There’s no way to transmit the smell of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies into cyberspace via laptops and desk computers (yet). Your online cookie business will have to rely on stimulating browsers' other senses to spur sales. That stated, a great cookie recipe, in the hands of a great entrepreneur, is an unbeatable combination -- so start your oven and prepare to grab your share of the dough.
Check out the competition. Explore the types of cookies, packaging, pricing and other deals available to the cookie fan and gift seeker surfing the net. Figure out what’s missing from everyone else’s business model. Author a “Unique Selling Proposition,” a statement that describes how your brand of cookies differs from all others.
Establish the nuts and bolts of an online bakery business. Write a business plan. Incorporate your enterprise, if you wish. Open a bank account. Purchase liability insurance. Obtain licenses and permits required by your state government for food-based businesses. Affiliate with credit card companies and Pay Pal to give future customers payment options. Load accounting software into your computer to help you track sales, shipments and record other transactions.
Hire a professional designer to create your cookie website. Ask her to peruse the websites you liked and disliked while conducting your competitor research, so you don’t send her off on a design mission that will disappoint you aesthetically, and cost extra bucks for site revisions. Give your designer plenty of delicious-looking, low resolution (72 dpi), four-color cookie images with which to work.
Stay apprised of your designer’s progress as she develops the site, to make formatting changes on the fly as you work through the wire-frame phase of the project, format landing and drop-down pages. Cover all bases. Give browsers multiple ways to get information on the types of cookies you sell, as well as specials and shipping options. Write website copy that’s so yummy, browsers will salivate -- and salt the website with keywords for search engine pickup.
Set up your cookie company’s production, packaging and shipping operations while the site is being built. Conduct test cookie runs. Ask friends in other cities to order cookies. Process orders, using your baking, picking, packing and shipping protocols. Ship the cookies via several services to see which performs best (e.g., UPS, FedEx, USPS). See how long packages take to arrive. Ascertain the condition of the cookies upon reaching their destinations. Make adjustments before the site goes live.
Decide between maintaining your cookie business website on your own and hiring a webmaster. A website that’s constantly re-energized with new product descriptions, cookie photos, promotions and other updates will attract shoppers and pave the way for a universe of loyal followers. Once you have them, feed frequent nibblers incentives to keep them happy and encourage referrals. Do it right and you’ll earn a nice living and the title, “One Smart Cookie.”
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.