This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
Molly Blakeley had no idea adding booze to her cookie dough would be such a hit. What started as a sweet addition to her taco truck has quite literally gone international.
Blakeley’s cookies are gourmet. Her “London Fog” cookie is infused with earl grey and lavender teas, vanilla vodka, with a white chocolate chip crunch topped with lemon glaze and sprinkled with edible lavender. Her No. 1 seller is the maple bacon cookie, which is packed with white chocolate chips, smoky pieces of bacon and infused with Jameson whiskey, topped with a maple glaze and even more bacon pieces.
The alcohol cooks out, but the flavor stays in the cookie, Blakeley said.
Last year, Blakeley sold her lodge, which housed a restaurant and bar, and opened a halibut taco truck with her son in Soldotna. To meet requests for desserts, Blakeley whipped up a batch of cookies, and splashed some brandy left over from the bar she formerly owned. The cookies sold out within 10 minutes, she said. Next, she tried whiskey and the cookies were gone in a half an hour.
“I was like ‘what’s going on with this,’” she said.
After the summer season ended, Blakeley decided to focus on the cookies, and looked into setting up a subscription service. People could order Blakeley’s cookies, which she calls “Loaded Cookies,” and have boxes of them sent to their home every month. She said she has sent her cookies as far away as Poland and Australia.
“I was really interested in the subscription box business,” Blakeley said. “It seemed to be taking off and getting a lot of leverage.”
Last fall, when she first started the subscription service, she was baking around 15 to 20 dozen cookies a week out of her home.
“It was basically for my friends on Facebook,” she said.
Throughout the fall, orders began to pick up, when one day in December, her email exploded with orders. Her subscription service was featured on Buzzfeed, in an article about subscription boxes with booze in them.
“All of the sudden, I’m doing 30 dozen cookies a day,” Blakeley said. “I thought it was click bait, but sure enough it said ‘top 24 subscription boxes with booze in them,’ and I was number three. I about peed my pants.”
Since then, Blakeley’s been busy. Her cookie business, now called Molly B’s Bingerz, has expanded beyond what she thought it ever would. Blakeley said she’s been approached by Brown Jug, Walgreens, Safeway and several distributors hoping to put her cookies in gas stations, casinos and stores across the country.
“It has catapulted to the next level,” she said. “I started this cookie business with $150 bucks and here I am, not even a year later.”
To meet the demand, Blakeley will be using a co-packer, who are doing test runs on her cookies. She said a lot of co-packers tend to cut cost on ingredients, but Blakeley is insistent the integrity of her cookie and business is maintained. This means whole, salted butter, and no Crisco.
“The cookie factories — it was just like Willy Wonka,” she said.
During this time, Blakeley also found time to finish her first book, which was released this month. “How to be Fearless in Business” is Blakeley’s guide for new entrepreneurs. She’s had 13 different businesses from all kinds of disciplines. She credits her family for her work ethic and determination.
“I learned very quickly that if I wanted to hang out with my family I needed to learn to work, because they were workers,” Blakeley said. “I just started doing everything they would do. Mom got a restaurant, so I learned how to work in a restaurant. Mom got a roller rink, I learned to work in a roller rink. Mom got a bowling alley, so I learned how to be a certified bowling coach. It’s just been quite a ride.”
Blakeley said she hopes her book answers the many questions people have when they first decide to open their own business. She hopes to write more books about the food industry, and eventually a memoir.
Earlier this month, Blakeley also competed in the Alaska Angels Conference, an event that brings startup businesses and angel investors together. The competition is 12 weeks, and requires startup business owners to refine their short and long pitches, and be ready to answer on-the-spot questions about their profits and margins.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into,” she said. “It was a lot of work. It was sort of like American Idol.”
She was one of five finalists competing for $100,000. She left the competition with the People’s Choice Award.
“I didn’t win the $100,000, but I have been approached by several companies,” Blakeley said.
Currently, residents can order her cookies online, or find them at Java Junction and Pad Thai Cafe in Soldotna, or in Brown Jug Liquor Stores. Blakeley’s book can be found on her website, mollyblakeley.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.