Lindsay Larner doesn’t even like cooking.
She hates making herself dinner — but she appreciates baking.
When she worked full-time at as a marketing manager at a Washington D.C.-based startup, it became her creative outlet… and also an experiment.
An animated TED Talk about cookie chemistry sparked her fascination, which made her want to create her own chocolate chip cookie recipe.
“I’m sure if I’d baked my whole life, I would have known what to do, but I started looking at (cookie) recipes, and I saw that, at their core, they’re similar,” she says. “You see enough and see the proportions, and go from there.”
She’d make one variety of cookie one day and tweak it the next.
Then a snowstorm hit D.C. last January. Let’s just say she had a lot of time on her hands, so she started tweaking her recipes — a lot.
Soon, she developed a recipe for raw cookie dough that could be safely eaten.
Three months later, Larner quit her job and began making edible cookie dough full time as the founder and CEO of The Cookie Jar DC.
Now, Larner churns out an average of 3,000 jars of edible cookie dough a month.
Larner stocks six signature flavors: chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip, sugar cookie funfetti, double chocolate M&M, oatmeal raisin and snickerdoodle.
The treat is now sold in pop-up and retail stores, local markets and apartment complexes. She’s also partnered with UberEATS, PostMates and a few other on-demand delivery services to deliver the treat to D.C. doorsteps.
She also ships nationally through her website.
Talk about sweet success.
How She Makes Cookie Dough That’s Safe to Eat
Remember when Momma scolded you for eating raw cookie dough? The raw eggs — they’ll make you awfully sick, she said.
Larner’s mom did the same.
So, initially, Larner developed an eggless edible cookie dough recipe and began to sell it.
However, the FDA said this past July it’s not the eggs that are the problem anymore; it’s the uncooked flour. So now she uses heat-treated flour.
In addition, the indulgence has no preservatives and is all natural (minus some of the toppings — *cough* rainbow sprinkles).
The Cookie Jar DC is on the Rise
Larner began selling jars of her sugary goodies in apartment buildings across D.C. and targeted after-work stragglers who just wanted something sweet to sooth a long, stressful day.
“And they were buying it,” she says.
There were two moments when Larner realized she had tickled a consumer niche.
First, she made $200-$300 in one night selling her jars at an apartment complex.
“I thought then, ‘I can do this,’” she says.
The second moment came at a dinner party. Tucked away in her purse, her phone kept dinging. It was the sweet sound of order requests. Four. Five. Six… One of her recent Instagram posts had gone viral.
So the 29-year-old quit her full-time job.
“I really wasn’t scared or nervous,” she says. “I just took a leap. I didn’t even make a business plan, which is so unlike me.”
Larner joined a commercial kitchen to meet health codes, which would allow her to sell in retail stores. It wasn’t a small fee; Larner compares it to another rent payment.
“Unless you’re made of money, you don’t join a kitchen like this,” Larner explains. “You have to start generating revenue. And that’s what I did.”
Less than two weeks later, her unbaked goods landed in a retail store for the first time. Everything else fell into place. After three months, she was profitable.
“That’s rare,” Larner admits.
She’s spent nearly a year in the kitchen, so Larner’s next big move is to step out and focus on the business development side of the operation — which pairs perfectly with her MBA.
And thanks to her production assistant, who she hired on full time in December, it’ll actually be possible.
She says her fiancé is an incredible support system and partner, and she also gives a shoutout to her two friends — whom she pays — to help with packaging and delivery.
Sweet Advice From This Fledgling Small Business Owner
Larner doesn’t hesitate to admit that she’s totally a Type-A person. She’s always made lists, organized schedules and analyzed.
“With this [business], I didn’t do any of that,” she says. “I didn’t mean to, but I threw it all to the wind and jumped and hoped that everything would work out.”
She does suggest you have an inkling what you’re doing will be successful, but Larner says if you’re the type to constantly plan, you might never start.
She also notes attributes that have helped her success: two graduate degrees (including an MBA) and more than six years of marketing experience.
But it’s not as simple as throwing caution to the wind and making edible cookie dough.
“Things always take longer than you think,” she says. “When I quit my job, I thought I’d have all this extra time, but no matter how much time you have, you’re going to want more.
“My life is not balanced at all,” she admits.
But she’s OK with that — for now.
Still, she soaks in every sweet moment of her success. Sometimes, she just sits back and thinks: “Oh my gosh, I’m making cookie dough for a living.”
“I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” she says.
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.