“I used Leading Edge™ to literally launch my business,” says Lori Morrissey, owner of Lori Lynn’s Cookies & Cream, a food truck specializing in tantalizing ice cream sandwiches and lavish from-scratch pastries, based out of the Tri-Lakes area.
Morrissey had run a cookie delivery business locally named True Mountain Bakery between 2016 and 2019, and was ready to level-up. Shortly after the pandemic took hold in early 2020, she was searching online for business classes to help her achieve a transition into another form of getting her cookies into customers’ hands. She discovered the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center and its nine-week Leading Edge™ program, for which she prepaid and later earned grants to fully pay herself back.
In rapid procession, she took the class in August of that year, established an LLC in September, graduated in mid November, that same month flew to Houston, Texas to purchase a former postal truck (which she lovingly named Marta), and hired a lead baker in January of 2021. By May, Lori Lynn’s Cookies & Cream truck was on the road, and in the five months since she says she’s already generated more than $70,000 in revenue. Mind you that’s with only limited, evening and weekend service, as she still holds a day job with a PR agency that specializes in healthcare strategy and marketing.
The truck has already enabled the hiring of six part-time employees, too. Four of them are 15 years old, gleaning their first job experience, allowing Morrissey a form of immediate give-back: “It’s important to me to train them and teach them a good work ethic and things like how to schedule and communicate with a boss; we work hard and earn every penny, but it’s a fun environment.”
As a mother of three daughters, Morrissey had already done something similar inside her family, helping the girls create Three Sisters Baked Goods, selling her cookies to neighbors back in 2008. She has been baking since age five, cheered on by her grandfather, who gave her honest feedback on her young recipe development and instilled a belief in her that she would be selling her cookies professionally some day. “Connecting with people through cookies has been a thread through my whole life,” she says. Her business tagline today is “connecting people, cookies and ice cream.” For her, it’s not quite religion, but it’s definitely a “comfort hobby” and “my go-to coping mechanism” — to make (and eat!) the sweet treats. She says at any given time at her house there’s at least two or three types of cookie dough frozen into balls, ready for baking on a whim. In total, she’s developed around 30 personal recipes over the decades with more coming now that the truck’s in motion. Each month, there’s a rotating flavor of the month, such as a new brown butter pecan cookie that debuted in November.
Utilizing The Cupcake Doctor’s location of Austin Bluffs Parkway as her commissary, Morrissey has created several gluten- and dairy-free and vegan recipes to cater to those with dietary restrictions. (Her GF and DF cupcakes are also sold at Colonel Mustard’s on the Springs’ west side.) Lori Lynn’s Cookies & Cream offers delivery, pickup and catering services too. And she’s hoping to move into a brick-and-mortar spot as early as spring, 2022, as well as get a second truck on the road at some point during the year.
But backing up, Morrissey’s well aware she wouldn’t be off to such a smashing start without the help of the SBDC and its many consultants. During the early weeks of the Leading Edge™ class, she developed her business plan with assistance. “I had the great recipes,” she says, “I just needed to figure out how to make everything connect for the business… I went in thinking I was going to open a brick-and-mortar bakery, but we ran the numbers and realized I would have to essentially be a cafe and serve meals to cover my costs. In talking with my instructor, Mark Bittle, I quickly realized that’s not what I wanted to be doing.”
Between her vision and input from family and Bittle, the notion of a food truck began taking shape. She traveled to Waco, Texas, where her brother lives, and he introduced her to a similar ice cream sandwich truck concept named Pokey O’s. The owner was generous with mentoring her and allowing her to tour his operation, learning the basics such as the necessary refrigeration components, scoop sizes and much more minutia. That experience put her in a great position once she returned to the SBDC class to finish crafting her business’ framework.
As Leading Edge™ students get priority over other clients working with the SBDC, Morrissey wasted no time in meeting with several lawyers to draft her employee handbooks and create a non-disclosure agreement, etc. An additional challenge at the time: she was in the middle of a divorce, and needed reassurance she wouldn’t be losing her business to it. She also met with SBDC financial planners to help structure a realistic 12-month revenue projection and “poke holes in my initial financial plan” she’d created prior. Darrell Fleck, an SBDC general business consultant who formerly owned a Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins franchise, “looked at my books and almost made me cry the first time we talked,” she says, laughing about it now. “But I’m happy to report that the last time I met with him he said I’m doing an amazing job!”
Another valuable mentor through the SBDC was consultant Christina Voreadis, co-owner of Go Fish Food Truck and also experienced in PR and marketing. Like Fleck, Voreadis’ directly relevant experience in the retail food world — and on a food truck in her case — proved indispensable. Via Voreadis’s professional recommendations, Morrissey connected with an area fabrication company named BN Fabrications to weld all the metal, plumb, run electrical and do everything necessary to outfit Marta for service. Next came a referral to local business Creative Consortium for her cute, slick banner wrap, built around a drawing of a cow one of her daughters created at age 14. Passersby can’t miss the colorful mobile unit, with bright pink and yellow accents.
Morrissey has continued to utilize the SBDC’s free services. They even helped connect her to a commercial Realtor to begin the hunt for an ideal brick-and-mortar spot. Simply put, she says, “They’re the best. I went from no idea to a complete business plan and a successful launch with a toolbelt full of tools, plus a great group of people backing me and cheering me on.”