“I want to start a movement to encourage people to take time for themselves”

With Lindsay Goldin of The Dough Jar

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I’d want to start a movement to encourage people to take time for themselves. Give yourself a pat on the back for working so hard. Give yourself a break from all the stress of everyday life. Give yourself a treat from taking care of yourself and others. We all just need a moment to relax and breathe and celebrate ourselves every.

I had the pleasure to interview Lindsay Goldin, the Founder of The Dough Jar

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was born and raised in St. Louis, moved to the East Coast to attend the University of Pennsylvania for college, and then moved to DC after I graduated. I spent 5.5 years at a terrific nonprofit, building and executing a communications strategy while receiving my MBA. I then worked for a startup as the marketing manager for a year. But I never truly felt fulfilled in my career.

The idea of making edible cookie dough was a “light bulb moment” when I was looking for a creative outlet beyond my marketing job. I always loved sneaking cookie dough out of the mixing bowl when baking with my mom growing up, and sneaking it out of the sorority house freezer in the middle of the night in college. I couldn’t find edible cookie dough anywhere, so I decided to make my own.

Knowing me, a hobby doesn’t stay a hobby for very long. I started setting up in apartment lobbies to sell the cookie dough to residents, and people bought it! From there, I joined a commercial kitchen and started finding sales channels to pay the kitchen rent. I was carried in my first store within two weeks, and the business has grown from there.

In March 2018, The Cookie Jar DC rebranded to The Dough Jar, which better describes the product and captures the essence of the brand. We are the same company serving the same dangerously delicious and safe-to-eat edible cookie dough.

The Dough Jar has been nothing but fun and fulfillment. Our dough is produced by hand in small batches, so every jar is always fresh and made just for you. And when we say hand-made, we mean it — the only machine we use is a mixer, and the jars are filled and labeled by our dedicated team. We make our dough with love in order to bring you the highest quality product with that nostalgic taste of homemade dough. I hope you enjoy our cookie dough as much as we love making it for you!

I am not a baker…I don’t even like cooking dinner for myself…so this wasn’t a childhood dream of mine or something I knew I wanted to do. That’s what makes this all so random and amazing. When I graduated from college, I fell into a pretty generic marketing and communications career path for a young professional. I worked for a nonprofit for five years, first as an executive assistant and then in the fundraising department building a communications platform for donors. But there was always something missing. I then spent a year as the marketing manager for a local startup. This was an important stepping stone, although I didn’t know it at the time. First, I was exposed to a whole community of entrepreneurs in DC that I didn’t know existed. Second, I hated my job. It was being so unhappy plus seeing other young professionals taking risks with new companies that gave me the inspiration to try creating something of my own.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

In the early spring of 2017 — just about one year after I started the company — I was walking through Adams Morgan looking at retail spaces that may be vacant and available for lease. Adams Morgan is a lively neighborhood full of small businesses, bars, and restaurants. It’s a very walkable area, lots of young professionals, and known for its nightlife. I thought cookie dough would do very well there. On my walk, I came across a bakery that closed at 5:30 PM. Closing at that time is unusual for AdMo, that’s normally when businesses open. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity if I could sell cookie dough out of the bakery after they closed. I was nervous about contacting the owner (whom I didn’t know), so I forgot about it for awhile.

A few weeks later, I went to coffee with a girl I had met the summer before at a farmers market. We only met once and kept in touch, and decided to get together to talk about our food businesses. I told her I was interested in setting up shop in AdMo, and she suggested I reach out to the exact bakery owner I had been too nervous to contact. As it turns out, she was very good friends with him and he was going to be attending a get-together she was having the following weekend.

I cleared my calendar and went to the get-together. I was able to casually introduce the idea to the bakery owner in a social setting. Long story short, we’ve been popping up in his bakery now for over a year, and it’s been a very successful venture.

