How Dessert Sweetened Our Business

Oct 29, 2009

Leaving an established career to start a small business doesn’t happen without a significant amount of fear and trembling. Especially when said established career was 20 years in the making.

But that’s precisely what my husband did several years ago. And I’m glad he did.

We started with nothing. A little bit of money in the bank (little = microscopic). A handful of ideas. Troy’s talent. And truckloads of determination.

When is comes to houses, my man can design, build, repair, remodel, advise and diagnose ANYTHING. He’s good at it (I’m not biased at all). But how do you jumpstart a business with nothing but talent and determination? It’s not easy, but a dose of creativity made all the difference.

I’ll explain. Troy’s business is two-fold: he is a Certified Master Inspector and a General Contractor. The two roles are separate, but complimentary. The contracting piece of his business was easier to establish. He’d already done jobs on the side and had a small list of contacts. However, finding his place in the real estate world was going to take a bit more effort. How do you establish trust relationships with real estate agents overnight? Especially when you have zero contacts?

You don’t. But you start somewhere. And for us, it started with Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Yep, that’s right. Chocolate chip cookies. I’m famous for them. Whereas Troy can build a custom kitchen that will take your breath away, I create cookie masterpieces. In trying to think of something we could do to add value, choc chippers came to mind. What if we make cookies, individually package them with a business card, and leave giant gift baskets at the front desk of as many real estate offices in Denver as possible?

For months I made cookies. Hundreds and hundreds of cookies. And caramel corn. Many times a couple hundred a day, packaged and displayed in beautiful baskets with ribbon and business cards dripping off the sides. Troy drove to every office he could find, introduced himself, and left a basket of yummies with the promise to refill it once it emptied.

The rest is history.

Success didn’t happen over night. It took time. But it’s now been nearly six years, and we haven’t had to do any deliberate marketing for the last four of those.

Whether you’re a home inspector, speaker, writer or any other kind of person trying to find a market niche, success is found at the intersection of your assets and a market need. Our agents needed an inspector, but they didn’t yet know about Troy. However, they had a second need: food on the go. Agents are on the run constantly, which means a quick snack at the front desk meets a need. And guess who knows how to leave a lasting impression with a chocolate chip cookie?

Take time to list your assets, and don’t leave out even the smallest or most insignificant of talents. Then, think long and hard about your market and their many different needs. Find a few creative intersections and then give it a go.

Dessert anyone?


  1. Jerolyn

    Very inspiring and a lot to think about. It’s so encouraging to see success follow determination and hard work.

  2. Denise Miller Holmes

    Good lesson. I will be thinking about how to use this principle. Of course, now that you’ve shared, you will get a ton of requests for choco chip cookies. Just sayin’.

  3. Michele

    Thanks, guys. It’s been an interesting journey, with plenty of ups and downs. But how can you go wrong with cookies??? 🙂

  4. alece

    i know where you can send a basket of cookies. 😉

    what an awesome story. seriously.

  5. Celeste Barnard

    that’s good stuff. Turning nothing into something. Love it. And the cookies…I am supposing you did this when you were eating sugar..right? : }

  6. Michele

    Alece, darling, if you come to Colorado, I’ll make you the best choc chip cookies of your LIFE. And we’ll eat a dozen or two while drinking chai and catching up on life for hours and hours … And Celeste, you are correct. Sugar was a staple back then, though I tired of cookies, believe it or not!

  7. Warren Baldwin

    Another very good post. Very smart marketing technique. And I really like this statement of your: success is found at the intersection of your assets and a market need. Mind if I quote this sometime?

    You have a very good blog.



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