If you have followed us for any amount of time, you likely know that we use Sam Adams beer in our cookies, we always have Boston Lager Chocolate Chip on our menu - and a few times a year we'll put something else on the menu. A few years back, I knew I wanted to make something with Merry Maker, it's a gingerbread stout and it's delicious. We make it and accent it with white chocolate chips, it's possible this is the last year for it. We have a lot of gingerbread flavors in our holiday lineup and next year I'll plan to shake it up a bit.
I wanted to highlight Merry Maker this month in particular because Christmas came a little early for me this year. When I first had this crazy idea to start Top Shelf Cookies, I let one of my pregame friends know that I was considering it. It was Jennifer Glanville of Boston Beer. She's a season ticket holder and a Fours regular. She told me that she would help me if I did make the jump. She kept on me for a couple years too. Within three weeks of launching, I had my first big order from Sam Adams and it was to make 200 pumpkin cookies. Sam Adams orders got me through the first year in a big way.
Brewing The American Dream got me through the first five years. It's the old, give a girl a fish - she'll eat for a day, teach a girl to fish - she'll eat for the rest of her life. Through this program, we have had 3 loans, that have helped us to pull off some smaller projects to grow and build our business credit. I have also received countless hours of assistance from folks at the Boston Beer company. I always thought this was cool, my dad was one of the first dads to drink Sam Adams when they got started and I guess I believe in karma like that.
In 2016, I competed in Brewing The American Dream's Boston pitch room competition for the chance to win a $10,000 grant and in depth coaching from the team at Sam Adams. I went in and I failed, I think i held my own - but I lost. I took it hard. I don't pitch, I make cookies. There are businesses that present all the time, we aren't one of them. But, I took it hard. Really hard. Risa, who ran Brewing the American Dream knew I took it hard and she encouraged me to apply again when there was another opportunity. At the time, I didn't think I would
This year has been rough, we are growing, we are busy, but facing up to how sustainable my life is running around with a tent has been hard to swallow. This year we swung and missed at two possible storefronts and looking at the landscape in the city I love so much, it's not looking any easier. We aren't failing, but we aren't thriving either. We are a small business that is lucky enough to survive five years. It's been a stressful year this year.
So, when the pitch room application found it's way into my inbox earlier this fall, I figured what the hell. I'm due for something good. Risa has since left her position, but she was replaced by Jennifer. So, I figured I should apply, and I was selected to pitch. In the week leading up to the pitch room, I had planned to really practice my pitch and then I got a call that my mom had a stroke in NH and she was headed to Mass General in an ambulance. Pitch practice quickly moved to the bottom of my to do list. I was spending hours a day with my mom at MGH. Before I knew it, it was the day of the pitch. I didn't practice much, I kind of prepped while I was waiting.
I walked in and gave it my best shot,I stumbled at first - but I just kept going. I watched the only other pitch after mine and headed over to the speedcoaching event across the street and grabbed a beer. I promised myself win or lose, this was my last competition. I don't like when I am comparing myself to other businesses of my size. Honestly, we all work really hard and need to sacrifice so much and more often than not - most people don't get into the food business to make a big pile of money. They go into it to follow a dream, scratch an itch, or whatever you want to call it.
The opening remarks of the event happened and because of a few things I saw, I was convinced of who the winner was and I was sure it wasn't me. When Jennifer was given back the mic to announce the winner, I put my beer down to get ready to applaud the winner. Jennifer mentioned that she had known the business for a long time and all the sudden I realized it was me!
This win was a good reminder of all the times that things didn't go right and I just refined our plans. The last five years have been a series of refined plans. In face the day after we won, Risa reminded me that entrepreneuring means " getting up day after day with a relentless commitment to your vision."
I want to thanks the folks at the Brewing The American Dream program for giving me this opportunity and the grant will go to good use (wait till you see some of our new packaging!) and mostly for reminding me of the resources I have around me that have helped me grow my little cookie company.