The Denver-based cookie company delivers eight varieties of cookies until 3 a.m. on weekends, along with locally produced milk and ice cream.
What began as a late-night hankering for warm cookies and milk has become a growing business for Jennifer Coolbrith and Chris Newell, owners of the Dirty Cookie, a baked-to-order cookie, milk and ice cream delivery service in Denver.
Coolbrith and Newell recently moved to Denver and were up late one night searching online for a cookie delivery service when the idea struck.
“Where I’m from, there is a company at (the University of Massachusetts) that does late-night cookie delivery, so we thought we’d see if there is something out here like that, and there was nothing,” says Coolbrith, a longtime home baker who’s always aspired to open a coffee shop. “Denver is such a unique little city, and I thought it would work really well here, especially with the university so close by.”
Coolbrith dubbed the venture “the Dirty Cookie” and promptly fell asleep. When she woke up the next morning, Newell had already purchased the domain name, created a website and Twitter and Facebook accounts for the business. The Dirty Cookie launched one month later during the first weekend of March, after the couple obtained city licenses, found a commercial kitchen, tested cookie formulas and contacted local media outlets to build buzz.
“After we launched on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we’d post pictures every time we baked a batch of cookies,” Coolbrith says. “Our Instagram feed got really popular and before I knew it, we had 200 Facebook friends.”
Coverage in local newspapers, magazines and on Thrillist.com–which is dedicated to startup businesses–helped the brand build enough of a following that it sold out of cookies its first weekend in business. “Thursday we were twiddling our thumbs, Friday we were redlining and Saturday we were crying,” Coolbrith says with a laugh.
The Dirty Cookie is open for phone and online orders (through Grubhub) for pickup or delivery from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The cookies, offered in varieties such as chocolate chip, double chocolate fudge, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and gingerdoodle are mixed, panned and frozen on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Then on Thursday the cookies are baked to order, placed in boxes with stickers bearing the company’s logo and delivered warm. Milk and ice cream, which are available in pint sizes, are sourced from local suppliers.
The Dirty Cookie currently sells an average of 4,000 cookies per week. “Our initial goal was to do five orders an hour,” Coolbrith says. “We’ve blown that completely out of the water.”
Coolbrith and Newell plan to add one or two production staff and eventually find a retail space closer to Denver University (DU), which is 11 miles from downtown. (They currently charge a $5 delivery fee for orders from DU.)
The company also is fielding offers to franchise the business in other cities and at several universities, but Coolbrith wants to focus on building the brand at home first.
“We have a lot of people who are excited and want to grow us. But right now, we’re thinking more about making the Dirty Cookie a household name and growing as our own brand by perfecting what we’re doing now,” she says. “We want to keep our core values and the support of the people who love our cookies as we get bigger.”