Molly Blakeley was getting ready for a big year in business. It’s safe to say the 2020 hasn’t gone the way anyone hoped it would, but the founder of Molly Bz – a gourmet cookie company based in Anchorage, Alaska – says she believes everything happens for a reason.
Her cookies are truly unique, not just because at 3.5 oz they’re about the same size as your face, but because of the care she has taken to develop exquisite flavors. She has 13 fun varieties that are all way over the top in the best way possible.
S’mores cookies, for example, contain mini marshmallows, milk chocolate chips, cinnamon cereal and cinnamon whiskey. London Fog, another classic, are infused with earl grey tea and lavender and smothered in white chocolate chips with a creamy lemon frosting and vanilla bean vodka extract.
They were actually the first single-packed cookie to hit the shelves in America.
Revising the sales funnel
Molly was just about to launch her products into all the Safeways in Alaska, as well as Fred Meyer grocery stores, Walgreens pharmacies and Costco. She was gearing up for a huge distribution the week before the coronavirus hit the United States.
She’s determined to focus on the positives.
“It’s my job to help people who are quarantined not have crappy snacks,” she jokes.
“Honestly, these cookies are amazing.”
One of the first problems she tackled was her digital sales funnel. Without the planned distribution, she needed to find a way to diversify her sales strategy, fast.
“I know internet sales are really important right now and that a lot of people don’t have work,” she says. “I thought, you know what, how can I do this to help other people and also help my internet sales and be innovative about it?
She’s a wholesaler, so she decided to go out to market with her retail price and offer people incentives to sell her boxes – for example, $5 per box they sell themselves and $2 per box sold by people who sign up under them. She advertised the deal on Facebook and it went all over the U.S.
“In one day, I had 27 people sign up. I worked really great! They were in Florida and North Carolina and New York and all over. In just one day, my advertisement was going on all these people’s social media accounts and being shared. Sales went up, it’s been amazing.”
The new digital sales funnel has been so successful she says it may even become part of her long-term strategy.
Going back to basics
The revised sales process hasn’t been the only positive to come out of quarantine. As part of the state-wide launch, Molly was about to order a huge amount of packaging. This plan was shelved because of the outbreak, which she says was a blessing in disguise.
“I mean, $15,000 is a dime in a bucket for some people, but for me that’s a huge amount of money,” she laughs. “If you change one ingredient from even 1/4 of a teaspoon to 1/8, all of those packages are unusable. There’s a lot of stuff on the ingredient that has to be FDA approved.”
Ingredients on her Maple Bacon cookie go one step further, requiring USDA approval. However, at the last minute, she decided to tweak her recipe. The change meant that she was able to ensure the cookie had a stable shelf life without requiring chemical ingredients.
“I really want my cookies to have no artificial flavoring of any kind,” she says. “That was huge. If I’d done that [after I ordered the packaging], I would’ve been out of money or I would’ve had chemicals in my cookie. This one ingredient was keeping me from doing that, so that was a huge win.”
She says going back to basics and looking for opportunities to improve products is something every business could do right now in this extended period of downtime.
“What made people love your product in the first place? Through the years we get numb to it because we see it every day, but what made you stand out from everyone else?” she says.
“It takes you back to that moment to be like, ‘Oh, I did do that and it really worked.’ Go back to the original idea which people loved.”
Embracing next steps
Every cloud has a silver lining. Aside from making essential pivots in her sales process and product development, Molly says she’s inspired by the way Americans have come together in this crisis.
“It’s blessed my heart. We’re ally rallying together, like let’s get a cure. Let’s get past this. Stay in your home. We’re all in this together. We, as Americans, have each other’s backs and I think that’s amazing,” she says, adding that it’s important to focus on the positives to get through.
“Give yourself some grace. And some cookies.”