Thank you cookie franchises help local business boom
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
7/31/12 at 3:51 AM
Read other small business profiles.
BIXBY - Kim and Duane Carns are in the thank-you business.
The Bixby couple run a bakery and delivery company that specializes in sending personalized thank-you notes, along with a tin of fresh-baked cookies, on behalf of corporate clients.
"When we started Cookie Advantage, we'd been searching for a franchise for quite some time but couldn't find one that we could afford, not have to work 60 to 80 hours a week and manage a lot of employees," Kim Carns said.
That's when they conceived their own concept, opened a shop in 1999 and eventually started selling franchises to expand.
The company now has more than 20 franchises nationwide, usually one per major city that can handle business in its region.
Cookie Advantage also does business over the Internet.
"When someone receives a tin of our cookies as a thank-you for doing business, they feel special because it's not expected - you've just gone above and beyond their expectations," Kim said. "Everything we do promotes our customer, not us, from the return address to the custom enclosure cards."
Duane and Kim Carns answered a few questions for the Tulsa World about how they expanded from an idea to a nationwide presence.
How did you approach the idea of franchising, and how did it go from concept to reality?
When we started Cookie Advantage, we designed it day one for franchising. Everything we did was a system to be duplicated by our franchisees. It's a true "cookie cutter concept." As we were taking all the necessary steps to develop franchise disclosure documents, franchise agreements and meeting state regulations to be able to offer franchises, we were approached by one of our customers to be our first franchise.
Were there ever worries about growing too fast?
We've never been afraid of growing too fast. Our approach to selling franchises has been much like our concept - through referrals. Most of our franchisees are either customers or referrals from other franchisees.
What kind of people do you look for to open a franchise?
When we seek new franchisees, we look for professional people who may have been downsized and want to be in business for themselves without a lot of the traditional headaches of being business owners. If they have a marketing background, that puts them at an advantage. Our franchises have two to three employees, with a four-day work week. This ensures the cookies don't sit in the shipping offices over the weekend and they're are always fresh and delicious. While we can't guarantee incomes, many of our franchisees earn a six-figure income and still have time to enjoy life with their families.
What's the focus in making a homemade cookie and something that's feasible for delivery and good enough to be marketed?
We always use the finest ingredients - pure vanilla, rich brown sugar and Guittard chocolate. We always make our cookies from scratch, never a mix. We adjusted the recipe slightly to ensure they ship without breakage. Also, we went from a recipe making two dozen cookies per batch to 40 dozen cookies per batch.
Has the Internet been harmful or helpful to Cookie Advantage?
The Internet has been helpful for our business. All of our orders are placed online, making it easy for our customers to place their orders even if it's after traditional business hours. We have custom software so that when the order is placed it creates the label and invoice for our customers, which is more efficient for our daily operations.
Small, but significant
Despite having a number of large employers, Tulsa actually is a small-business town. About 94 percent of all employment in the metro area is at businesses that have 100 or fewer employees, according to the Tulsa Metro Chamber. Most employment is at businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
Owners: Kim and Duane Carns
7 N. Armstrong St., Bixby
Work force: 4
Description: A local bakery with franchise operations, Cookie Advantage serves corporate clients by sending personalized thank-you cards with a tin of fresh-baked cookies.
Original Print Headline: Right mix for success
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
Cookie Advantage owners Duane and Kim Carns have seen their company grow. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Cookies are separated for distribution at Cookie Advantage's bakery in Bixby. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Cookie Advantage bakery workers Sandi Ellard (left) and Pixie Greenhaw stack the product for packaging at the Bixby-based business that has grown to 20 franchises nationwide. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World