Scaling Up

Looking Back At Our First 18 Months

In just over 18 months, The Cookie Project has grown to become a certified and award-winning social enterprise that is sustainably employing Kiwis with disabilities to make delicious cookies.
Looking Back At Our First 18 Months

Co-founders Graeme and Eric have invested all their aroha and relentless positivity into The Cookie Project. Together with all our brand partners, we have created something uniquely Kiwi and validated a sustainable business and impact model.

We believe that such a high impact and high potential social enterprise should be shared more widely to help more Kiwis with disabilities and potentially the rest of the world.

We Have What It Takes To Scale Up Successfully

We’re now scoping out the options of scaling up nationally by establishing our own kitchen. Before that, we’ve been researching and speaking to many successful entrepreneurs to help us identify our top success factors internally and externally:

Top 3 Internal Success Factors

  • World-class leadership and bakers
  • Optimal productivity and workflow
  • Smart systems and customer insights

Top 3 External Success Factors

  • Simple, healthy and delicious cookies
  • Critical, measurable and sustainable impact
  • Customer and distribution

Internal Success Factor #1
World-class leadership and bakers

  • Leading The Cookie Project as the Chief of Everything is Eric Chuah, an ex-banker of 15 years with international career spanning across 9 different countries. He’s is a preacher for diversity, inclusion, belonging, sustainability and all things social enterprise.

  • Leading all things related to cookies and production as our Chief of Cookies is Graeme Haddon, a home baker since the age of six and a single parent for four adopted Maori children, three of which have a cocktail of disabilities. He’s the source of inspiration for all of us for being the most kind-hearted Kiwi.

  • Heading up the kitchen operations and managing our group of bakers, Cookie Captains and volunteers is Donna McCaskill, a highly passionate people-centric leader who governs a few NZ and international blind sports organisation. Donna brings a unique blend of operational excellence and business acumen to support both Graeme and Eric.

  • Keeping us in tune with our financials and managing key client relationships is Alex Nguyen, who volunteered with us consistently for over 2 months before joining us as Cookie Account Manager.

  • Supporting us on a volunteer basis are Andrew Siew, Senior Manager from KPMG; and Serena Low, Senior Manager from OnePlusOne Communication. Andrew supports in general initiatives as our Little Cookie Helper whilst Serena generates our media and PR as our Cookie Supergirl.

  • Our core group of bakers are made up of eight self-driven Cookie Captains who are trained over a structured development programme. They are a truly diverse team of talent who continue to smash the boundaries of what Kiwis with disabilities are capable to achieve when you give them a chance and believe in them.

  • We are very fortunate to have a group of highly respected leaders forming Advisory Board:

    • Rob Campbell – Seasoned business leader and Chairman of Skycity plus several other publicly listed companies. Honoured with CNZM this year.

    • Lisa King – Founder and Chairperson for Eat My Lunch who donated the kitchen in our early days and our current production partner. Lisa brings a wealth of experience in starting and scaling up one of the most recognisable and loveable social enterprise that helps to feed hungry Kiwi kids.

    • Steven Yin – Owner operator of New World Metro on Queen St who introduced us to the rest of New World stores. Steven brings the retail experience which is critical for us to scale up our impact.

    • Mike Potter – CEO of Disability Connect and Senior Lecturer at AUT for for 15 years in marketing and advertising. Mike is an advocate for wheelchair users and champions for the disability community.

  • Helping us to produce world-class cookies is our cookie mentor and Brand Ambassador, Dean Brettscheiner, one part professional baker and one part entrepreneur. He is best known in NZ as one of the judges of The Great Kiwi Bake Off and arguably one of the world's best bakers with an international following.

Internal Success Factor #2
Optimal productivity and workflow

After a very busy Christmas 2019 trading, we paused and reflected on our first 18 months’ journey to review what we needed to improve in order to scale up. We spent the first two months of 2020 to redesign our operational workflow and train up our best bakers to achieve what we believe is world-class productivity.

