Summer 2016 Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Slender Seven – Week 8

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 8:06 pm

I’m so extremely grateful to have had the chance to work with Nikki and Slender Seven. I never thought that I’d be able to eat cookie dough and call it part of the job! While there were definitely some pain points in relation to distribution and inventory, each hurdle was a learning experience that helped me grow as a person and will hopefully help Nikki grow her company with her next interns. I’ve loved working with someone who genuinely cares about others’ opinions and frequently asks for suggestions. I didn’t feel like just an intern at Slender Seven, I felt like part of a team. While I’m going to miss my team, I’m enormously excited to use my experience from this summer to achieve new goals and discover new opportunities.

I came into this internship knowing little to nothing about what it takes to run a business, particularly a start-up. So, needless to say, I learned a lot. First of all, I wasn’t even aware that places like Union Kitchen existed, which is pretty cool. It’s been interesting see the relationships between the different businesses in the kitchen. I’ve loved watching these different people with similar goals collaborate and give each other advice and support. One of the most important things that I’ve learned from this opportunity is that running a successful business requires an astounding amount of initiative. Having a great product is a start, but to make a great business you need much more than that. You need to be confident enough in yourself and in your product that you can contact anyone and everyone in search of support, whether that be in terms of funding or guidance. We have resources all around us, but one needs to make the effort to tap into them.

I’ve also learned that not every day is going to feel like a step forward. Some days are all about making phone call after phone call, email after email. On the other hand, some days are about receiving positive responses, making breakthroughs, and even just selling out of dough during your demo. When you genuinely love your product, you’ll take the extra steps to get ahead. You’ll create as many connections as you can and absorb as much information as others can give you. Then, eventually, your business will be as successful as you know it can be.

Slender Seven – Week 7 (Posted a little late)

Thursday, August 4, 2016 12:17 am

I can’t believe that I’m already almost to my last week here at Slender Seven. I feel like the past weeks, filled with new experiences and lessons, have flown by. While some of the work, such as the demos, can seem a little repetitive, I look back on each day and realize something new I’ve learned. For example, I’ve learned which stores are more receptive to our samplings and at what time of day people are more likely to buy the product. Through trial and error I’ve also figured out which facts about our cookie dough are more likely to make consumers take time out of their shopping trip to stop and listen. In most stores I can even tell shoppers where the bathroom is, or in which area they can find a shopping cart. Having to demo almost every had has seriously improved my social skills and tested my ability to react properly to all types of people.

Though I’m going to miss Slender Seven next week when I have to leave, I’m extremely happy with how the past (almost) two months have turned out. I’ve made some great friends, created amazing connections and eaten delicious food. On top of everything, I’ve learned more about the workings of a start-up business than I ever expected was possible. Thanks to Nikki, I’ve had genuine hands-on experience in the entrepreneurial world that I will be able to keep with me and use in future endeavors.

Slender Seven – Week 6

Sunday, July 24, 2016 8:49 pm

The biggest challenge facing Slender Seven right now is our size. We lack capital, especially compared to our competitors. In terms of other cookie doughs, we are competing against brands such as Immaculate, Eat Pastry and Cookie Dough Café, all of which are larger and more commonly known. Cookie Dough Café especially has a leg up on us as their product was on Shark Tank, earning them a lot of exposure. However, other edible cookie dough products are not our only competition. Given that we advertise our dough to be a healthy snack that can be eaten at any time of the day – and eaten on the go in our grab-n-go 3 oz. containers – we are up against companies with similar products. For example, we compete against Justin’s and their squeezable single-serving nut butters, Chobani yogurt cups, KIND bars and CLIFF bars.

Though this seems like stiff competition, and it is, our product is unique to the market. It isn’t just another edible cookie dough, nor is it just another sugar-filled product that claims to be “healthy” for you. Slender Seven’s cookie dough combines great taste with equally great health benefits. Nearly everyone can eat our product given that it is vegan friendly, gluten free, dairy free, peanut free and soy free. Furthermore, because the product is bean-based as compared to flour-based, it is especially high in protein, fiber and antioxidants. And, despite the fact that it is 100% safe to eat raw, it still bakes into delicious and gooey soft-baked cookies for those customers who would rather eat their cookie dough cooked. Though our company lacks capital, our product is one that is versatile and one of a kind in the market right now. Therefore, we as interns are spending the majority of our time doing marketing, trying to create a buzz around our product while Nikki seeks out investors. We want to inform the general public that a product such as ours, one that is natural and healthy, but satisfies cravings, does exist. Then, the next step once we have enough capital is to make our product readily available to more people in more places!

