Hudson native Jimmy Feeman and his wife, Megan, founded their growing food business by giving people what they wanted, even if they didn’t know it: safe-to-eat unbaked cookie dough. No more worrying about salmonella from those raw eggs – NoBaked Cookie Dough is harmless, and delicious.
Their innovation earned them a place on the prestigious 2023 Forbes Under 30 list, in the Food & Drink category.
Said Forbes: “NoBaked Cookie Dough was founded on a simple premise: Give cookie dough lovers the opportunity to eat some without getting sick.”
The Nashville-based husband-and-wife duo currently have two franchises in Nashville and are in 250 retail shops, including Heinen’s, DoorDash’s DashMart and Bristol Farms. They are currently in talks with Kroger and Publix to expand their reach.
It was an idea born of an age-old problem: Not liking your job.
“It was early 2017 and I had just graduated from Belmont here in Nashville,” says Megan of the college where the couple met. “I was working full time in the music industry and I hated it. I was like, I have no control over what I’m working on, over how I’m spending my time, over how much money I’m making, just nothing at all. I couldn’t stand it. I come from the family of small business owners, so I think I was kind of craving that same thing.
At the same time, Jimmy, who has a degree in finance and was working for the State of Tennessee, was feeling similarly frustrated.
“We were in the same boat, thinking about other things to do. And I had been making my chocolate chip cookie dough recipe for years at that point, just because cookie dough has always been my favorite dessert and my favorite thing to snack on.
“I realized at that point there wasn’t edible cookie dough that you could buy at the grocery store. So I would just make it myself, and around the same time, I began making it for other people. Based off of their reactions, I thought maybe this is something that other people like to eat, too.”
She began researching whether anyone had the same idea.
“I started looking in to see if there were other companies doing it. And at that point there were like two in the whole United States. There was nobody in the Southern United States or the Midwest doing it.”
So, she began to market her nascent product, selling it on Instagram and sharing with Nashville influencers. One Sunday, she launched a website – and took ten orders immediately.
“I quit my job the next day,” she notes with a laugh. “I spent time trying to figure out how to deliver the cookie dough to people. Soon after that, I started getting invited to go to pop up events and festivals.”
Business grew quickly, and Jimmy soon quit his job, too. They used their personal credit cards to build out a rented storefront and manufacturing space, and began franchising. By the end of 2019, they had nine shops – half franchised. They had signed leases for two more by 2020.
Then came COVID-19.
“That shifted our whole entire business model,” says Megan.
With stores closed and customers staying home, they began think “maybe there’s a better way to sell this cookie dough than the storefront.”
They built up their online store, and began to target influencers again.
“We said, you know, if you don’t mind, we’re trying to keep our whole team employed and we’re testing our model for the time being, can you promote that?”
The Feemans also refocused on their packaging and labels. Soon, nationwide orders began to arrive, faster and faster.
“Once digital ads declined after COVID, we began the journey of getting into retailers,” says Jimmy. “We had figured out manufacturing and our package and everything like that, so making that transition into retail was a natural step.”
Today, NoBaked Cookie Dough is in more than 200 stores, and is rapidly increasing that number. As with everything else they have done, they take a grass roots approach to expansion, personally reaching out to retailers.
“We’re both very persistent, stubborn people, but we’re also willing to change, as seen in the many pivots that our company has had,” says Jimmy of their recipe for success, and growth.
Regional sellers include his childhood grocery store, Heinen’s.
“It was a really cool moment being able to see our product in my hometown store,” says Jimmy.
Growing up in Akron and Hudson, and coming of age during the Great Recession, taught Jimmy resiliency to survive in business.
“I watched a lot of people work really, really hard, including my parents. It showed me that, no matter how bad it gets, like you can work your way out of a bad situation. That was a formative experience. When we moved from Akron to Hudson, when I was 12, that was really cool because I think it also exposed me to a completely different side of things.
“In high school I was able to see a lot of people whose parents were entrepreneurs or small business owners. One of the coolest experiences I had while I was at Hudson was we had a teacher that would bring in entrepreneurs and they would come talk to our business class. That definitely stuck with me.”
The Feemans plan to attend the Summit in Jimmy’s hometown in October, but they’re not waiting to take advantage of the opportunities the Forbes honor affords them. Gone are the days of taking on personal debt to expand. They now have a 5,000-square-foot manufacturing space and are in the process of raising $3 million to support their grocery roll out and marketing, and accelerate the growth and expansion of their factory.
The Forbes nod is helping.
“Being on the list has been a really amazing networking tool,” says Megan. “We get to talk to other people in the industry, and being able to compare what it’s like for them and what it’s like for us is extremely valuable for us, especially being new to the food industry.
“Being on the list really builds credibility for your company. We are about to raise money, for the big retail launches that we have this year, and also for our manufacturing line. Being able to go to investors and say, ‘we’re on the Forbes 30 Under 30’ list really does build credibility and make people feel a more comfortable and investing in the company. It’s a great tool for networking and for building the reputation of your company.”
Forbes Under 30: Meet the 25 entrepreneurs and leaders with Ohio connections who made the list – Greater Cleveland Partnership
Forbes Under 30 Summit coming to Ohio for 3 years — Greater Cleveland Partnership
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