Nomsters, we couldn’t be more excited for today’s post because we’re chatting with the uber talented Michelle Giordano of Chipkick. If you thought the stuffed cookie was played out, you don’t know what you’re missing because their goods are next level.
Expect baked perfection with each bite: a chewy exterior with deliciously gooey magic tucked away inside. And it’s just the right amount of sweet. Throw it in the oven for a few minutes and let your tastebuds dance as you savor every last crumb.
Tell us about yourself! We’d love to hear more about your passion for baking.
I’m the head baker and co-founder at chipkick cookies, a family-run cookie company operating out of Northern Virginia, shipping nationwide. We are a bunch of dessert-loving sneaker-heads (hence the name!) in pursuit of the perfect (and often stuffed!) cookie. Massive, never messy, sometimes stuffed, with a slightly undercooked-esque center, we create for the traditionalists and the adventurists.
I’m an engineer by trade, and I have a passion for science. To me, baking brings these two things together, along with my love of dessert. I’ve been baking my walnut chocolate chip cookies for a long time (probably over 5-7 years) and that’s kind of what started the business (because people would “assign” that to me to bring to dinners or holiday parties).
What inspired you to start Chipkick, and can you give us some more background regarding your concept?
During the pandemic, I was making my cookies by request for local friends and family since we were home. Eventually I started experimenting with stuffing cookies (infusing the centers with something fun like frosting, jam, or chocolate), and when I perfected our first stuffed cookie, a white chocolate raspberry with cream cheese frosting center, suddenly the joke “you should really sell these,” seemed less like a joke and more like a reality.
My husband Nick has always been entrepreneurially-spirited, having dreams of launching a business of his own – he was the one that knew what chipkick cookies should look like, how it should operate. And that’s where Sam came in – with a background in branding and marketing, she was the final piece of the puzzle that we needed to launch.
We officially launched to friends and family in June 2020 and sold out our inventory within 10 minutes. Over time, we started adding more inventory (which we’d still sell out of). We’d release the inventory on a certain day and offer pickup times from our home 2 days per week. We knew we had something after several consistent months of local sell-through, and the only way to grow was to make the investment and go commercial so that we could run the business the way we wanted to.
[What many people don’t know is that most states allow low-risk businesses (like cookies) to operate from home as “cottage law-based businesses.” Basically, businesses are not inspected by the department of health, there are no commercial requirements – they just need to follow a set of rules as it relates to labeling and selling.
These businesses aren’t permitted to have online shopping, they’re not permitted to ship, and they can’t sell across state lines. That’s why you see so many local cookie businesses who require order forms be filled out, and not actual click-to-buy.]
Now we’re commercially licensed and insured, we’ve gone through food handler training, and our facilities are inspected and maintained according to state requirements. This is what allowed us to ship, explore wholesale, and have a fully functioning e-commerce site.
As sneaker collectors, and a general appreciation for good branding, chipkick’s business model is inspired by the sneaker drop (when a sneaker brand drops a new model on a specific day and time each week). We wanted to create a cookie company that wasn’t just another “cute” company, but a lifestyle. A vibe. So, when we see our customers saying, “I got chipkicked,” or “we’re chipkick-starting our weekend…” we know we’ve hit the mark.
What’s R&D like on the regular? And do you drop new flavors often?
We drop a collection of flavors every Saturday at 10am EST on our website. This collection always includes our signature four (OGio chocolate chip, OGio 2.0 walnut chocolate chip, funfetti, and chocoloco) and then we add in 2 or more specialty and stuffed flavors which change each week. For the most part our calendar is planned out 10-12 months in advance (things change here and there but the calendar is locked). We are strategic when it comes to this – it’s necessary to have a successful business
We have over 30 flavors in our library, and we’ve been launching a new flavor every few weeks. I have a huge inventory of future flavors – I’m constantly adding ideas to my list and then I’ll test them out. I love to browse grocery store aisles for inspiration and ideas too, and we lean a lot on nostalgia (like things we loved as kids. IE our “dunk90 cookie inspired by dunkaroos but also the Nike Dunk shoe – both launching around the same time and being such a craze during our childhood).
We also love to remix desserts – for example, our latest ‘Everything Nice’ cookie not only has pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice, but it also incorporates crushed pumpkin pie pop tarts into the dough. We have a lot of fun with the cookies, and the names. We love naming them.
The R&D is such a science. It took us a while to perfect our base dough but that’s our “control” – and once you have your “control,” it works out for the most part. Toppings and mix-ins are going to impact chemical makeup, so we need to always adjust ratios and ingredients to compensate for too much moisture, or not enough.
My goal is to make the best version of the cookie that I envisioned. Even for one flavor I might have several variations IE stuffed or non-stuffed, or different toppings, to get to that 1 final most perfect version of the original vision.
We pitch ideas to each other, too. And Nick is also really involved in the final taste testing that determines whether we bring it to market. He’s the Creative Director. For example, there’s a cookie we’re working on for Sam, that we might not necessarily have thought to launch, but she really wants it and there’s a market for it. So, I’ll get the right balance of ingredients, and then Nick makes sure it passes the vibe check.
Do you have any plans to open your own brick and mortar? If not, where can people find you?
Right now, the best place to find us is at chipkickcookies.com every Saturday at 10am for our “drops,” or to subscribe to our email blasts to find out about events and other release dates (you can sign up through our website).
We also do custom orders and large / special orders (advance notice required), and we pop up frequently. We are just coming off a successful weekend pop up at Union Market – and we’re also excited to be popping up at One Loudoun and some other spots in the next few months.
