A Port Moody brother and sister have turned bad timing into good cookies.
And if their business plan continues to progress, they’re hoping those will turn into a good fortune.
Jessica Nguyen had just graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in business administration in spring 2020 when the world was shut down by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Job interviews she had lined up disappeared, positions she’d had her eye on were put on hold.
Discouraged and feeling miserable, Nguyen’s younger brother, Andy, offered to cheer her up by baking her a batch of cookies.
The 17-year-old teen had always had a passion for baking; in fact, he was even working part time as a junior baker at a local pie shop while he finished high school.
Jessica told Andy a special kind of thick New York-style of cookie that’s gooey in the middle would go a long way to brighten her spirits.
The first batch, Jessica said, wasn’t so good. So Andy went back to his mixing bowls in the kitchen of their mom's townhouse and tried again.
The next lot turned out much better.
Jessica posted a photo of the cookies to her Instagram account.
Her friends liked what they saw, asked about them.
So Andy baked some more.
Then, the pandemic claimed his job at the pie shop.
The brother with the oven acumen and the sister with the business degree put their heads together and hatched a plan that would keep him baking and give her practical experience.
They started Bak’d.
From 100 cookies a week they baked in the family kitchen and sold to friends and followers, they’re now producing 5,000 a week at a commissary kitchen in Burnaby that they sell at farmers market in Port Moody, Coquitlam, Burnaby, North Vancouver, Ladner and Fort Langley.
From Dec. 6 to 8, they’re opening their first retail pop-up shop at Coquitlam Centre mall and they’ve just launched a collaboration with Mariner Brewing that will see their cookies available on Sundays at the Coquitlam craft brewery.
Andy Nguyen said the venture has forced him to become a much better baker in a short period of time.
“It’s one thing to bake for your sister,” he said. “After our first sale I was so scared.”
Jessica said becoming a real-world entrepreneur has taught her a lot of things that weren’t covered in her business classes — like the value of good word-of-mouth and the power of social marketing.
“I really underestimated how it can be so important in launching a business,” she said.
The nascent cookie tycoons offer a core menu of seven different cookies like chocolate chip walnut and chocolate peanut butter and one additional flavour that’s changed every month according to the results of a poll of their social media followers.
Andy said the monthly “flavour battles” that attract 600 to 800 votes allow him to stretch his cookie creativity.
“It’s almost like a science,” he said of the recipe development process that’s produced such concoctions as a key lime pie cookie, strawberry cheesecake and even a “kitchen sink” biscuit that’s comprised of a bit of everything he has on hand in the pantry including potato chips.
Through trial and error and copious taste-testing that often involves neighbours, the siblings determine what recipes work and which might need more work.
“It’s like being in a research lab,” Andy said. “It’s a fun time for everyone.”
Jessica handles the marketing and getting the cookies to customers. In their earliest days, that meant taking orders online then arranging for pick-ups at a street corner in Port Moody’s Suter Brook neighbourhood.
To help whet appetites and get the word out where the cookies will be available, she posts photos of the treats to social media and works the various local moms’ groups on Facebook.
The idea, Jessica said, is to build a buzz while developing their own story organically.
“Branding is so important,” she said. “People want to get in on a trend.”
The Nguyens' efforts have been so successful, they now have six employees and they’re baking seven days a week to keep up with orders.
And with Andy now studying business at UBC, there’s no telling where the siblings’ combined practical and theoretical knowledge will take them.
Jessica said the pop-up shop will be a bit of a dry run for a possible standalone store sometime in the future.
“It’s been a crazy journey,” she said.
To find out Bak’d’s current lineup of flavours, where they’re available or even order online, you're encouraged to visit their website.