Oh Facebook, you and your Facebook memories reminding me of things....
Yesterday, May 1st was the four year anniversary of me leaving my cubical for the last time.
At one point, I loved that job. That's the funny thing. I really did. It was a small start up company. Our CFO was a great guy, he was always giving me new jobs and responsibilities. I worked a lot of hours, but it was OK. I loved the people and the culture. It began to change over time and eventually the start up that I had put a lot of myself into was acquired. The changes came fast and furious and somewhere along the line, I started to actually loathe my job. I would sometimes sit in the parking lot and just cry, I was so miserable.
So on May 1st 2013, I handed in my badge, did my exit interview, had a good lunch with my two favorite coworkers (the salesguys I supported for years) and I went to my car and I drove away. In fact, I drove straight to the Bruins first playoff game that season. So, I got the Fours and I raised a glass to leaving my cubicle. Leaving a steady and decent paycheck. Leaving my benefits. Leaving a Monday through Friday schedule.
I took a job making just over minimum wage at a cupcake shop. I went there because I wanted to see what life looked like as a baker. Unfortunately, this would not be a baking gig. What it actually turned out to be, a little bit better for what I hoped my future plans were. I ended up managing the shop. Working on events, solving problems and planning. Seeing every aspect of the business definitely made me think twice about going out on my own. But, eventually my heart won the battle over my logical brain and I started Top Shelf Cookies.
This last week, it's hasn't been my favorite as the owner of Top Shelf Cookies. There have been some challenges and we are definitely facing some growing pains. I missed out on a job I really wanted and was disappointed about that. I had a bake that didn't go well and I couldn't recover. It's not always easy to keep cash in the bank as a small business owner. Yesterday, I was feeling pretty low and Facebook memories pointed out that this was my Quitaversary. I immediately came back to driving out of that parking lot, feeling so relieved. I couldn't accept my life as it was. I needed more than waking up, fighting traffic to get to work, going to a job I hated and fighting traffic to get home to make dinner and go to bed and start the cycle all over again. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. So, I left. I quit.
I don't get a steady paycheck, in fact I rarely get one. But, it won't always be that way. I don't have benefits, I have to rely on my husband for those. But, it won't always be that way. I will never have a Monday through Friday schedule again, I'm completely fine with it. I wouldn't give up a SoWa Sunday or some of the really cool places we've been able to take our cookies. We've spent a decent amount of time at Sam Adams Brewery, we've been to Fenway Park with our cookies, we've given them to some of the Bruins.
I am right now planning for a 6AM start tomorrow, we are going to make about 3500 cookies tomorrow. I'm giddy planning it. When we are done, I'll be making deliveries to Cambridge, Newton and Boston. I couldn't be more happy with the life I've chosen. No two days ever look alike. I'll admit, there are days that I miss the security of a full time office gig, but I wouldn't give up Top Shelf Cookies for anything.
Thank you all for your support. Please know, it means so much to me.
Top Shelf Cookies
It's no secret that I love Boston everyday, but there's something about Boston in April. It feels like that's when the new year begins. The snow is melting (despite the fact that it's literally snowing sideways on April 1st) and Fenway Park opens and then we get the very best day in Boston: Patriot's Day.
I grew up in New Hampshire. When I was very little, my parents took me down a family gathering in Quincy. I remember from the back seat seeing the Boston skyline and falling immediately into head over heels love. Nothing where I lived looked like that. I became obsessed. My mom would take me down for trips the museums and the aquarium and I would count down the days till we would see that skyline again.
Many years ago, I moved here as a young adult. I have lived in and around the city for nearly 19 years now. I met my best friend in the balcony at the FleetCenter soon after moving down here. My closest friends are my cousins. One of the first things my best friend (that guy I met in the balcony at the FleetCenter) and I started as a tradition was Patriots Day. The idea of getting up early to head into Fenway Park and then watch the Marathon sounded like a crazy one. By 8:30 that morning and my second beer, I remember thinking - I could get used to this!
