Last week, I officially launched my new cookies business, Clara Cookies. This is quite hard to believe since I never wanted to be a business owner. I chuckle at the thought of me, Rebecca, the music nerd, being an Ironman too. But now I’m signed up for Ironman number 6. I’m getting used to God redesigning my life. When I gave God a blank sheet of paper many years ago, and said, “Whatever you want with my life,” I had NO IDEA what He would write on it. Instead of telling God what we want with our life and asking Him to bless it, we give Him a piece of blank paper and let Him decide what He wants it to be. When I gave Him my blank piece of paper, I was an non-runner, non-biker, music teacher, without kids, who had only baked cookies a dozen times. Now I’m a mom of three adopted kids from Russia, a Team Orphans charity director, a 5-time Ironman finisher, and now a cookie business owner! God really does have a sense of humor!!!
Here’s the Clara Cookie story. If we ever get huge and famous, you’ll know it all started here. Three years ago, Tom got tired of hearing me complain about eating lots of soggy, messy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my Ironman training and racing. Whatever food you race with (and you need a lot to get through the race) you need to train with— for many months. So after hundreds of PB and J’s, I was disgusted. Tom said, “Why don’t you come up with a protein cookie?” He’s the idea person, and I was too busy, so he found a recipe online and I started tweaking. That was the birth of Clara Cookie peanut butter chocolate chip flavor-still my favorite. I started using them to train and race and making them for my friends. They loved the cookies and kept asking for more. Tom had his next idea, “These cookies are really good! You should start a cookie business and donate all the profits to Team Orphans.” I resisted because I thought I was too busy. I don’t have time for a cookie business. So I thought…..
Two years ago, I started thinking more seriously about the whole business thing. I knew I would need more than one flavor, so I started trying to make a coconut dark chocolate chip cookie. My sister, Deb, a physician who also went to culinary school, helped me with recipes. She lives in Colorado, so we talked on the phone and mailed ingredients and cookies back and forth. Another local friend, Rachel, who loves to bake, introduced me to several non-wheat flours that I now use to make the cookies gluten free. Another friend, Melissa, told me about the most wonderful coconut oil, one that I now order from Minnesota for our Clara Cookies. After the coconut dark chocolate chip cookie was right, I started on a dark chocolate cookie with roasted almonds. There’s not much you can do to mess up dark chocolate!!! Tom, our kids, and several friends have thoroughly enjoyed the trial and tweaking process! I’ve used the peanut butter cookies for my last three Ironman training and races. In my spare time (ha, ha), I’m still tweaking an oatmeal raisin protein cookie that I hope to launch in the Fall.
In the last few weeks, I’ve enjoyed answering my phone to someone asking, “Is this Clara?” assuming that I named the cookie business after myself! I also get the question often, “Who is Clara?” Oh I’m so glad you asked!!! Clara is a beautiful little girl from Bulgaria who was adopted with money we raised a few years ago through Team Orphans. She now lives with her forever family, no longer an orphan! She’s the inspiration behind the business. Every dollar of profit from Clara Cookies will be donated to Team Orphans adoption grants so more children like Clara will find a home. Every cookie wrapper has Clara’s picture and tells the story of Clara Cookies ending with “because we believe all children deserve the love of a family.”
For over a year, I looked for a factory to produce Clara Cookies, but none would take on a small start-up company. One Friday morning at Moms in Prayer, my friend Jennie asked if I had tried Bostwick Bakery, a local well respected bakery just down the road (known for the largest and best donuts anywhere around). I met with them, they liked what I was doing, and now they let us use their bakery to produce our cookies. They have been absolutely wonderful to work with.
After only one Facebook post, I had 9 volunteer bakers who have helped me make the first 2,000 cookies over the last few weeks. We have a wonderful time on Monday mornings from 8 – 11, and they have given me so many great ideas to make the process smoother and more efficient! If Clara Cookies grows, we’ll need to add more volunteers and another day each week to bake.
I made the first delivery of Clara Cookies to our stores last Friday. This Friday, we’ll be giving away 1,200 free cookies at the 5th/3rd Riverbank Run Expo downtown Grand Rapids. Each cookie has a card on the back that lists the first six businesses carrying our cookies- She Active (downtown Rockford), Village Bike and Fitness North, Baker Book House Coffee Shop, Bostwick Bakery (Belding Rd), MassageXT ( Belmont), and Bartertown Diner (downtown GR- vegan version). Our church, Rockford Reformed Church, is also carrying our cookies at the coffee bar in the lobby. I’ll be meeting with many businesses and churches in the next few weeks and months to add locations and spread through West Michigan. For anyone out of town, the cookies are available online at www.claracookies.com.
Our sweet journey has just begun. Grab a cup of coffee, a Clara Cookie, and stay tuned………