Quick take on the Utah #cookie 🍪 wars…
–Chip Cookies is the OG. Crumbl was second to market but did a better job growth-wise (obviously).
–Crumbl Cookies’s product is great and their growth is fantastic (just reference their broken arms by patting themselves on their back on all their #Utah billboards). And IMHO they are tarnishing their reputation through a specious lawsuit (just google it or check out the article I reference in the comments). C’mon—stop the bullying.
–Dirty Dough is an up-and-comer. Audaciously innovative and streamlined the model for entrepreneurs wanting to enter the space.
-Crave is an afterthought. Am I wrong?
The best way to settle this? Over a cup of Mormon Joe (Postum or Pero) or in the octagon.
Bennett Maxwell/Sawyer Hemsley—I call live-streaming rights! I think we’d command some views, especially if it was a sugar-crusted octagon and you forced each other to eat the opponent’s products until one of you had to finally tap out.
Final thoughts—competition makes everyone better. Prove it with smart(er) strategy and better, differentiated product. Remember, there’s not enough sugar to satisfy Utah’s demand (what does this say about us collectively?) so take the abundance mentality and make room for everyone to play in this space.
This type of battle is not unprecedented. See what happened in 2015 with the “dirty soda” moguls SWIG and SODALICIOUS in The New York Times.
Utah Cookie Wars: The Real Story Behind Dirty Dough ft. Bennett Maxwell, the Founder – powered by Happy Scribe
Hey, everyone. How’s it going? My name is Steph, the Unicorn recruiter. Welcome to my channel where I talk about tech, careers and life. If you haven’t already, please hit the subscribe button to stay tuned for weekly videos. So now let’s begin today on the Unicorn talent show. Have a special guest with us, Bennett, who is the founder of Dirty Doe, and he’ll be sharing his career story with us. So with that being said, Bennett, I’ll turn the time over to you to have you share a little bit about yourself, some fun facts, any hobbies that you may have.
Awesome. Well, thanks for having me on. Back from Mexico. I do a lot of traveling, so we go to Mexico a lot. Several times a year, we do some cruises as well. My background is I grew up in Utah in sales during the summer, sales stuff. That’s kind of where I got my start before becoming an entrepreneur. Hobbies like pickleball, nice, super fun, and yeah, travel, hanging out with the family.
That’s awesome. I know you mentioned you started your career in sales and then you moved over and then founded your own company, all of that. Could you tell us a little bit about your journey into sales? What was that like? And then from there, kind of like how you transition from sales to now, like, starting your own company, running this business.
Yeah, for sure. So I started sales very early on. I guess just out of necessity. I was like, can I buy these candy bars from Costco and sell them at the elementary school? That was my first sales gig. And we got kicked out, me and my brothers did. And then somebody had the opportunity like, hey, we’ll do lawn aeration. If you go, you just got to go knock on people’s doors and ask them if they want it. I’m like, it seemed that bad. So it’s like junior high, I was going door to door and then to fund sports. I did football, wrestling in rugby. And either you pay for it or you go sell either cookie dough or like the discount card. So same thing all door to door. And I was always selling the most because I don’t want to pay for it. I didn’t have the money to pay for, frankly, that’s kind of what got me going. But I didn’t think that I was like, oh, I’m doing kind of a little job here and there. I decided to drop out of college, and I was going to premed. I had one semester left.
So I was committed to education and committed to another four years of med school. So when I dropped out, I thought, I’m going to dedicate the same amount of time, energy, and effort into becoming a professional salesperson. So that’s kind of just going to consume sales. So I started reading all the books and role playing and podcast, all of that and started going down what I tell myself was more of a professional sales career and started doing the summer sales stuff, still door knocking and then managing and leading teams, recruiting, all that. You’re working for another company, but you’re 1099, so you’re kind of running your own business inside of their business. Right. An entrepreneur, you don’t make any money unless they make money. You can recruit guys, you can Train them to sell, but if they don’t sell an account, you make no money. So you kind of start early on, like with that risk mitigation and like, okay, how can I really add value? Because if I don’t add value in dollars, I’m not going to get paid anyway. So I was doing that for a few years and I did Solar for a few months, loved it.
