the world to her when a client contacts her to tell her how much her cookies are appreciated. They sometimes even send pictures of their children with her cookies.
“To know that I can indirectly be a part of a special birthday or special occasion in a person’s life is a wonderful feeling,” she says.For the person on the receiving end of that box to know that someone really, really cares about them is what this business is all about
And so The Wacky Cookie Company continues to stand out from the crowd by going to great lengths to provide extraordinary taste and spectacular customer service, VanDyke says. She commits herself to always being available to answer questions, and to create any customized cookie requested.
VanDyke appreciates being able to sell online because it gives her company wider exposure, and has even allowed her to sell cookies across the globe. But being an online entrepreneur does present its own set of challenges.
“I would say the biggest challenge is the fact that you do not get to taste the product through the screen,” she says.
Brick-and-mortar shops can offer a plate of samples for customers to try, she adds, but many people don’t think to ask for a sample from The Wacky Cookie Company. To combat that challenge, VanDyke sells sample sizes in her Etsy listings.
“They work very well for people who like my style and my cookies but are afraid to commit to a larger order without tasting them.”
‘Love in a box’
The Wacky Cookie Company has almost 2,000 fans through Facebook and VanDyke uses Twitter regularly for her company. She also posts some of her creations on her personal Pinterest page and places an ad on a friend’s blog.
Other than that, VanDyke says she doesn’t put much effort into advertising and believes most people are perhaps first drawn to her company because of her cookies’ vibrant colors.
“My business has mostly grown organically through word-of-mouth and repeat customers,” she says.
After an order is prepared and ready for shipment, VanDyke individually wraps each cookie, places them in a gift box and seals it with ribbon. She will include a personalized written note for gifts on request, and carefully bubble wrap the order to ensure safe delivery.
“To send love in a box, if you will, for the person on the receiving end of that box to know that someone really, really cares about them is what this business is all about,” VanDyke says. “So in essence, we are not just in the cookie business, we are in the people business.”
Visit The Wacky Cookie Company.