In every baking session, the team is now able to control the cost, set the production output target, and deliver revenue value that is four times the cost of wages of the bakers. This is a game changer to prove that a person with disability deserves to be paid ethically in accordance to New Zealand’s minimum adult wage of $17.70 an hour (soon $18.90 an hour from 1 April).

For our social enterprise to be sustainable, we have set a minimum productivity target of 1:4 in every production session. That means for every $1 in wages, we are generating $4 in output. Some of our Cookie Captains’ best achievement so far:

  • Singly bake and pack 20 bags of cookies within 1 hour without any volunteer support. Output value is at least $200 based on $10 a bag vs hourly wage of $17.70. Each bag consists of 30 pieces of cookies.

  • 10,000 pieces of cookies within 3 hours with six bakers paired with six volunteers. Output value is $3,900 vs $350 in wages.

  • The eight Cookie Captains all working as a group at pop up stall to generate revenue of $19 per minute over 2 hours at a pop-up stall hosted by ASB.

Internal Success Factor #3
Smart systems and customer insights

The entire management team and 7 out of 8 of the Cookie Captains are digitally skilled and connected via cloud-based platform, such as Slack and Monday. We are continuing to speak to many entrepreneurs to look at optimising our e-commerce workflow, backend automation, and CRM platforms.

The team is currently working with a Vietnamese tech company to explore block-chain enabled customer loyalty program that is based on social impact created by customer. This will supersede our current personalised QR-code for our bakers.

We welcome more subject matter experts to guide us and advise us in systems automation, digital process and CRM platforms.

External Success Factor #1
Simple, healthy and delicious cookies.

Simple – we use only five ingredients!

Healthy – we do not use any preservatives, additives or colouring. Except for Pride Cookies where we use food-safe colouring for the rainbow colours.

Delicious – we use only the most quality and trusted Kiwi ingredients like Lewis Road Creamery butter, Pic’s Peanut Butter and Trade Aid organic and fair trade chocolate chips, and Champion Flour with over 150 years of history.

The quality of the cookies speak for themselves and the rave reviews are all on our Facebook page. Our innovation pushes the boundaries with our award-winning edible Cookie Cups in 2019. For 2020, we are launching very soon “Inclusive Aotearoa Cookie Box” that empowers organisations to highlight the importance of disability and inclusion.

External Success Factor #2
Critical, measurable and sustainable impact

We setup The Cookie Project with measurable impact in mind. The three key metrics that we use to measure our social impact are:

  • Employment hours generated for the bakers

  • Number of Kiwis with disabilities whom we employ

  • Number of Kiwis who are no longer dependant on Government benefits

In addition, we will be resuming our measure for bakers’ happiness and sense of belonging at work. We paused this after the number of bakers grew beyond ten people and it became challenging to manage the manual paper entry. In the four months that we measured, we scored an average of 9+ out of 10 for both metrics.

In terms of breaking down social stigma, we measure the percentage of volunteers who have never worked with people with disabilities. In our first six months of measure, we are bridging that gap with 8 out of 10 volunteers who came to our kitchen and worked with people with disabilities for the first time.

Impact measure is absolutely critical for any social enterprise so that customers know how their money is generating impact. This year, we will start to publish our quarterly “Disability & Inclusion Cookie Hall of Fame”.

External Success Factor #3
Customer and distribution

We continue to acquire and nurture new customers based on key target segments:

  • Corporate clients: We currently offer cookies as social procurement, marketing activation, staff rewards, and client gifting. This year, we are offering corporate cookie boxes and group team building with our bakers.

  • Individuals and families: We currently offer monthly cookie subscription. This year we are offering life event based gift boxes, eg birthdays, weddings and new-born, as well as baking experience with our bakers, eg Baking In The Dark

  • Disability organisations: We work with up to two community groups in a year to support their fund raising campaigns. This is on a cost-recovery basis rather than revenue generating. Last year we supported New Zealand Blind Cricket Association and Cerebral Palsy Society of New Zealand.

