Making It In Northern Michigan: Big Dipper Dough Co.
Big Dipper Dough Co., which produces egg-free cookie dough that can be eaten uncooked, is now available in 655 stores located in 13 states.
So far, there are two flavors: Rocket Chip, which is chocolate chip, and Domination, a combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, oatmeal, and coconut. Both are non-genetically modified and marketed as snacks, ice cream toppings or something to add flavor and texture to shakes or malts.
The business got started by two non-bakers: firefighter/EMT Austin Groesser and Daniel Fuller, a jack-of-all-trades Austin met in a class at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC). There are now 12 employees.
They have aggressively marketed their brand by landing distributors and making old-fashioned sales pitches. The result has been growth from Michigan to Kentucky, and from Nebraska to Pennsylvania.
Groesser said making a good product is just half of the battle.
Even though Big Dipper has landed two experienced distributors – Cherry Capital Foods for Michigan and Warren, Mich.-based Lipari for other states – they still have to go out and make the original sales pitch to some regional and local retailers.
At this point, future expansion will depend how well those sales pitches go.
“I’m thrilled at the speed it’s growing,” Groesser said. “There’s always some nervousness, some unknowns, that are just part of running a business. But our team makes it work.”
Making it work means effort from all.
In the employee book club, everyone is expected to read at least 10 pages a night. Topics range from food safety, marketing, teamwork, recall protocols, data security and overall efficiency.
One of the latest reads: “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
“I push hard from the top for self development,” said Groesser. “Our goal is whether employees are with us six months or 30 years, they keep gaining skills.”
The company also invests in more formal training through NMC’s Training Services. So far, that has included a four-hour introduction to lean manufacturing techniques, with a goal to take the six-month “champion” course.
Groesser and Fuller have met with Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) members for guidance. Grosser said they also meet regularly with mentors.
“We sit down and chat, but it’s with a purpose,” Groesser said. “It’s usually about a problem I’m facing. They give their perspective – maybe a book to read or a way they solved a similar problem.”
Learn more about the company at https://bigdipperdough.com/