Rather than making “lemons” when her previous job didn’t work out, Susan Nolte decided to bake cookies.
“I had always, always wanted my own business,” Nolte said. After working in education for a dozen years and then a decade or so in human resources recruiting, the West Hartford resident thought it was time for a huge change.
She was considering her options, looking into conventional jobs, when a friend dropped off a brochure about an entrepreneur course being offered at the . Nolte enrolled, and during the course completed a project focused on a cookie company.
Nolte had always been focused on healthy eating, and joked, “It’s been part of my DNA since day one.” She also found baking an enjoyable and relaxing pastime, and would often tinker with recipes to make them healthier and more satisfying. Cookies were her favorite things to bake.
Nolte finished the 16-week course, and the West Hartford resident decided to take the risk and start her own company. In 2008, May Cookie Co., named for Nolte’s great grandfather, Herbert May, was born.
Nolte started small, focusing on finding manufacturing space to produce her cookie mixes and convincing Whole Foods to stock her products. After six months, May Cookie Co's Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie Mix was available at the Whole Foods on Raymond Road in West Hartford. Now it’s sold in 27 Whole Foods stores.
Two years later, Nolte expanded to the West Coast, bringing her daughter Marissa Hanley into the business. Although Nolte’s husband has not gotten directly involved in the company, “He has been ridiculously supportive,” she said.
Nolte said the “not too sweet but sweet enough” taste of her cookies is one thing that distinguishes them from other products. Plus, the mixes are made with healthy ingredients, and offer suggestions for substitutions to meet dietary restrictions. Nolte said the cookies are filling and satisfying, although not because they’re higher in calories. “You can have one or two cookies, and you’re done,” she said.
Currently there are three different cookies mixes sold by the May Cookie Co. In addition to the Triple Chocolate Oatmeal – which Nolte said is still her favorite – they offer a Rich & Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, which is dairy-free and egg-free, as well as a Hearty & Wholesome Oatmeal Cranberry Cookie Mix. A gluten-free cookie is being launched on the West Coast.
Nolte still loves to bake for fun, but she’s devoted to making her business a success in a strategic way, establishing a committed customer base. Her mission is to raise awareness about the company’s products, convincing buyers that a delicious homemade cookie can be both healthy and easy to prepare.
“I’m really trying to get the word out to the public at large, but I don’t want to grow too fast,” she said. Whole Foods is expanding their offerings of May Cookie Co. products to their Massachusetts stores, and she is also building the business in independent specialty stores.
It’s taken a greater investment of time and money than she anticipated, but Nolte is happy she took the risk, followed her dream, and is having the chance to work with her daughter. “I love it! I love what I do, I love the message we’re sending out, and I love running and learning about the business.”
She encourages other people to explore following their passion. “Having work that I really love has made a tremendous change in my own world. It’s nice to know that you can do something you love.”