This coincidental experience was the first time I really felt like I belonged in this industry. As someone who had never so much as worked in retail, I wasn’t naturally an insider in the food world. But the fact that I made a connection that led to such a great opportunity made me feel like I was part of the club. It was a really proud moment.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’d never worked in a commercial kitchen or made edible cookie dough before, so there was a lot of newness I was navigating. Part of our process is melting butter. At home, I would have just put it in a microwave, but at the commercial kitchen there wasn’t a microwave. So I used to put 6–8 pounds of butter on a sheet pan and melt it in the oven. Well, sheet pans are what you use to bake cookies. They have a lip that’s less than 1/2″ high. So I’d end up with all of this melted butter on a sheet pan and I would take it out of the oven and try not to spill it everywhere. Now we use pots and and induction burners.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

When I started the company, we were one of only a handful of edible cookie dough companies across the country. At that time, we stood out by nature of our unique product. Now that we have more competition, this question is something I’ve thought a lot about. Against the competition, there are three things that make us stand out. First, we have multiple sales channels. We ship nationwide, we deliver locally, we sell in other stores, we have a store, and we do events. Second, we have a strong brand. Marketing is what I bring to the table, so making sure the brand represents the product and connects with our consumers is very important. Third, our product is damn good. This sounds obvious, but there’s a lot of companies out there that survive on hype. We’ve been told countless times that our dough is the best that our customers have had. Sometimes customers will leave the store and come back in just to tell us that. That is everything to me.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We just opened our store in August, so we’re still getting that off the ground. We’re excited to be opening a holiday pop up in Tysons Corner Center from November to December. We have some new flavors and products that we’ll be rolling out soon, so stay tuned for that!

What advice would you give to other female leaders/entrepreneurs to help their team to thrive?

I think as women, we spend a lot of time figuring out a balance between being too soft — a pushover — and being too mean — a bitch. In the process of trying to figure out who we should be and how we should act and treat other people, we forget who we are. I’m definitely guilty of struggling with this on a daily basis. There are times when I’ll have a conversation with one of my teammates and I’ll think I was being really harsh. And then someone in the room will comment to me after that I wasn’t forceful enough. It’s always a battle! What I try to do is go back to the basics of who I am and what my voice is. I like to open up to my staff a lot. I like to tell them when we’re facing challenges and ask them what they think we could do better. I like to tell them when exciting opportunities are on the horizon and see how they want to be involved. Playing off of these desires for connection and relating with my staff — which are arguably female intuitions — helps make it easier to have the harder conversations with them when necessary. It also makes the positive conversations and the praiser feel genuine. At least that’s what I’m going for!

What advice would you give to other female leaders/entrepreneurs about the best way to manage a large team?

It’s okay to not have all the answers, that’s not a sign of weakness. Many entrepreneurs start businesses because they’re excited about the product or the service. They don’t necessarily start the business to manage people, but that comes along with growth of the business. I think as women, we feel that asking for help plays into some stereotype that we are weak and incapable of leadership. But knowing who you are and where you need guidance is actually a sign of strength.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Besides being incredibly supportive and listening to me talk about cookie dough all the time, my husband has been particularly helpful in encouraging me to think like an economist. As I mentioned, I’m not a baker and I don’t really love being in the kitchen. It was just a few weeks after starting the company when I asked my then-boyfriend (now-husband) “is it terrible that I don’t really enjoy making this cookie dough?” I was really surprised when he responded “no, it’s probably a good thing, you shouldn’t be the one making the cookie dough.”

As a small business owner, we’re always looking at the budget and thinking of ways to cut costs. This often results in us doing things ourselves. My husband has helped me realize very early on the value of opportunity cost. So if I spend the weekend working at an event or if I spend the week making cookie dough, I may not have to literally pay for labor. But then I’ve lost all of those hours that I could’ve spent on higher level projects that advance the company’s growth.

Of course building a team takes time, and it’s very risky. I remember hiring my first employee and spending the first week she was hired figuring out how I was going to pay her. But you have to spend money to make money, and it was only through hiring her that I was able to start really growing the business.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

People will send me emails or come up to me and tell me how my story has inspired them to start thinking more seriously about their passion projects. I’ve talked to so many people who have jobs just like I did that don’t fulfill them, and they’re looking for people who were once in their shoes that took a risk and did something that they love. It’s funny to me because I didn’t intend to start a business and it was a total accident that I found my calling and fell into something that I love. I don’t think of myself as some big risk-taker or someone inspirational. But it doesn’t matter what I think, because if people are looking at my story and getting inspired to take a risk and do something more meaningful in their lives, that’s all that matters.