Slender Seven – Week 5

Sunday, July 17, 2016 9:15 pm

Though I’ve spoken a fair amount about Nikki and the other interns and I working as a team, Nikki does run the company alone. We are able to provide her a lot of help doing day to day work, such as the demos and giving our opinions on different aspects of the product and the manner in which it is being sold. However, when it comes to actually sitting down and making the big decisions, Nikki is solely in charge. As the company continues to grow, more and more responsibilities are popping up. Nikki only recently hired someone to make the cookie dough – though she still makes it herself when necessary. She can’t be in two places at once, which has become a slight problem given the amount of tasks she is juggling. For this reason, we are in the process of starting a board of advisors and hiring more people to join the Slender Seven team! We already have a few members on our board, one of whom is a former executive of Hershey and another who is a former executive of Kraft. Both are sure to provide a lot of experience and knowledge and we’re thrilled to be working with them!

This week we did the usual demos and made a lot of progress with our packaging. On top of choosing designs, slogans and colors to go on the label, we need to find the plastic jars that we want to package our cookie dough in. However, because we’re going to be using High Pressure Processing in the future, we’ve had to do research into which types of plastic can withstand this type of processing. We did a lot of internet searching, made a few calls and hopefully should have some samples of PET plastic jars in the office by tomorrow. We also had another recipe day this week (my favorite)! We couldn’t get the food processor to work, which resulted in some very chunky white bean-based banana muffins. However, we did successfully make the recipe for a yummy blueberry-peach crisp which we just posted on the Slender Seven blog today!

Slender Seven – Week 4

Sunday, July 10, 2016 11:37 pm

It’s hard to believe that I’ve already hit the halfway point of my internship with Slender Seven. On one hand it seems like I got my first tour of Union Kitchen just yesterday, but on the other I feel very at home in my work routine. It doesn’t seem like a complete day if I haven’t either called the Whole Foods dairy buyer to place an order or gone in store to sample our cookie doughs. I can’t imagine what I’m going to do when my last four weeks is up. I’m going to miss the metro ride to work and walking from the station with the other interns. I’m going to miss the group text we have with updates of how our tasks are going. I’m especially going to miss sitting around the table with our team, eating cookie dough for inspiration while doing market research and thinking up potential slogans.

Time is passing so fast and every week that goes by brings us closer to the relaunch on September 1st. Our main goal is simply to have our product the best it can be by that time. However, that is a lot easier said than done. While I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the demos and in-store work that we do, there is also a lot of in-office work that is crucial to the product and company’s success. For example, we do a lot of research into our competition in order to see the ways in which they advertise their products in hopes of learning from them. This entails the words they use on their websites, the catch phrases on their labels that make them memorable, the colors and fonts they use, etc. With this information we turn to our own product and the task of repackaging. Most days we have a Pantone color book on the table and the deck of possible new designs up on our laptop screens. We are constantly sending the branding agency new ideas of how we think the packaging should look and what it should say. On top of this, we strive to make as many connections as possible. The more people that we can gain advice and support from, the stronger our product will be. We often go on Linked-In to find influential people in the health food industry and get their contact information. For example, we just recently got in touch with Marcus Guerrero, Beyoncé’s trainer and health food enthusiast! Through making these connections we hope to not only gain knowledge and experience, but also to find future investors that truly believe in Nikki and in Slender Seven as a whole.

While we are nervous for September 1st to come, we are also extremely excited. I am already proud of the work that we as a team have been doing, but I know that I will be immensely proud once I can hold a tub of the newly branded and packaged cookie dough in my hands and see the results. It is hard to believe that I am making choices and giving input that will actually be seen by shoppers, that will actually affect how the product sells. Something I suggest could be the slogan that makes people pick up the product. A color that I choose could be what catches someone’s eye as they push their cart through the aisles. I have a creative outlet and a way of reaching people in a way that I’ve never experienced before!

Slender Seven – Week 3

Tuesday, July 5, 2016 12:15 am

This week at Slender Seven, the interns got a real taste of what it takes to be in charge of a start-up company. Nikki was gone for the majority of the week at the Fancy Foods Show in New York, leaving myself and two other girls with a task list of what needed to get done. Most importantly, we needed to demo. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that in-store samplings are great marketing opportunities. When Nikki first told me that our product was one that required education, I wasn’t exactly sure what she’d meant. I am someone that will throw any interesting item in the cart just because I’m curious to try it out. Therefore, I didn’t really consider the fact that most consumers probably aren’t very likely to spend $9.99 on a tub of chickpea cookie dough without having some prior knowledge of what the product is all about. For this reason demos are extremely beneficial for Slender Seven. However, they take up a lot of time.

We had more than one day this week spent travelling to Whole Foods for a previously scheduled demo only to find out that our distributor did not ship the order to the store. So, unfortunately for us, no order means no product in store which means nothing to sell. We had to call each individual store to ask if they’d received their latest order, if they had any product in store, and if they were going to place an order in the distant future. Then, once we knew which stores had enough product – which was not a quick process – we were able to schedule our samplings. It was frustrating to have to postpone our previously planned demos due to the mix-up with the deliveries, especially when some of the people we spoke to on the phone weren’t always the friendliest or most helpful. However, I think it was good for us to get first-hand experience that not everything goes smoothly. Sometimes, like this week, you need to accept what’s been done and work together to figure what the best next step you can take is.