And teamed up with my brother and we started a solar company. So I knew how to grow the sales work side and he knew general business, so he made a really good team and he was able to teach me all the things I didn’t know. And yeah, we grew that business, sold it just 18 months after we founded it. So it was pretty quick lived. And that’s when I jumped into dirty door. That’s what got me here. Very big shift. Obviously door door sells to owning a cookie franchise and a bakery. But yeah, here I am.
Yeah, that’s awesome because I love the fact that even when you’re a little kid, you are already in that mindset of like, okay, how can I sell, generate money, get people to take action. I think that kind of set your foundation into selling and just connecting with people and driving that business. But what are some skills you think that really helped you kind of make that leap from sales? Of course, there was a lot of risk in that. You talked about the commission not getting paid until the company gets paid, but what kind of helped you take that leap into starting your own company? And how did you come up with the idea of doing cookies in particular? Because I know in Utah there’s been a huge text and wanted to understand how did you think about the kind of value proposition or selling cookies in particular as part of your kind of business.
I’m going to go off for 30 minutes on that. My mindset towards learning early on was shaped of it doesn’t matter what you make, it matters what you’re learning and how you’re developing as a person. So, like the rich dad, poor dad, if you ever heard of that. But it’s work to learn, not to earn. So I’ve always taken that approach, like, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Well, the worst thing that can happen is I started a solar company, didn’t make any money, but I learned a lot from my failure. So that’s how I went into the approach. Same thing with sales, right? I had a sales cut Co knife. And they said, you’re hired. I’m like, Sweet. This is like my first real job, pretty much. And then they’re like, oh, next week is training. It’s 40 hours. I was like, how much do I get paid? And they’re like, oh, you don’t get paid. And I’m like, I quit. I’m not doing this. And then I talked to my dad and he’s like, no, that’s foolish. Like, people pay for sales training. You’re telling me you’re going to get it for free, but you don’t want to get free sales training.
And I was like, kind of clicked. And I’m like, all right, went back to that mindset. So that’s prepared me to like, if I fail, what’s the worst thing that what am I really failing at? As long as I’m learning and I’m progressing, then I’m good. So that takes off a lot of the pressure, and then it also forces you, as you’re learning and failing, to not make the same failure twice, right? That’s the key. You can fail as many times as you want. Just don’t do the same thing twice to prove that you’re actually learning and progressing. So as far as Dirty Dough goes, it was an existing company. I had wanted to buy a Crumble franchise, but decided not to because it was owner operated. And that’s cool, but that’s buying your own job, right? I pay money, I buy a franchise, and I’m forced to work there. Like, I don’t want to buy a job. This didn’t align with my investment strategy. So dirty. Dough is an existing cookie company delivery only in Arizona State University. Started in 2018. He was looking for investment capital to open up an actual storefront. So I’m like, oh, I could just invest with him passively rather than buying my own dirty or my own Crumble.
So that’s what I did. He opened it up. Then he was just overwhelmed with everything and wanted to sell the business. I was still running my solar business out of San Diego. This is a single unit store out of Arizona, open less than a year. And I thought if I could buy this and make it so simple, I could really lower the barrier of entry to entrepreneurs for other entrepreneurs, right? So that’s what I did. I purchased it. And then how do we make this the most simple food franchise model that exists? And it all came to centralizing the production, so the franchisees don’t have to deal with raw ingredients. They don’t have to deal with as Mary employees, they don’t have to deal with the waste mixing the dough portioning. It quality control. They’re just grabbing a pre portioned dough puck, putting in the oven to serve it fresh. So I think we really simplified it, but it was, how do we make more people become entrepreneurs? And it was a lot heavier investment in the front. You have to build facilities and buy equipment and you’re into it a few million dollars before you even open up a freaking store.
But now it’s really allowed us to position ourselves to sell a lot of franchises and streamline the process.
Yeah, I definitely read about the part where you bought it from someone in Arizona and then how did you make that connection? And then the part about you, you said you learned a lot about the business. That seems like a lot of learning that you do and then a lot of upfront risks to put into something. How did you think about taking that leap? Because I feel like you talked a lot about taking a risk, being able to learn and fail. I feel like a lot of times entrepreneurs really have that mentality. But from someone who’s more in the corporate world trying to transition, do you have any advice or how you went through that process of learning the business, being able to kind of take risks and then taking that leap?
