To say the past few years for Sheila Coon have been a whirlwind is the ultimate understatement.
When the owner of Hot Oven Cookies found herself in a homeless shelter in 2014, the idea of giving up her dream was the last thing on her mind. She used that time to write up her business plan and has since gone from a mobile cookie truck, to brick and mortar store front, and is now planning on franchising her business.
Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan visited the bakery at Bicentennial Plaza in Springfield to bring us this next story.
Hear why Sheila Coon calls her business a ‘ministry of love’ in a digital exclusive clip.
Read the full transcript:
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: For anyone with low impulse control for sweets, specifically savory-sweet specialty cookies, whose selection exceeds 1,000 varieties, the prep kitchen for these tasty treats might not be the place to be. But that’s where we found ourselves on a Wednesday morning with Sheila Coon and her daughter Jenei.
The resistance to the allure of the sweets is strong with mother and daughter. What drives them is work ethic and focus. After all, this operation started as just some ideas written on a notepad in a homeless shelter only a few years ago.
Sheila Coon, Hot Oven Cookies: From the beginning, it’s been extremely hard. It’s been — there’s been struggles, there’s been — there’s been hills, but there’s been a lot of valleys. And just to keep working really hard through every single one and work out the kinks is really the root and the basis for who we are.
Without a work ethic, I mean, this is cookies, right? It seems like it’s a no brainer. It’s easy. There’s a lot of work that goes into this. I mean, on production day alone on Monday, I make thousands of pounds of cookies, dough by myself. Thousands!
So, it seems like it’s kind of frivolous and kind of like cutesy, but it’s a lot of work that goes into it.
Brian Sullivan: With over 1,000 types of cookies in their arsenal, it would be impossible to have them all available at any given time. They may not even go through all of them in a year’s time, but they do have a method for what they put out for their customers.
Sheila Coon: Every week, we put out three brand new ones, hence we call them “the Weeklys,” because they’re only available that week.
The Always are our signature cookies, and those never change. They’re customer favorites, with quite a few of them having been with us since 2017.
So, those are not going to change. And we’ve just added to them, as our customers have — have requested and as we’ve seen that — that interest in a particular flavor, if it’s that good, we’ll add it to the Always.
Brian Sullivan: And, as would be expected, customer satisfaction is a top priority here, which might explain the high volume of hand-squeezed lemonade that they keep in stock. It might not be the beverage one would expect to pair with cookies, but it’s a fan favorite in this unique cookie depot.
One other unique feature is the work relationship that Sheila Coon shares with her daughter. Of her seven children, Jenei puts in the most hours with mom, and the rapport is very businesslike, with an undercurrent of love and respect, of course.
Sheila Coon: To be perfectly honest, the model from inception, to creation, and execution is very strict. I have a model to follow, and it doesn’t matter who’s there, they’re going to execute it exactly the way I put it, only because of our franchise expectations in the future.
So, it was really great because I was able to train her in the model that we will be training other people and the fact that she really likes it and she’s really, really good at it, it makes it really fun.
As a matter of fact, we’re opening another store and I’m going to miss her, because she’s going to be the one that’s going to be doing the other store and I’ll be here. And so, I’m going to miss that, that banter and the dynamics in the morning.
But, it’s — it’s — it’s phenomenal to watch her be part of legacy, it’s even better.
Brian Sullivan: Their sights may be set on expansion and franchise, but Sheila Coon hasn’t let that distract her from where the store is now. Well, at least where it was when we stopped by.
The first storefront was actually a cookie truck in 2017. They went brick and mortar in 2018 in downtown Springfield. The next move was uptown here to Bicentennial Plaza in 2020, and the fanbase has followed them every step of the way.
So, do the three rules of real estate apply to this business? Yes and no.
Sheila Coon: Depending on what your specialty is and how good you are at it, it doesn’t always matter. Because since the beginning, wherever we’ve been is where the customers are.
So, whenever we post or we’ll tell people where we are, they show up. But to maximize revenue and potential, looking for a location that works for you is obviously a good choice.