So as the years went by, we added to our little group. Both of us married, we had friends who came regularly. We had a crew. We met early at the Kenmore Dunks, got our coffees and got in line for the bar to open. We talked about the stuff you don't share on Facebook, we ate, we drank, we head to Fenway Park. For postgame, there are two routes - we go through Copley if the Bruins aren't playing at home game or we go around if the Bruins are home. Need to get the real estate at the Fours for pregame. Also, I always get a sunburn. That's the routine, I love it. It's always felt like Boston Appreciation Day to me.
So, it's no surprise that as we craft our recipes, I do it with Boston in my heart and soul. Our 617 Pack changes based on what's in season (for sports) and is one of my favorite things we offer. Even when I bake, I'm usually wearing something with Boston on it, because that's who I am.
I have had great jobs and experiences in this city. Friendships, family, a career, a change in attitude, and ultimately given me my dream. Owning Top Shelf Cookies and creating cookies for a living has been the greatest time of my life.
As Top Shelf Cookies continues to grow and evolve, it's so important me that this is where our roots will always be. We strive to bring Boston a better cookie and if we can keep doing that, I know I've done what I set out to do!
In the month of April we are giving back to our city with donations for the sales of our Left on Boylston cookie to the Martin Richard Foundation. You can buy yours online or come visit us at our pop up location at Boston Public Market through 4/15.
Last year, we were overwhelmed with orders for #OneBostonDay of cookies that went to people as ultimate acts of kindness. Seeing pictures of our cookies with Boston's Finest and Bravest were some of the proudest moments I've had as the owner of Top Shelf Cookies. We will again be donating 15% of our sales on April 15 - OneBostonDay to Martin Richard Foundation. I love the work they do in our community and specifically in Dorchester, where am proud to live and operate my business.
So, yes today as it snows, it's frustrating to live in Boston - but you know what...Monday is Opening Day at Fenway and two weeks later it's the Boston Marathon - which is our city's open house to the rest of the world. So, despite the weather - Spring is coming!
Enjoy Boston today and everyday!
Checking in with you all after our busiest holiday season ever, so busy it knocked me down for a couple weeks! From the very bottom of my heart, thank you all for your amazing support. Launching a business and turning your passion into a job is a very personal decision and when you take the time to write me a note, tweet me or tell me in person how much you enjoy our cookies - please know I take that to heart and it motivates me to keep going.
2016 was our second full year of business and it brought us much success. We were thrilled do have two pop ups at Boston Public Market that were a lot of fun. I'll tell you till I'm blue in the face, this is your best opportunity to shop local. There are so many amazing vendors at Boston Public Market, we love being a part of that vendor community when we get the chance.
We very much enjoyed our time our SoWa Sundays, Dewey Square Tuesdays and Stoneham Thursdays. Farmer's markets allow us to get out and talk to all of you. The feedback you give us (good and bad) is invaluable to us and we are so appreciative of this.
In 2016, we launched our Cookie of The Month Club! We send you a dozen cookies every month! There are a variety of options: month to month or you can prepay for 3, 6 or 12 month subscriptions! If you don't want surprises, you can subscribe (and save!) to any of our year round flavors as well. We have a family that loves Black & Gold cookies and gets four stacks sent monthly! Gift to others or yourself.
Like many of you, we are looking at ourselves and making some plans for 2017! We are thrilled to enter the year with Megan joining our staff regularly. Megan is an amazing baker and will balance out my need to put chocolate in all the cookies, she likes fruit and nuts. We have already worked together to create two cookies: Hopflake Holiday (over the holidays) and our newest cookie: The Next One Megan joining our team will allow us to develop more recipes and be more places this summer.