I think every business owner dreams of a brick and mortar – a permanent place to call “home” for your business. But our cookies’ home is truly the homes of our “chipkick fam”, and that’s more than good enough for us. With our shipments, before you even open the cookie, you are experiencing the unboxing – we want that to be really special. It’s why we make sure every cookie, every shipment is an extension of the brand experience since we can’t be there in person.
What have some challenges been as a small business owner?
There are so many layers – it’s not just baking and packaging. Finances, planning, family dynamics, not to mention our full-time jobs (yes, we all work full time, too!).
Dropping cookies every week means shipping them every week – which means sometimes you don’t get to enjoy that three-day weekend, or that extended holiday. You feel like you miss out on a lot, and you must really make decisions to balance your emotional health as well as the health of the business.
Shipping – shipping is always a challenge. We really have a new appreciation for businesses when shipping doesn’t go as planned. It’s truly out of the business’ control. For example, last month, with bad storms in New Jersey, some of our shipments were delayed.
Most of our customers were really understanding, but despite our efforts to make up for the inconvenience, we got some not-so-nice complaints. That’s a hard pill to swallow when there were obvious reasons as to why the shipping was a few days late (our cookies are heat sealed, too, so they don’t perish in a few days, they last!).
Launching a business can be a true eye opener – you really know who is rooting for you early on. Which can be great but also disappointing, so it comes down to managing expectations and staying focused.
Not letting everything impact you. There are always going to be opinions, differing tastes and flavor profiles. You need to decide what your tentpoles are – the deal breakers, and what you’re willing to change and what is an intrinsic part of your business. This is why we have an extensive flavor library and make sure our drops are balanced.
We are a really close-knit family – so sometimes tone can be misconstrued, or we get too comfortable with each other. We’ve had to make rules around communication. If it’s a big decision, we get on the phone, we don’t text about it.
The biggest challenge we’ve faced so far is that – drum roll – I’m pregnant! Nick and I are expecting our first child in Spring 2022, and so my first trimester was rough. I was hardly able to help in the kitchen because I felt so nauseous all the time, so with one man down, you really need to be able to trust others to do what you have always done yourself.
No one is every going to do things the way that you do them. This is an entirely new challenge as a woman business owner that we’re facing – but we are lucky to have team members and family that jumped in because we were consistent with our training and methodical with our approach from the beginning.
What I will say is this – running a business is hard. You can understand why – when you look at how many businesses start out versus how many make it – the success is so rare. You also want to do it all – to say yes to every opportunity. And as future thinking as we like to be, we have to stay in the moment, stay present, and stay really grateful and committed to our customers. It’s such a delicate balance of focus and being goal oriented.
What are your top 3 most popular cookies? And what’s your favorite cookie out of all of the flavors you’ve come up with.
OGio is our signature chocolate chip made with semi-sweet chips and chunks (named for our last name, Giordano, and because it’s the OG of cookies). Funfetti, our classic vanilla sugar cookie with rainbow sprinkles. Our campfire & chill s’mores cookie is our fastest-selling cookie. Whenever we release it, it’s gone in 20 minutes.
People order them by the dozens. It’s a graham cracker base dough cookie with Hershey’s milk chocolate and stuffed with fluff. (And while it’s a summer specific product, we do have a winter seasonal version called Fireplace & Chill that does well). Our Double Stuffed is a close 4th – people go nuts for it. Oreos, with Oreo pudding, it’s like the perfect cookies and cream.
Personally, I love all my flavors – it’s so hard. If I had to pick 2, I would pick OGio because I love a classic chocolate chip and our Candy Cane Lane which is my peppermint chocolate cookie that we launched last holiday season and will be making a return this year. It’s like a chocolate brownie with a hint of peppermint – to me, it’s holiday in one bite.
Where do you like to go eat on your days “off”? Do you have any favorite dessert spots in the DMV area?
Since we’re split between DC and VA, we spend a lot of time together in both areas. (But we also spend a lot of time cooking for each other – Sunday family dinners are an ongoing thing, and there’s some sibling rivalry with who makes a better pot of sauce or chicken cutlets).
In Northern VA, we love the Great American Restaurants group. We also love Don Sebas Tacos which is a food truck and (also one of our Frontier Kitchen family members). On our days off we’ll take our dog out and go grab coffee together – we love Caffein, Ridge Top and Cold Spoon.
In DC, Seylou, Baked Joint, Baked & Wired are our musts and holy grail for baked goods. Sam tends to be a savory over a sweet person, so tarts and biscuits are her guilty pleasure. We love Albi & Caruso’s Grocery in DC – I’m Lebanese, and Sam and Nick are Italian, so both places feel like home to us. And Sam has a deep love for Moon Rabbit (she and her husband are long-time fans of Chef Kevin Tien) so you’ll find them there any given weekend.
We don’t really “go out” for dessert – we’ll honestly heat up a chipkick cookie! But if we want ice cream, our summer go-to has been Bruster’s in Ashburn (Sam’s is Ice Cream Jubilee in DC), especially if we take it home and mash it into one of our cookies – it’s too hard not to when we have a freezer full of them!
Big ups to Michelle for taking the time to answer our questions so thoroughly. We can’t recommend Chipkick enough! We haven’t had a bad flavor yet, but if you have a chance to score one of her pumpkin spice, stock up. For real though. They’re insanely good, and we can’t wait to get more. For more on DC food, make sure to check out this tab and stay tuned for more content coming your way. Eat all the things, nom fam!