Yeah, before I took that leap, I mean, I guess I bought the business, but before I really put the money into it, I took a startup ignition. It’s called Startup Ignition. So it’s a startup course and it’s all about how to validate your idea before you spend all the time and money. So I learned a lot of very valuable resources on how to do that. And then you go tell 100 people your idea. Every single person is going to tell you what you’re doing, right or wrong. And then every time your idea gets a little bit better, then you go to the next person and the next person. So by the time we’re really shelling out the money, I’m talking to people with decades of experience that have done this, been there, done that, and they love it. Right. So it’s like it’s probably going to work, but it was really validating that idea 100 different times and then it’s kind of slowly right, I’m going to buy my first. Before we built the warehouse, we bought just the bowling machine and then we put it in the current store that we had and we’re like, wow, now our labor just got cut in half because we don’t have to hand portion any of this.
And our quality control went up and the portion size is exact. Now our turnover for employees is at an all time low as well because now all you’re doing is grabbing cookies, putting them in a box. There’s no more like, Tedious, I’m going to weigh cookies for 5 hours than go home. So we tested that first and they’re like, okay, that works. Now let’s get a small warehouse. Now let’s get a large warehouse. Now let’s get more equipment. So you’re kind of slowly upward spiral, I guess you don’t need to jump in all at once. You’re slowly validating by talking to other people and testing those ideas.
Yeah, I love that because it sounds like you’re trying it out, and then you’re reiterating and going through that journey of like, oh, it looks like it’s really resonating with keeping those employees as well as then being able to sell those cookies to the market. So that’s really cool that you are able to really scale that operation, because sometimes I’m like, how can you scale cooking making? But I love the fact that you really invested in equipment and really being able to streamline that process. So now my other question is, can you tell us more about what’s the cookie wars that’s going on? Can you share more details around that? Because I’ve been trying to follow you on social, and I was like, okay, this is really fun because I think people love a little bit drama.
We’re looking for the drama. That’s what we do. We have one store open in May, and that’s the store that I bought. That’s temporary. Arizona then we got served by Crumble, and we’re like, for what? Where’s the cease and desist letter? Like, what’s your issue? Because typically a company sends you a cease and desist letter, and they say, hey, we’re infringing. Like, we think the brands are too similar or whatever. This is what we want you to change. And if you do, there’s no problems, none of that. They just went straight to the lawsuit. And I’m like, what the freak? Whatever. We looked at the merits of it. The whole thing filed in Utah in May, and anybody with access to the Internet can say how many dirty dose stores were open in May. Well, the answer is zero. So we must be really good at selling cookies if we’re stealing Crumble cookie sales in the state of Utah without having a store open. So that’s kind of bogus. Then they made a claim that a former Crumb employee started dirty dough in 2019. I’m like, well, use Google and you’ll see that Dirty Doe was founded the year before.
It was just really sloppy, in my opinion. And we were one of several companies. It wasn’t just us in Crave. I’ve had multiple companies from multiple other states reach out, and they’re like, yeah, we’re getting sued as well. So we’re like, whatever. We have 60 days to respond. We’re going to use our 60 days. This is just an annoyance. They’re just trying to, in my opinion, kind of a boldly move of like, hey, we’re a billion dollar company. You guys are startup with one store. We can drain your legal fees before anything, after you improve anything, because there’s nothing to prove anyways. I’m getting on a plane to go to Mexico with my family for a month, and KSL picks up the article. So that was literally four weeks ago because I just barely got back, and I’m like and then that’s when it started blowing up. So then I’m like, okay, now I have to come on top of it because that makes us look pretty bad. Oh, former Crumble employee that had access to Crumble’s recipes founded Dirty Dough. I’m like, well, yeah, unless you have Google and you trust the news articles that were released in 2018 showing that Dirty Dose founded.
And then the funny thing was with the laws, they didn’t accuse us of using the recipes. They just said, he had access to recipes. Like, of course he had access to recipes. He was an employee. But are we using the recipes? No. Again, I think it was just a sloppy lawsuit to cause confusion, and it confused some people. But it’s like, look at our cookies. Look at theirs. They’re not even close. I mean, a cookie is a cookie, but we don’t do inch thick frostings. We do three layer cookies. We do more mixed in. We do almost all of our cookies have fillings where Crumble has, like, no fillings. Our cookies are a lot thicker versus, like, out of any two cookie companies, I don’t think you can find two giant cookies that are more different. Anyways, I’m renting here and then the box, I thought that was kind of silly, so I kind of made fun of that on social media as well.
