July’s Cookie of the Month is one of my favorites, it’s our Boston Lager Chocolate Chip.
We take our brown butter dough, we give it a beer and dress it up with some milk chocolate chips and a dash of cinnamon! The milk chocolate and the cinnamon really pair nicely with Sam Adam’s flagship beer. It tastes delicious, but it mostly I like it because it gives me the opportunity to tell people about my friends at Sam Adams.
Before I was a business owner, I was interested in Sam Adams, and I’m not even a big beer drinker. I love any Boston based companies, I loved that they were a bigger national brand and they kept their hometown roots. But, when I learned more about them, I was blown away.
If you have been following us for a while, you might know that Top Shelf Cookies was born out of the crazy game day superstition. Yeah, I made the Black and Gold cookie every game that season, hoping in some little way I would get the duckboat parade to complete the set of the previous ten years. The Bruins are my team, I love hockey for so many reasons and to have watched my dad’s team (Patriots) and my grandma’s team (Sox) and the Celtics win championships….I just really wanted to be the one that everyone thought of when the Bruins got that big silver cup. The cookies grew in popularity and as the season went on, I became less and less thrilled living the cubicle life.
At this point, I had started to make my dreams known to a few people. I wanted to start a cookie business, we'd even come up with the name. But, I was scared. I didn't have a lot of money. I didn't know if my friends would be the only ones eating cookies. I didn't know if I could do it. Who would help me?
At one point during the playoffs, I mentioned to a Fours regular Jen that I might want to get this going as a business. Jen was a person that I talked hockey with and drank with before games, I knew she worked at Sam Adams, that’s it. Work wasn’t a conversation topic for pregame. Jen told me “Do it, we’ll help you”
What the hell was Sam Adams going to do for me? I was just a girl that thought her cookies were lucky. I should really just stop thinking about cookies and figure out a way to be satisfied doing my job and live my damn life already.
And, for awhile …. I did. I was living in the glow of the Bruins winning that big, shiny, beautiful cup. I was working a lot of overtime and paying down my debt. Every once in awhile I could hear Jen’s voice “Do it, we’ll help you” She told me about Brewing The American Dream, which is a program that Sam Adams runs to help small food and beverage businesses get lending and business support.
One game, the following season I brought my father to a game and took him to the Fours for a quality pregame and introduced him to Jen. Before I knew it, they had me cornered. These were two people that knew about my dream of Top Shelf Cookies. I remember they weren’t talking to me, they were talking to each other. Both of them commiserating that they wanted to help me to follow my dream, but when the hell was I going to do it.
That was the push I needed.
The night before we launched in 2014, I ran into Jen at the Fours (it was the offseason, so it was weird) I told her that I had applied to CommonWealth Kitchen and that my health inspection was the next day. She gave me a giant hug and told me she was so proud of me. Keep in mind, this is a person that knows me strictly from a couple hours before Bruins games and a couple hours after.
Three weeks after we launched, I got a call to make 200 pumpkin beer cookies for Sam Adams. The event was in two days. I hadn’t quite learned to make 200 cookies at once and I didn’t have a recipe. I kept that all in my head and said yes. They told me I was welcome to stay with my cookies at the table for the event and tell people about my business.
The next day I went into the kitchen with a recipe I had put together the night before and scaled it up for 200. At the same time, a grocery store buyer that was visiting the kitchen had tried some of my cookies and wanted to talk about getting into their stores. I remember that I was very short with him, I was scared to death of screwing this opportunity up.
The next night I went to Sam Adams Brewery and everyone on staff was so kind and helpful. Jen stopped by to say hi, and try the cookies (she loved them) and we talked a little hockey. Then I spent the rest of the night handing out cookies and telling people about Top Shelf Cookies.
I kept making cookies for the people at Sam Adams and every time I would come with my cookies they would ask how business was and be genuinely interested and excited to see Top Shelf Cookies grow.
I applied for my first loan with Accion and BTAD about a year later, I was afraid to take a loan out till I really knew there was an audience for my cookies. With that loan, we were able to do our first pop up at Boston Public Market, which helped me to identify a few things that really helped us to grow. The loan is great, but the help that I get from Sam Adams has been amazing. The woman that runs Brewing the American Dream, is possibly the nicest person on planet earth. Risa has been such a great help to me in so many ways. I have been able to take my books to be reviewed by financial analysts that work for Sam Adams, I’ve been able to sit with their social media director to help get some guidance on how to strategize our social media. I’ve been able to compete in their pitch competition to try to win a grant for our business. I hate pitching, I’m a baker. So, last week when I had to do a presentation, Risa volunteered to let me practice and I’ve gotten a lot better.
They do this because of how they started. It’s pretty amazing. I was able to meet Jim Koch at an event, he remembered that I had made cookies for his Christmas party and lamented with me on how hard it is to get started. It’s throughout the entire company, the commitment to Brewing the American Dream. Since they take almost no credit for this amazing work they do, I always feel the need to tell people. I don’t think that Top Shelf Cookies would be where it is without the amazing assistance and support from our friends at Sam Adams.
More exciting news, starting in July Boston Lager Chocolate Chip will be a year-round flavor and you can subscribe to get it sent to you (or someone else) monthly!