Photo Source: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/40under40/2017/Tomlan
I have also included a transcript below.
Tyler Jonas: I’m Tyler Jonas, the founder of Economics and Entrepreneurs and today I am talking with Kristen Tomlan, the founder and CEO of DO, Cookie Dough Confections, which is a company that offers safe-to -eat, delicious cookie dough. DO has a retail store in New York and also sells their dough online; some dough flavors include Salty and Sweet, Chocolate Dream, and Gimme S’more. DO has been featured in Times, Forbes, Insider Food, and CBS News among others. We are very lucky to have Kristen here to speak with us today. Can you first tell me a little bit about yourself and DO?
Kristen Tomlan: Sure. Of course. My name is Kristen. I originally grew up in Saint Louis Missouri and I was constantly in the kitchen next to my mom baking anything that she was making. So whether it was something savory or, my specialty, which was the sweets, I was right next to her kind of learning the ins and outs of the kitchen. Secretly in our household it was acceptable to eat cookie dough, a little bit at a time, and so I think my obsessions with cookie dough started at a very young age. I then went to Design School in Cincinnati for college and took my love of baking with me along the way and was baking anything I could my hands on all throughout college and even postgrad, so I was the one that was making something sweet for a friend’s birthday or bringing something into the office. It was just for me like a way to distress (unknown) and I had a huge sweet tooth, so there was nothing better than making home-made in my opinion.
Tyler Jonas: Great and what would you say was your most formative business experience?
Kristen Tomlan: When I first graduated from college I decided to take a job at a brand strategy consultant and my role with them changed over the course of the five years that I was there, but it started out being I was the designer in their retail group. I was designing retail experiences and retail stores and working for a ton of great clients across the globe and then as their practice changed and the capabilities changed, we introduced a new capability called Experience Innovation. In that group, really I think they realized that retail is not just about the physical space, there is so much more to the design of the experience than just walking into a store and what that looks like and what the (unknown) is. So we started designing these customer experiences that we really looked at how we got customers in the door and then followed every touch point along their journey including how do we get them back in the door. So I would say as far as that experience, it was something that was incredibly invaluable and I think it made me think as I was starting my own business about how to create a brand that was incredibly holistic, and think through every little step and make sure that it was well-thought out and well- designed and then ultimately that the customer experience was something that was incredibly unique and memorable.
Tyler Jonas: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Kristen Tomlan: I guess I would say that I am most proud of just starting the business. I originally didn’t have any business experience or background. I had no real plans to start my own business. I wasn’t one of those people that was looking to enrich my day-to-day 9-5 and do something else. It kind of fell in my lap and it was an idea that I had that I ended up launching and it took off. I’m really glad that I had the guts to follow my passion and ultimately see where it would lead me and kind of take the jump and start my own thing and so I would say definitely starting the business and continuing to grow year over year has been a really great accomplishment.
Tyler Jonas: What do you think best prepared you for your career?
Kristen Tomlan: So I think that years, many many years, of grueling long hours in design school and, you know, iterating on ideas over and over both in college and in my real world. Also working through some of the best, most iconic companies and brands in the world, understanding their business and their consumer, and kind of looking at things holistically was incredibly important and really helped me prepare for being, owning my own business and own brand. I don’t think anything can really prepare you to run your own business until your in it, but I think that the years I had before as a designer, my job was to problem solve, and so I did that for many many years and I continue to do that every single day in my career now.
Tyler Jonas: What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Kristen Tomlan: My advice would be to kind of follow your gut and start small or in some way. It can be incredibly daunting to think about starting your own business and many people feel paralyzed by the idea of doing something completely different or jumping into this new territory, but I think you have to start somewhere and whether that is nights or weekends or you want to take some courses to feel better informed or whatever the case is, I just feel that the only way that you are ever going to get from step A to B is if you take baby steps and you are doing something to forward your goal and what you want to ultimately be doing with your life.
Tyler Jonas: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Kristen Tomlan: Advice to my 20 year old . . . oh jeez . . . Probably, just I mean I do think that anything that I have gone through in my life or done, whether it was smart or stupid or whatever, I feel like it was a learning lesson and incredibly important, but I don’t think that I would necessarily do anything differently, but I think my advice would be to myself, I think I was very critical of myself, more so than other people were, and now I feel like I should have told myself to be easier on myself and worry less about having every little thing figured out. I’m a huge planner and crazy I want to make sure that every last detail is figured out and sometimes it doesn’t work like that. The curveballs that you get thrown are may not be welcomed at the time, but ultimately it all works out and everything happens for a reason.
Tyler Jonas: My last question for you is what books are on your night stand?
Kristen Tomlan: So I am in the process of writing a cookbook right now, so the books on my night stand are an enormous pile of cookbooks to get some inspiration and look at photography styles and see the other tone of voices that other established cookbook authors are using and I have always been one that. . . Not only do I love baking and cooking, but cookbooks to me are something that I love collecting and I think that they in their selves I a lot of people use them for their recipes, but I love the storytelling that goes along with it and I think it gives you this perspective into that chef’s life or their day-to-day or job that you wouldn’t otherwise understand and so I have always been inspired by really picking up cook books and reading the front cover, the back cover, and kind of tagging pages and recipes along the way that I want to go back to and try, so my nightstand is full of cookbooks right now and I could not be happier!
Tyler Jonas: Have you chosen the name of your new book yet or are you still deciding?
Kristen Tomlan: I have not yet disclosed a name. I think we are narrowing in on one, but I haven’t yet announced it.
Tyler Jonas: Well, I’m looking forward to reading your book, but thank you so much for speaking with me today and giving us great advice!
Kristen Tomlan: Absolutely. Well, any time. It was great to chat.
Tyler Jonas: Thank you.