Yeah, that’s so interesting. I think everybody has a different like, obviously, you know your story and from the other side, it’s always like, oh, they have a certain story, and they’re always like, every company is out there to try to compete with other people, too. So it’s really interesting to just see how companies kind of, like, compete against each other, but there’s also companies that collaborate with each other. But I love that you’ve been so active on social media, and I wanted to hear a little bit about how you’re thinking about this, and I see that you’re also twisting it a little bit to be a little bit more fun and light hearted. So can you tell us a little bit about how you’re thinking about it? Because no company ever wants to be in a lawsuit, I would say, but you’re taking it really well. So can you share a little bit about how you’re kind of like thinking, contemplating about the situation and how you’re using that kind of maybe a business strategy for you to continue to grow?
Yeah, it’s a silly lawsuit, so I’m just making fun of it. People love the drama with the boxes. They think they own a rectangular box. And I’m like, you can’t there’s only two box options. It’s a square and a rectangle. And for functionality, if you don’t want your cookies touching each other as they’re being transported in an Uber Eats car, are you going to do a rectangular box or a square box or rectangle? Right. Less movement. So that’s why they use it. That’s why we use it, and that’s that. So I threw on social media. I’m like, hey, everybody knows that there’s only one cookie company. I mean, only one box per cookie company Chip, which was before Crumble. They use a square, Crumble uses a rectangle oil. So I’m going to have to corner off either. And then I put on stupid mock ups of like a Starbucks, a pyramid box, a Tetris box, and then I tag Crave Cookies, the other cookie company, and I’m like, hurry and pick your box before they’re all gone and just make it light. And we had like 1000 people vote on the poll within a day.
I think people can relate to like it’s just Mormon sense. And then obviously there’s attorneys commenting on it and they’re like, yeah, they have nothing on here. This is just a frivolous lawsuit. So everybody kind of likes to poke fun a little bit and then we throw up some billboards with some tongue in cheek things like our cookies don’t crumble under competition or something like that. And then we posted that on LinkedIn. I think it got like half a million impressions within a week or so on my personal LinkedIn page. I don’t have a following, but people just love that. What were the other ones that we did? You let your taste buds be the judge was another billboard. Cookie is so good. We’re being sued and had like a picture of a cookie and it was being censored. So again, it was kind of silly. So we’re just kind of being silly with it. The lawsuit had pictures of their cookie with sprinkles and our cookies with sprinkles. So I’m like, Grandma, throw away your sprinkles or Crumble is going to see you. It’s like, you can’t have a cookie with sprinkles because it’s too similar to their cookie with a sprinkles.
And then in our lawsuit paperwork, they also did a cookie with a cinnamon swirl pattern, like a cinnamon cookie. And then you swirl the frosting and I’m like, what? Like you guys invented that? You guys are five years old. This is silly. So all of our responses have been silly responses to a silly lawsuit.
That’s so funny. And I think it’s such a good thing on your guys’side that you guys are keeping it so lighthearted and it’s just awesome. I see so much support gardener for you guys out in the market and people driving down. It looks like you guys have a store in is it oram is that right?
Yeah, right next to Oram. It’s Vineyard.
Okay. Vineyard. Okay, got you. Yeah. And people are driving down from far distance to get your guys’cookies and it seems like it’s really driving the traffic and you guys are becoming kind of on top of mind because I’ve never tried dirty dough, obviously. Crumble, I have, and like Chip maybe once or twice. I’m not a huge cookie fan too much. I’m trying to stay on my diet. But it’s just so fun to see that people are really like, oh, taking action from what you guys are doing out there. So I guess from your side. What do you love most about your job right now? I know you’re the founder and you’re really driving this business. What do you love most and how do you think about kind of growing the business even further?
