EDMOND — Cookie Advantage customers know the importance of repeat and referral clientele. And sometimes, the way to get them is to sweeten the deal, literally.
Bixby entrepreneurs Kim and Duane Carns have created a thriving franchise based on thanking clients with fresh chocolate chip cookies. They founded Cookie Advantage 15 years ago and are now expanding nationwide, including a new Edmond location operated by Heather and Mac Carver.
It works like this: Cookie Advantage customers — commonly businesses such as real estate agents, car dealers and bankers — input the name and address of clients they want to thank, and Cookie Advantage ships them a batch of cookies and a survey card via priority mail. Sixty to 80 percent of the surveys are returned, and most contain referrals, Heather Carver said.
“It just makes sense for them to fill out the survey while they are enjoying a delicious, gourmet, made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookie,” she said.
The package has the business' name and logo on it — not Cookie Advantage — so they get all the credit and reap the benefits. The recipe is no secret; in fact, it's printed on a card enclosed in each package. The real secret, says Duane Carns, is the gesture.
“We found you need to ‘wow' people,” he said. “The cookies do a lot of the follow up for them.”
When developing the business model for Cookie Advantage, Carns said they wanted it to be attractive to franchisees. Startups can expect an initial investment of less than $75,000 with the potential to make a six-figure income. Plus, it's a four-day workweek: they don't bake Fridays because they don't want cookies lingering at the post office over a weekend.
“We wanted an efficient model that would give the person a life beyond the business,” Carns said.
Franchisees are able to set up their location quickly. Carver's Edmond location was up and running in less than two months. Carns says for most, a staff consisting of a husband-and-wife team with one part-time employee is sufficient. The size of the locations is just 800 to 1,000 square feet, and there's very little equipment to set up.
Cookie Advantage has now shipped more than 20 million cookies. The company has more than 20 franchises nationwide and expects to add a dozen this year.
Carver said she was surprised by how well the business has done. She grossed more than $23,500 in sales and filled 1,100 orders in January, her third month in business, and is on track to gross $300,000 in her first year.