On Saturday I was able to do a demo at a brand new Whole Foods in Pentagon City. It was a long day filled with a few tubs of sample cookie dough, an abundance of little plastic spoons, and a lot of talk about the health benefits of chickpeas and black beans. I was tired and hungry by the time the afternoon rolled around (being surrounded by food for a few hours will do that to you), but even more so I was proud knowing that with my help, the product had sold out. It was a satisfying end to a bit of a hectic week and its left me excited for the week to come!

Slender Seven – Week Two

Monday, June 27, 2016 5:48 pm

This week at Slender Seven, a lot of time was spent looking at our product as a consumer would. From doing demos, I’ve learned that without education, our product can be a little bit tough to sell. Even with our in-store help and explanation of the benefits of the cookie dough, some customers are still hesitant to even take a sample. So, as we began looking at the potential new packaging, we had to focus in on exactly which unique aspects of the product need to be more clearly advertised on the containers. Taking our competitive analyses from the previous week, we looked for what we, as consumers, would want to hear. What makes Slender Seven different? As someone who has a gluten intolerance, I know that if a product doesn’t outright advertise that it is “Gluten Free”, I generally don’t buy it. The same idea also goes for vegan and peanut free. These are key selling points that people look for that we concluded should be played up on the packaging. Also, though Nikki intentionally created her recipe to be egg-free, some consumers still have trouble understanding that our doughs are meant to be eaten raw. Therefore, we took into account that “Eat it raw!” also needs to be prominent on our packaging.

We also took a lot of time this week to ask ourselves what makes us different from an investor’s perspective. Hours were spent doing research on our competitors. Along with the other interns, I made charts to compare various aspects of our cookie dough to the rival products on the market. How many calories per serving? Fat? Carbs? Sugar? You would be surprised how much sugar there is in a serving of Cookie Dough Café’s edible cookie dough or even in a KIND bar. Next, I made a list of each competitor’s yearly revenue and made strength and weakness columns to assess their products as compared to our own. While these things are beneficial for us to know for marketing purposes, the statistics will also be put to good use in our pitch deck and thus help us attract investors.

With the relaunch approaching, we are working hard to ensure that everything about our product is the best it can be. We are looking into High Pressure Processing so that the product lasts longer on the shelves. We call the stores on a daily basis to ensure that they are consistently reordering. We are working to make the packaging different, eye-catching and educational. We need to attract investors in order to raise more capital and expand the company into more stores in more regions. There is a lot to be done, but every step we take in the right direction brings the whole team a sense of pride and gratification.

Slender Seven – Week One

Sunday, June 19, 2016 9:53 pm

Slender Seven is a company that sells healthy, egg-less cookie dough. However, this cookie dough is unique in the fact that it is actually bean based! There are two flavors, one of which has a chickpea base (Choco-Chick) and the other that has a black bean base (Choco-Fudge). Add in some Himalayan salt, almond butter, just a little bit of sugar and a handful of the fair trade semi-sweet chocolate chips and the doughs are completely gluten free, dairy free, soy free and vegan friendly.

I started my time with Nikki – a Wake Forest alum and the CEO of Slender Seven – a little later than the other interns, so my first week was spent catching up. I’ve learned that the product is carried in about eleven Whole Foods in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. I’ve been caught up to speed on the necessity to determine which stores are ordering our product in order to ensure that the product makes it in customer’s carts on time. Furthermore, once we contact the stores and know which ones have restocked, it is important that we schedule demos there. Sampling the product is the best possible way to market right now, which is why many of our days involve a trip to a Whole Foods where we must pitch the cookie dough to shoppers.

Other than completing two demos, I was also lucky enough to come just in time for a recipe testing day! Though Slender Seven’s main product is the cookie dough, Nikki herself is a very health-conscious person and supports a healthy lifestyle. On the Slender Seven website there is a blog with delicious 7-ingredient or less recipes that make healthy eating fun and simple. So, one day our task was to take recipes that we’d discovered and tweaked, jump into the kitchen and get cooking! We not only made and tasted multiple recipes, but photographed what we’d made in preparation for a future blog post. It was a fun day in which we were all able to really see the role that creativity plays in the company.

Throughout the rest of my time with the Slender Seven team, I will be continuing with the projects I have discussed above. I will be getting to put my toe in the waters of marketing, talking to potential customers and personally explaining why the product is a worthwhile investment. I will be working on the social media aspect of the company, coming up with recipes and creating unique blog and Instagram posts that are both eye catching and mouthwatering. Possibly most importantly, I will be working with Nikki as we rebrand the product and search for new investors. It will not only be renamed, but also repackaged completely. Once those major steps have been made, hopefully, with the interns’ help, the cookie doughs will be picked up by new distributors in new areas. It is an exciting time for the company and I am happy to be a part of it!

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