Yeah, I have two goals of dirty dough, and neither of them have anything to do with cookies. One is a mental health aspect. I have two daughters and a son, but the daughters are the ones that I’m mostly worried about, statistically speaking. I listen to a podcast, a guy named Jonathan Height, a psychologist, and he pulled up a graph and girls between I forgot like four and nine are 189% more likely to be admitted to the hospital for self harm. And it’s like, what what do you do as a dad? Four to nine year after that, I had somebody in the family, twelve years old, suicide attempt, and it’s like 6th grade elementary school. So that kind of started really worrying me. And then when I got dirty, though, it’s like, okay, how do we make our cookies as different as possible from Crumble? Well, crumble is the instagram cookie. Right. Well, the mental health crisis is being pinned on Instagram and social media. I have a normal, imperfect life. I’m going to compare myself to your perfect Instagram life. So it’s like these cookies are going to represent the messiness and the dirtiness of life and show people that they can still be enjoyed.
So that’s the primary goal of dirty, though. That’s why we do, like, all of our messaging on our boxes is like, probably unique inside and out. Some of them say perfectly imperfect. You walk into our store, says what’s on the inside that matters. But it’s that mental health push. And with that, we’re building wellness centers and schools for a nonprofit that we’re building right now. So that’s the primary goal, secondary goal. And I love that. I love making a difference and be like, because my goal is 1000 stores in the next four and a half years with 1000 wellness centers, that’s millions of kids that we can potentially help. That gets me stoked. Not just my daughters, but I can help other parents that are like me. And I have no idea what to do with this mental health crisis. Secondary goal is lowering the barrier of entry to entrepreneurship. I love sales. I love entrepreneurship. And that’s what we’re doing. To be an entrepreneur, you need a game plan. You need money, you need time, you need expertise. Well, the game plan is given to you in a franchise. The money that is required to open up this we’re less than half of the cost of a Crumble.
We don’t require it to be your full time job like Crumble does because it’s so simple. Right. So now that the time requirement is a lot less expertise. You’ll never mix a batch of cookies just like I never have. So you don’t need to be an expert baker now people can jump in that wouldn’t have owned a business otherwise, and now they can own a business that has the potential to last several decades. So I’m really passionate about that. I love talking to people and getting them into entrepreneurship. Take the risk. It could pay off big time. And it’s just fun. It’s just really exciting.
That’s so cool. I love the fact that you have that social kind of awareness of the mental health issues going on. And I think now people are really able to talk a lot more about those mental issues and just being able to be even transparent and opening up and taking out the stigma. So I love that there’s kind of a social aspect to it and then lowering the barrier of entry for entrepreneurship and allowing people to even have a little bit more free time as opposed to fully dedicated to the business with their time. It’s like, hey, you’re able to really take this kind of playbook and scale it and still be able to drive success for you and your family and all of that. So I love that. And then maybe to wrap this up, then I just wanted to maybe learn from you what has been kind of one piece of career advice that has been beneficial to you and that has helped you kind of stay really strong in your career, in your life. What’s kind of your model on that side?
Well, I alluded just in general, the work to learn not to earn is always kind of the fallback of I’m never losing outright. I can lose money, but I’m not losing my time because it’s an experience that I learned from, so I’m better for it. So that helps you mitigate a lot of the mistakes. At least you’re going to make mistakes. So how do you stay strong mentally and it’s okay? Well, I learned that and I’m going to be better from it. So I feel like that has been like a personal advice, I guess that’s helped me. Business Emit Revisited is my favorite book that talks about replacing yourself and your business so you can work on your business rather than in your business. And again, that’s the type of entrepreneurship we want our franchisees to have. Right? You’re not in there making dough. You’re in there working on the business, not serving customers. But how could you increase the overall business so that you think like a business owner rather than an employee? Yeah, so that’s the whole premise of that book. I definitely recommend anybody that’s going into business to read that and implement those strategies from day one.
That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much, Bennett, for sharing your story and all of behind the Scenes Behind the Cookie Wars. It’s really fun to just learn more about it and just see the success you have and so much support that you have with the community and all of that from my side, I’m definitely cheering you on. I’m just excited to learn more about some of the kind of gossip you would say are drawn from you directly. So that’s so fun to hear some of your story and then how you’re thinking about growing and really helping other people accelerate their growth as well. So with that, this pretty much wraps up the video, and if you have any questions for Bennett and I feel free to leave them in the comments below. And as always, don’t to, like, subscribe. And I’ll see you in my next video. See ya. Bye.