Another change we are working on for 2017 is adding our ingredients and major allergens to the website. I hope this will help anyone to purchase cookies that they maybe weren't sure about. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have about our ingredients, allergens or the space we use to produce our cookies. Please always reach out if you have questions (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Also in our plans for 2017 - store shelves! I know many of you have been asking. We are currently obtaining the correct labeling and licensing and we have stores that are looking to put us on the shelves soon. So, we will definitely be keeping you updated on that exciting news as it becomes available.
In 2017, we will continue to look for a permanent home if it makes sense for us. We love CommonWealth Kitchen, but we only want to move to our own space if it makes sense.
We look forward to growing and bringing you more flavors and being in more places in 2017.
As always we appreciate your support!
Today is #GivingTuesday - while we really have lots of great charitable organizations that we love to work with, I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about a non profit organization that has helped me and greatly impacted my life: CommonWealth Kitchen
When I set out to start Top Shelf Cookies, I knew what I didn't have:
1. Culinary experience
2. College Education
4. Space to work out of (or the money to build it out)
I knew what I had:
1. Really good cookies.
2. Work Ethic
3. Willingness to learn
4. A job that made me miserable
There was NO other option, Top Shelf Cookies would be my way out of my misery. My job making me so unhappy, I had become someone my friends didn't want to be around, I didn't even want to be around me. Times were dark, unless I was baking cookies.
I started to do some research on where I could bake. I wasn't exactly sure about CommonWealth Kitchen, sharing a space seemed like it would be a headache. If I was renting space from other business - that would have timing challenges.
I figured I would at least inquire. I got an email from Roz with tons of info and forms. I nearly hid under my desk! I remember thinking: "What's so scary about some forms?" You know what's scary about some forms? A lot, it's admitting to someone that you have this crazy ass dream that you want to follow. I kept thinking, at some point someone will stop me. My friends wholeheartly endorsed this idea, my very sensible father encouraged me - the only one standing in my way - ME!
So, when Roz sent a follow up email - I stopped talking myself out of this and started talking myself into it. I filled out the forms. I worked on a business plan, I figured out some details. Eventually, I would go on to meet the staff at CommonWealth Kitchen. Everyone was so helpful. Roz sent me to a great class geared toward food entrepreneurs. I sat down with the executive chef Brad and talked through some processes. I learned a lot, I still do. I look to Brad a lot - even still after more than two years.
Eventually, Top Shelf Cookies got started. There was a logo, there were orders, clients, vendors, bills. It was all so real, it wasn't just in my head, people knew about it and people seemed to like what I was doing.
Commonwealth Kitchen even gave me the ultimate part time job. I work in our commissary kitchen doing contract work with all kinds of cool clients. This job gives me the flexibility to run my business, while still bringing in some money to help support my household. The job itself, I have learned so much from. Working alongside our commissary manager, Seth - has been amazing. I have learned a lot about how to set up the kitchen for maximum success. Seth and the rest of the staff at CommonWealth Kitchen have been an amazing resource.
The community of entrepreneurs is amazing. It's great to have them as a resource when I'm trying to solve problems, select a vendor, find out if events are worth my time. My favorite part is to truly celebrate the wins with them and to truly commiserate the losses with them.
As Top Shelf Cookies has grown, CWK has worked alongside me to help me be successful. They've been patient with me through growing pains.
I'm a truly different person than I was more than 2 years ago. I don't let the little things get me down, I am happy, I am tired, I am a proud business owner.
While this is a really great feel good story - the point is pretty simple. I wouldn't have made it this far with $2500 and a few good cookie recipes on my own. Having CWK as my home base is the reason we still have a home base. I would have run out of money or confidence long ago.
CommonWealth Kitchen helps provide these opportunities to over 40 start up food businesses. It allows so many of us to find out if our idea works as a business, if this is the life we want for ourselves.
I'm beyond grateful that my job is baking cookies, it is incredibly hard and incredibly rewarding.
Please consider donating to CommonWealth Kitchen for #GivingTuesday - they are changing our local food system, while changing a lot of lives.