After decades of baking, both professionally and in her personal life, Stephanie Sellers founded Cookies & Dreams in 2020 with the desire to make really, really, really good cookies. Female-owned and run, Cookies & Dreams’ mission is to empower other women to follow their dreams, never give up, and show up for one another.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
I started baking when I was a child with my long-time babysitter, Mimi. She taught me all the baking basics and definitely sparked my love for baking. After college, I started my own baking business by offering wedding cakes, cupcakes, birthday cakes and a full line of desserts to the local community. Flash forward a decade and I started a restaurant/bar/bakery with my husband, and then in 2020 we started Cookies & Dreams.
Right now Cookies & Dreams has three brick and mortar locations in Iowa, and has plans to open a fourth in the Fall/Winter. We also have three forthcoming locations in Illinois. Needless to say, we are busy! We also ship our cookies nationwide.
We are constantly looking for ways to elevate and expand our business, whether it’s with a new flavor, a cookie subscription box, or a charitable initiative. So far this summer we’ve created new cookie flavors to support various charities and initiatives including Girls on the Run, Pride Month, The Trevor Project, and Birdies for Charity (PGA Tournament and John Deere Classic). In August we are creating a speciality cookie for United Way and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to their organization.
Q: What motivated you to get started with Cookies & Dreams?
Cookies & Dreams was founded out of necessity to save the restaurant I co-own with my husband, Bill Sheeder. After a series of bad luck and unfortunate events, including one of the worst floods our small town had seen, we worried the restaurant wouldn’t survive another Midwest winter. And then came the pandemic. With the threat of losing everything we worked so hard for, we looked at our top sellers at the restaurant and realized that our homemade cookies were the most popular items on the menu. This gave us the idea to launch an entire line up of decadent, gourmet, unique cookies.
Q: How have you attracted clients and grown your bakery?
Constantly creating content and telling our brand story on Instagram. You can never be passive when it comes to creating content. Sometimes you have to think outside the box to come up with new ideas for guerilla marketing or partnerships that may not make sense initially on the surface but ultimately help spread the word about your brand. I strive to share photos and videos that authentically speak to who we are as a company and show the passion behind every single cookie we bake. We highlight our creative recipes, store promotions, campaigns, news features, local partnerships + more. We have also tapped into influencer marketing, because we know nothing moves the needle quite like an individual with high social media clout!
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced so far?
We have been so fortunate to receive such support since we first opened our doors and can’t believe that Cookies & Dreams has taken off the way that it has. With that said, our biggest challenge has been keeping up with an ever changing, growing, and expanding business. From creating systems and processes from scratch, to adapting to increased demand, production challenges and promotions - nothing ever stays the same for long so we always have to stay on our toes to adapt as we grow and expand the business.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
My advice is to not wait until the stars align to launch your idea - just start! Don’t let the idea that everything needs to be perfect stop you from launching your dream. Challenges and roadblocks are inevitable, but taking the leap is sometimes the hardest part.