Johnathon Bush, Not Just Cookies Bakery.

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Challenge Member

Company Website: www.NotJustCookies.com

Johnathon Bush is the founder of Not Just Cookies Wholesale Bakery, an online, direct-to-consumer bakery that ships amazing desserts across the U.S. We caught up with Johnathan to find out how things had been going since he participated in the Founders First accelerator program (and hoped to sweeten him up to get some cookies shipped to us). 

Tell us a little more about your business.

We have a ghost delivery model where we provide very quick local delivery in select cities where customers can get fresh cookies within the hour. We have a line of traditional baked goods as well as allergy-free baked goods for those that are gluten-free, vegan, keto, as well as just traditional desserts.

Everything we make is all natural using wholesome ingredients.

In 2021, we launched our fundraising program, which are virtual fundraisers that allow schools and nonprofit organizations to raise money by selling cookies.

What was your inspiration for wanting to start your business?

It’s a passion of mine. I started baking when I was very, very young—in my mom’s kitchen. I initially started my first bakery and it just grew by word of mouth. So just a passion for baking, a passion for providing delicious cookies, and also a desire to work and so that’s the entrepreneur in me. Combining the two led me to become an entrepreneur at a young age, and I guess the rest is history.

How would you say your business has been impacted by participating in the Founders accelerator program?

The impact has been very positive. Lots of great networking, being exposed to people and businesses and even new opportunities that I would not have. The accelerator also provided just a lot more insight.

It forces you to work on some of the things in your business that are easy to overlook, which is super important, so I’m really grateful for that.

And also the grant component, being able to reinvest funds and really, to help accelerate growth. So just from the insight to the grants to the network, I think, were three major ways that the impact from Founders First had a really, really positive effect on my business.

What would be the most important lesson that you took away from your time working with Founders First?

The most important lesson I think is really just how important the unit economics are. Just taking the time to make sure you know the financials in the unit economics was a key takeaway. Obviously you knew how important it was, but there are some strategies from the program that I was able to use to help my business.

What would you say would be your fondest memory of the program?

I would say, you know my coaching calls with Jenny were pretty cool, very insightful. I really enjoyed those, and also the pitch competition. I think that was fun because it really got to you to see all the other businesses and learn even more. I thought that was fun, you know, having a competition and just to learn more about the other businesses in the program.

Since the program has wrapped, have you seen any revenue growth or other changes overall?

We were already busy, but there has been a lot of growth since the program started. We’ve added additional goals and a kitchen location, so that’s been a big thing that has contributed to revenue and increased sales.

Did your business model pivot during the pandemic? 

Yeah, my business model completely pivoted. I started my bakery as a traditional Greek bakery with a brick and mortar location so customers would come in and purchase the cookies the traditional way.

When the pandemic happened, here in Illinois there was a shelter in place order that was in effect for a very long time. So, we had to pivot.

Our whole business model changed so that the way we deliver our cookies to our customers has changed and the way we market has changed. Now we’re completely an online bakery. We made a huge pivot to direct to consumer using ghost kitchens. In the long run, we’re seeing a lot more growth that we probably would not have seen just as a traditional brick and mortar, so out of the dark, dark, horrific pandemic, there was a bright side for us.

What drove your interest in the accelerator program?

Being in the pandemic, you just try to learn as much as you can to grow your business, and that was one of the main things. Growing and expanding the business was super important given the times. Getting connected to more resources through the accelerator was really important. And getting insight for your business.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for the next up-and-coming entrepreneur? 

I would say, just keep trying new things, continue to learn from your mistakes, take part in as many programs as possible—just for insight and just to try to avoid mistakes that others have made before you.

Continue to keep trying new things, to build great things. You don’t know unless you try. Just continue to be resilient because there’ll be lots of obstacles. But don’t stop. Just learn from your mistakes.

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