This year, we are exploring new customer segments:

  • Cafes and restaurants: We are offering three products to cafes and restaurants, in hope to generate opportunities for our bakers to gain mainstream employment.

  • Local and international tourists: We have confidence through our initial market testing to offer tourists to bulk purchase our cookies at our kitchen, participate in baking experience with our bakers, and pick up our cookies at four major airports.

Our current distribution strategy includes our online store and retail partners (New World and Trade Aid). This year, we are broadening as part of our scaling up strategy to include direct distribution by empowering Kiwis with disabilities to be our Local Cookie Stars and offering our cookies to outbound tourists at international terminals of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

How We Plan To Scale In 2020

We looked at a minimum viable model vs a high impact model. Here’s a comparison of the two options. Our decision to chose the model will depend on the level of interest from local and international organisations, patrons and sponsors.

Compact “Cookie House”

What is it?
We looked at a minimum viable model vs a high impact model. Here’s a comparison of the two options. Our decision to chose the model will depend on the level of interest from local and international organisations, patrons and sponsors.

What is the “Wow” factor?
It will be a low key cookie production site with limited space to host large groups of visitors and volunteers.

Cost to setup CAPEX / OPEX
Fitout and equipment: $100k
Overheads: $40k p.a.
Wages: $700k (45% to 8 bakers)

Revenue forecast
Minimum of $70k per month

Total of 12 staff including co-founders. 75% have disabilities.

Impact generation
Financial independence for 8 bakers
Generate at least 384 ethical employment hours a month.
Living Wage of $21.15 by end of 2020.

Financial pre-requisites

By May: $45k /month

  • Retail: $20k /month
  • Corporate: $15k /month
  • Direct: $10k /month

By July: $60k /month

  • Retail: $25k /month
  • Corporate: $20k /month
  • Direct: $15k /month

Size and location
Up to 500 sqm
Within 7km of CBD

Full-Fledged “Cookie Wonderland”

What is it?
A high impact model that consists of a super kitchen up to 4,000 sqm that is highly visual as a new destination in Auckland, with 100% accessible facilities and baking equipment that will cater for pan-disability employees.

What is the “Wow” factor?
The super kitchen will have various zones for different flavours and will feature floor to ceiling glass walls that offers inclusive baking experience and kitchen tours that will challenge visitors’ perception of the disability community and change how we all see diversity and inclusion at workplace.

Cost to setup CAPEX / OPEX
Fitout and equipment: $800k
Overheads: $150k p.a.
Wages: $1.1m (40% to 18 bakers, includes 3 more management staff)

Revenue forecast
Minimum of $110k per month

Total of 25 staff including co-founders. 72% have disabilities.

Impact generation
Financial independence for 18 bakers
Generate at least 1,200 ethical employment hours a month.
Living Wage of $21.15 by end of 2020.

Financial pre-requisites

By May: $60k /month

  • Retail: $25k /month
  • Corporate: $20k /month
  • Direct: $15k /month

By July: $85k /month

  • Retail: $35k /month
  • Corporate: $30k /month
  • Direct: $25k /month

Size and location
Up to 4,000 sqm
Within 15km of CBD

How Can You Support Us?

If you’re reading about our plan, then it’s very likely that you’ve been following our story or have a genuine interest to support us in taking our social enterprise to the world for global impact.

We believe this is the right time to magnetise government agencies, corporate organisations, and philanthropic groups to give us a hand up in the following areas:

  • A commercial building or production site

  • Large scale baking equipment and tools

  • Fitout and renovation

  • Digital tools and software licenses

  • Branded uniform, clothing, and shoes for bakers

  • Advertising and media space

  • Physical well-being partner for bakers

  • Financial well-being partner for bakers

We are hosting a Facebook Live session on Wednesday 18 March at local NZ time 4pm to answer any questions so make sure you tune in to ask away.

Interested? Get in touch with us today:

    Or alternatively, email us directly via [email protected]