When Loren Brill started to study nutrition and take baking classes, she immediately sensed something was off.
She noticed a disconnect between the ingredients in most packaged cookies and what all of us should be eating. "I remember walking into a grocery store after I started to sense the disconnect," Brill recalls. "And I realized there were just no clean cookies that I loved the taste of and really felt good about what it was made from."
Brill's approach after that moment of clarity was bold- yes, she wanted to build a better cookie; but, more importantly, she started to visualize building a brand that stood for something. And that was the beginning of Sweet Loren's - an award-winning, all-natural cookie dough brand with a great tasting cookie, an ingredient list the average shopper understood and felt good about and a purpose that the founder stood behind.
Through hustle, patience, perseverance and thousands of pounds of cookie dough, she brought Sweet Loren's to market. Her timing was right - the demand was there. Sweet Loren's launched in several stores, and then made an appearance on The Today Show. And fans started to contact Brill - they were eager to buy the better-for-you, authentic, modern cookies with clean ingredients. "That's when I realized that people were looking for a brand like Sweet Loren's. I had the recipes that could solve this problem, and I could build this brand that many of us wished was on the market."
Brill's vision reached beyond the 15-17 minute bake time. She wanted to change the way America bakes - and then some. "By the time I have kids, I want them to grow up on something better. Food should be getting smarter and smarter. And that's my dream for Sweet Loren's."
So, what's this really about - reinventing cookie dough or building a company that stands for something? Or maybe the better question or the question we ask ourselves more is, when building a business, which comes first - product or purpose?
Brill's original charge was fueled by her story. In 2006, at 22 years old, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, returning home to New York City for six months of chemotherapy. She used the time to reinvent - putting a special, conscious emphasis on making herself as healthy as possible. She cut out the empty foods. And she got more interested in cooking and baking. But, she still had a strong, sweet tooth which led her to that epiphany in the grocery store.
What's cool about that epiphany wasn't that it was just about clean ingredients. It was really about purpose.
"Building a company that stands for something means that you have to be very clear about your purpose and why you exist," says Brill. "I think it's all about creating trust with your customers and truly standing for something boldly." Brill's bold isn't wild, crazy, and out there - it's confident. From day one, she and her company have stood by three non-negotiables: Delicious, homemade taste, all natural, whole food ingredient recipes, and place-and-bake packaging which means you can bake one cookie at a time with no fuss or mess.
What those three, bold non-negotiables really come down to? Flavor, authenticity and convenience - all three of which are only possible when someone building something cares a whole hell of a lot.
"The best products and companies and stories, really, come from people who really care," Brill shares. "There's always a story behind the reason we do what we do, or believe in what we believe in. I think it's important to explain why we are personally connected to certain missions and why we decide to dedicate our lives to something."
This is bigger than cookie dough.
When we go so far as to tell people our personal connection to something or why we do what we do - the purpose, the mission, those bold non-negotiables, maybe just why you took that job - we're actually doing a couple different things without even realizing it. Yes, we're sharing part of our lives and our stories. But we're also creating space to spark a breakthrough idea for someone else.
When Brill told me that she created Sweet Loren's because she wanted to build a brand that stands for something, I thought: What if every person on Earth went into everything with that attitude? Imagine what's possible.
Building a brand that stands for something is one thing. But, getting to that place is quite another. Which again begs the question which comes first when building a business - the product or the purpose?
I don't think it's either actually.
What comes first when building a business: paying attention.
None of the fully-baked, good stuff - the product, the purpose, the passion, the caring a whole hell of a lot, the bold non-negotiables, the building something that stands for something - can happen if you're not paying close enough attention to see a disconnect and care enough to do something about it. That's what Loren Brill did. And that's what makes Sweet Loren's such a good story.
Sweet Loren's is great for a lot of different reasons - yes, it's a clean, wholesome cookie the whole family will enjoy; yes, it's a case study in creating a company that really stands for something good literally and figuratively; but it's also a perfect example of what's possible when you pay attention and then do something about it. Because, in doing so, you can create something pretty sweet for generations to come.
Let's be clear - we all don't have to go out and start an all-natural cookie dough company. I think Brill will be the first to tell you that that takes time and patience and hustle and money and a whole lot of whole grains. What we can do is start paying attention. Start looking for disconnects. Then, start doing something about those disconnects. That's where your why will come from. That's where your purpose will grow from. Pay attention.
"I believe making the world better in your own individual way is our responsibility in this short, sweet gift we call life," Brill offers.