We Didn’t Let Their Cookies Crumble
The first time Laurie Suriff and Collins Tuohy met, magic happened.
“I started making cookies out of my home in 2006,” Suriff says. “I loved baking with my mom. When my husband needed something to take to his clients, I suggested Mom’s sugar cookies. I made them and decorated them with a logo.”
Suriff’s cookie decorating skills and her mom’s secret recipe were a hit. Word of mouth spread and she began selling cookies to family, friends and co-workers. Soon she added corporations and other customers to her list, as well.
Tuohy, a Whimsy Cookie Company customer, approached Suriff in 2012 about starting a partnership. “I knew immediately that her product was one of the best things I had seen anywhere in the country. It had the potential to be something really great,” Tuohy said. “I took Laurie out to lunch and discussed a five-year business plan and some goals for us as partners, as well as some benefits of teaming up,” Tuohy says. “She was ready to make the jump from a paid hobby to a real business.”
The two found a commercial kitchen and production space in an industrial part of Memphis where they began developing their small business for online and phone orders. Oftentimes customers picking up their orders would ask about purchasing extra cookies, so Suriff and Tuohy built a small retail case in the production facility. This sparked the idea of developing a bigger retail presence.
Business quickly grew. To keep up, the two decided to open a brick-and-mortar shop. In 2012, they opened a store in the highest-end retail area in Memphis with enough space to hold events and display their cookies for in-store purchases.
From that point, Whimsy Cookie Company took on a look and feel of its own. “[When we started the business], we knew for sure we didn’t want to use the color pink,” Tuohy says with a laugh. “And now we’re in a big pink house. But sometimes your company takes you in a direction and you just latch on and do the best you can.” The location immediately captured a host of loyal customers.
“It surpassed our expectations. Our ceiling goals keep getting higher and higher. That’s what you should be doing as a small-business owner ― you should push yourself and reinvent your company and stay current. We’ve tried to do all of those things,” Tuohy says.
Suriff and Tuohy constantly push themselves to give their customers more than expected from a cookie company. Their retail space includes a party room where they hold cookie-decorating parties for kids. Popular characters stop by to say hello, including Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen and Santa Claus during the holidays. They host a weekly story time so busy parents can drop their kids off for a few hours while they run errands. And soon, Whimsy Cookie Company will have its own brand of coffee and a line of scented candles.
“We want every part of the experience to be high caliber because it has our name on it. We remind ourselves of that every day,” Tuohy says.
Currently, about half of their business is through in-store purchases and events with the other half made up of custom orders. Now that they’ve got the brick-and-mortar concept nailed down, they’re excited about expanding their e-commerce business. They realized that perfecting the quality of their product shipments was their next big step.
From good to great
Suriff and Tuohy strive to give their customers the best experience possible on all fronts — from the taste and custom design of their cookies to the packaging and how the shipment arrives on their customers’ doorstep.
“I’d been shipping the cookies the same ways for years,” Suriff adds. “It worked pretty well, but it needed to be tweaked. It’s really important that our clients get their cookies in one piece.”
When packing their products for shipping via FedEx Ground, they wrapped the cookies individually in cello bags and lined them vertically against each other in the corner of a decorative box, which, they hoped, would minimize breakage. They placed that inside an outer box.
Even though 94 to 95 percent of their shipments arrived unbroken, Suriff and Tuohy wanted better results. They met with the packaging engineers at the FedEx Packaging Service lab to see what else they could do to protect their cookies even more. “Right off the bat FedEx had great suggestions for ways we could protect our products,” Tuohy says.
The taste of success
At the FedEx Packaging Services lab, engineers Evan Edwards and Mickey Rainey analyzed the company’s packaging. They suggested a few changes to protect the decorative inner boxes and reduce cookie breakage:
- Insert partitions inside the box to separate the cookies.
- Position the cookies so the tops rest against the inside edges of the box for extra cushioning.
- Use an outer shipping box that sits horizontally rather than vertically to help ensure the cookies are stacked on top of each other instead of on their sides.
Once these refinements were made, the engineers ran the new packaging through a series of stations — the drop test, compression test and vibration test — to see how the cookies would withstand the distribution environment. The new packaging passed each test and Suriff and Tuohy expect their shipping success rates will hit 99 percent.
“The people at the FedEx packaging lab were wonderful to work with,” Suriff says. “They were so knowledgeable, the process was easy, and they really understood us and our needs.”
“The Whimsy Cooking Company creates an edible, handmade, artistic product. When you’re delivering edible art, it has to be done as perfectly as possible,” Tuohy says. “If I can do something better, I need to do it better. If we can get our shipping success rate to go from 94 or 95 percent to 99 percent by changing the way we pack our cookies, that’s huge. FedEx is helping us do that.”
Pack it right. Ship it perfect.
The recommendations Suriff and Tuohy received from the engineers at the FedEx Packaging Services lab provided them with better shipping results and greater customer satisfaction. You can achieve great results, too, by following these tips from the FedEx Packaging Service lab engineers:
- Choose the right box. The right box doesn’t just fit tightly around your product. The best box is sturdy enough to support the product’s weight and large enough to accommodate cushioning material.
- Cushion your product. The correct placement and amount of cushioning is critical if you want your product to withstand the pressure, vibration and drops that can happen during shipping. Whimsy Cookie Company included sufficient cushioning, but it wasn’t placed effectively. Put the product in the middle of the box with ample cushioning on all sides.
- Seal your box. For a standard corrugated box, create an “H” by taping down the middle seam and on each edge. Without proper sealing, the package can pop open once it’s in transit. But there’s no need to go overboard: Suriff and Tuohy were using expensive tape that was thicker than necessary. “Our packaging engineer told us the tape on our lightweight cookie boxes could have held together a shipment of three steel beams,” Tuohy says. “Now we’re saving a bunch of money on tape.”
- Consult with experts. The packaging engineers take into account how boxes are placed on a conveyor belt and stacked in a truck or an airplane. The suggestions they made to the Whimsy Cookie Company team were minor but made a big impact. Suriff and Tuohy got to watch their boxes go through the testing cycles at the packaging lab. “We saw with our own eyes what happens to the cookies during shipping,” Tuohy says.