Story by Amy Curtis
Photos by Brandon PayneWhen business management major Scott Davidson proposed a JMU cookie delivery company as the business model for a team project, its most promising features didn’t fit the class requirements and they set the idea aside. But after surveying his potential student customers and finding this market niche, Davidson’s passion for business brought cookies back to the table when he found free time to open his company during the fall of 2007. Since graduating in 2009, Davidson’s Campus Cookies has provided Harrisonburg with late-night warm, gooey, made-to-order cookies ever since, and experienced a slew of business changes along the way.
When Campus Cookies first opened under the name Craving Cookies, Davidson was the sole employee: He baked, packaged and delivered every cookie ordered and was responsible for all of the marketing. Campus Cookies now has 24 employees and has expanded to include a branch in Blacksburg that caters to Virginia Tech students. Davidson currently plays four roles. He’s the regional manager for both sites, CEO for the company and the assistant manager for Virginia Tech. He’s responsible for making sure customers enjoy their Campus Cookies experiences at both locations, which he sees as key to long-term success.
“There will always be system error and human error, no matter how much you train the employees and invest into developers,” said Davidson. “I’ve handled problems all over the board, small to big, but 99.9 percent of our customers come away from us with a positive experience.”
With the additional location in Blacksburg, Davidson emphasized the importance of policy, procedure, contracts and dependable management. He picked Blacksburg as the next location because Virginia Tech has a large, centralized campus similar to the JMU market.
In the near future, Campus Cookies will introduce three new flavors of cookie cakes. Their revamped text messaging system will now be able to send texts to gift senders. Davidson plans to expand and add two more Campus Cookies locations in the next three years, although the exact plans are still “cookie confidential — you can make a good guess when you think of the logistics,” said Davidson. He always keeps a day-one mindset when solving problems in his business. “You must always be evolving and creating value,” said Davidson. “Never take anything for granted, and always keep moving forward in order to remain competitive.”
Davidson said the success of Campus Cookies has nothing to do with cookies, but with offering variety and quality service. Customers like the novelty of having fresh cookies delivered to “anywhere there is emotion: girlfriend/boyfriend, parent to student. Gifts are a very important part to our business model,” said Davidson. “We had to create loads of value additive features to make us more than just cookie delivery. We had to create an experience.” Late-night hours appeal to students. Campus Cookies delivers until 1 a.m. on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, until 2 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, and until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
“I think that being a cookie delivery service is pretty unique in itself,” said sophomore French major Madeline Hennicke. “I found out about Campus Cookies pretty quickly after coming to JMU because they’re the go-to treat or late-night snack for a lot of JMU students.” Hennicke typically orders Campus Cookies due to a spur-of-the-moment craving, and likes that they deliver late every night. “My favorite cookie would definitely be the raspberry shortcake, but to be honest, I like them all,” said Hennicke.
Chocolate chip cookies are the most popular with customers, according to Davidson. He makes up most of the new cookie flavors and recipes, but also occasionally lets customers vote using surveys on different types of cookie. Campus Cookies offers more than 20 varieties of cookie, as well as brownies, cinnamon rolls and customizable cookie cakes. Customers can also add milk, ice cream or dipping sauces to any order. The Campus Cookies website and Facebook advertise daily specials. Different care package options include balloons and Campus Cookies apparel, gift cards and accessories.
Gabe Fuentes, a junior business major, has been working for Campus Cookies for seven months. Officially he’s a delivery driver but Fuentes said that “most Campus Cookies employees do a bit of everything.” Fuentes also bakes and packages cookies. He described Davidson as a “really cool, fun boss,” and Campus Cookies as a laid-back, fun work environment. “It’s difficult to get a job at Campus Cookies, because everyone wants to work there,” said Fuentes.
Fuentes used his connections with friends who were already employed by Campus Cookies to his benefit to secure a job there himself. On any given night, Campus Cookies generally fills 50 orders. “Sometimes you have to deal with really drunk people,” said Fuentes. “But sometimes people ask you to play fun jokes, and that’s something that we’re very willing to do.”
One of Fuentes’ favorite on-job memories was pretending to be a Chinese delivery man at an unsuspecting apartment at the request of a customer. Junior psychology major Kelly Overstreet orders Campus Cookies monthly. “The cookies are always warm when they are delivered so you know they were made fresh,” said Overstreet. “I like that they have all kinds of cookies; traditional cookies like chocolate chip, and the more expensive cookies, like chocolate peanut butter.” Since the initial cold reception his early business model received in class, Davidson said he has no regrets.
“I’ve learned from my mistakes, and am glad that I sacrificed so much of my time to give Campus Cookies the chance it deserves,” Davidson said. “I will never forget what I have had to do to get to this point and will not take anything for granted.”