What are your “5 Leadership/entrepreneur Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • Just jump in — If I had made detailed lists and plans like I always did with everything in my life, I probably would never have started this business. My #1 piece of advice to anyone who has an idea they want to pursue is to just start. You’ll figure out all the details as you go. Or maybe you won’t, but that’s okay.
  • Don’t regret, make change — The one regret I always had about my business was the name. For two years, the company’s name was not unique or memorable, and it didn’t reflect the product. It kept me up at night, so finally I just changed it. I was really nervous to change it, but I knew the sooner I did it, the better.
  • There’s no time to be perfect — I used to put 100% into everything. Whatever the situation, I made sure every detail was taken care of, everything was submitted on time, etc etc. It got me pretty far in life. Now I don’t have time to operate at that same level. I’m really hard on myself, so it’s not easy to admit. But I just don’t have time, and I have too much on my plate, to put 100% into everything. I’ve missed meetings. I’ve permanently deleted a crucial spreadsheet. I’ve sent emails with really bad autocorrect typos. I’m not proud of it, and I’m always apologetic. But I’ve learned that making a mistake is okay. And it feels good knowing I can’t get fired for it 🙂
  • Learn from others — It’s not “cheating” to get an idea from someone else. When I first started the company and I worked in a shared kitchen space, I made so many friends and contacts by sharing challenges and successes. I remember someone gave me a tip on shipping that was the piece I needed in order to build our nationwide shipping program. It was such an obvious tip, too, but I hadn’t thought of it. I think a lot of times we’re reluctant to share ideas with others because the industry feels competitive, but I’ve learned that when we build each other up, we all succeed.
  • Do what makes you happy — I’m going to be honest. I love my business. I love my friends and my family too, but I also love my business. I was very hard on myself in the beginning for spending so much time working. I think we all have a certain idea of what our lives should look like. That word “balance” is thrown around all of the time. But I think if being an entrepreneur is what you love to do, then do it. Just because you spend a lot of time on the thing that pays your bills doesn’t make you a work-a-holic. I make time for the people and experiences that I love, and I don’t beat myself up for working. I’ve built the life that makes me happy, and I don’t apologize for it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Our motto is “treat dough’self,” so I’d want to start a “treat dough’self” movement to encourage people to take time for themselves. Give yourself a pat on the back for working so hard. Give yourself a break from all the stress of everyday life. Give yourself a treat from taking care of yourself and others. We all just need a moment to relax and breathe and celebrate ourselves every.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My dad always reminded me (and still reminds me) “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” One characteristic that I think business owners share is we’re always thinking of what’s wrong and how something can be better. It’s what drives us to be entrepreneurs in the first place. And I’m no exception. I’ve always been someone who worries a lot and analyzes how things could be better. So this quote has guided me during the times when I need to be more positive and less stressed out! It reminds me that most of the things we get worked up over don’t really matter that much. It really puts things in perspective.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There are a few women who I would love to sit down with: Katherine and Sophie (founders of Georgetown Cupcakes) and Christina Tosi (founder of Milk Bar). I’m very familiar with Georgetown Cupcakes since I’ve lived in 10 for nearly 10 years and now they are a neighbor! I was actually on the same news segment as Katherine and Sophie but didn’t get the opportunity to meet them. I became familiar with Christina from Netflix’s opening episode of Chef’s Table and of course because of the Milk Bar locations in DC. I’d love to meet these women because they are icons in the dessert industry. First, they both started dessert trends. But more importantly, they sustained their companies through the ups and downs of the trends of their products. A huge part of my company’s story is edible cookie dough going from an unknown product with a steep learning curve and a lot of skeptical customers, to becoming trendy with a ton of competitors seemingly overnight. I’d love to learn from these women how you succeed in the long run when your product becomes trendy, and how you deal with the emotional rollercoaster or going from having barely any competitors to have a healthy amount of competition.

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