An Adna family business is taking the cookie industry by storm with its vegan, gluten-free cookies that, unlike most similar baked goods on the market, actually tastes good.
Pacific Northwest Cookie Company recently won over judges on QVC and the Home Shopping Network’s product search competition, The Big Find, earning a product feature on QVC’s website beginning Feb. 24. Microsoft will begin stocking Pacific Northwest Cookie Company cookies on its campuses once employees return to working in-person.
Together, both deals will raise the Adna business’s production output from roughly 2,000 cookies a week to 45,000 cookies a week — a major leap for a business that began when one of founder Callie Carpenter’s brothers developed an intolerance to gluten and dairy.
“When that happened, to begin with, I guess family in a family way we kind of laughed a little bit: we were like ‘oh my gosh, that’s terrible, but kind of funny,’ but as we realized and saw what he had the option of eating — it’s nothing like we ever had growing up,” said Carpenter in a presentation at the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce’s virtual business forum on May 13.
Carpenter and her mom, Susy, spent two to three months experimenting in the kitchen to come up with the perfect vegan, gluten-free cookie recipe.
“It had to look like a cookie. The taste, the texture, everything about it, had to just be like a normal cookie,” said Carpenter. “Especially because we live in a more rural area and … more people bake as opposed to when you go to the city, fewer and fewer people bake, so that to me says people don’t know what actually great baking tastes like, so when you don’t have anything to compare except other packaged food that you’re purchasing, ours already stands out.”
But the Carpenters weren’t setting out to create a cookie that competes with grandma’s home baking.
“You should be able to bake something fresh that’s better than what we make,” she said. “That’s not what we’re competing with.”
When setting out to package, brand and market the recipes that she and her mom developed, Carpenter said she drew heavily on her 13 years of experience at Starbucks, 10 of which she worked as a store manager.
“I’ve had a really good idea of how I wanted to see the brand built and the packaging and it was definitely designed with Starbucks in mind. It would fit perfectly in a Starbucks location. And if it fits in Starbucks it will fit in anywhere that has packaged food for sale,” she said.
In 2018, Carpenter and the newly-formed Pacific Northwest Cookie Company entered Smart Tank — a local competition styled after the popular television show “Shark Tank” where companies pitched business ideas and received input and advice from judges — and won the pitch competition, earning her a year-long scholarship at a small business incubator in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“People ask me all the time if that was really the game changer and the thing is it was, but to be completely honest, it was driven by me,” said Carpenter, adding that it was up to her to utilize the resources she had been given. “Development is driven by the operator, owner, founder, whoever that is, but having the accessibility to those resources, that is what the game changer was.”
Since then, Pacific Northwest Cookie Company has been officially certified as a women-owned business and as a military spouse-owned business, which opened up more opportunities for growth.
She looks back on a public speaking class that her mom made her take when she was younger that has been a major factor in the business’ success. “I hated her for it … and I’m so grateful because everything that has made a huge impact really comes down to the public speaking that I’ve done and pitching for the company,” said Carpenter.
She said she was similarly unexcited when her mom first taught her to bake as a child.
“I would rather be outside with my brothers in our beautiful Pacific Northwest doing tomboy stuff, but she made me learn how to bake,” she said. “It’s so funny to me because I just feel like everything comes full circle.”
Pacific Northwest Cookie Company’s production is still at a level where the Carpenters can manage the whole operation themselves without help from additional employees. The whole business is run out of one building, which has a kitchen, packaging room, sealing room and a storage area.
“We have a ton of capacity to grow, but it’s also nice right now especially with me and my mom doing procurement, office work, sales, to be able to balance that with not baking every day but eventually we’ll be having to get more recruits,” said Carpenter.
For more information about Pacific Northwest Cookie Company, visit https://pnwcookies.com/.