o the many home bakers who set up cake-making side hustles at home and now dream of turning buttercream into their full-time money-spinner, Kathryn Bricken is a hero.
The American-born entrepreneur started her career as a legislative assistant on Washington’s Capitol Hill before pivoting to food product development, inventing a flavoured pasta collection for a Canadian food giant (“think lemon pepper fettuccini and sundried tomato linguine,” she explains).
Now Doughlicious, her cookie dough business, is set to turnover £5 million this year, with stockists including Waitrose, Costco and Selfridges.
It all started whilst Bricken’s three children were growing up and she started “a little business making cookies and cakes for caterers and parties, made with buttercream icing long before it was popular in the UK.” Then one day she was walking with a friend who was “complaining about the lack of a good, American-style chocolate chip cookie and asked me to make her one that was healthier than what was sold in stores and tasted amazing.”
Bricken whipped up a range of flavours, gave her friend the raw cake mix balls ready to bake at home, “and she loved them all and shared them with friends, who started asking for them too.”
She began hosting a pop-up at a local art gallery, where people would place orders for ten cookie dough balls for £10. “I went for dough rather than ready-baked so there was less waste – people can bake them when they want them, everything was fresh and there was no need for stabilisers or additives.”
Bricken, who is 54 and lives in Fulham, was making 500 cookie dough balls a day – before she ran into a baking injury hazard. “I got carpel tunnel, my hand was killing me from scooping the dough!” So in 2016 she joined up with a friend who ran a restaurant, paying her for ingredients and labour and handing over her recipe. “That was the moment I realised this could be a real business,” Bricken explains. “It was the early days of Deliveroo, and we were selling the dough on there, £10 for 10 dough balls for people to bake at home.”
In a bid to grow the business, Bricken bought a stand at the Speciality Fine Food Show, with cookie dough balls in branded ‘Doughlicious’ resealable bags. “Wholefoods Market and Planet Organic loved the concept, but said my packaging wouldn’t work as it wouldn’t stand well on a shelf. Thankfully, Ocado loved it too and as an online grocer they weren’t worried about ‘shelf presence’, so it became our first real stockist in 2017.”
That year, Doughlicious’ turnover hit £100,000 – but production issues erupted too. Initially Bricken had hired a small firm to manufacture her products for Ocado, “but this company soon got too busy with their own products, so we had to find another manufacturer. We couldn’t find anyone who had the right machines, so we had to buy a dough processor and a packaging machine that we provided to a bakery in Walthamstow who made the dough for us.”
When that factory shut down, Doughlicious signed its first property lease for a factory in Willesden Junction. Bricken and her husband invested a total of £500,000 in the business before taking on their first investment in March 2020, since raising £3 million from backers including serial tech investor Joshua Alliance, son of Lord David Alliance.
By summer 2020, after signing a “business-changing” deal with M&S, whom it still makes cookie dough for under a white label, Doughlicious built its own, 8000 sq ft factory in Acton, which increased capacity ten-fold. The firm can now make 50 million dough balls each year and has 29 products, including Dough•Chi – cookie dough with an ice cream centre – savoury doughs (including charcoal black pepper miso, and chilli and cumin) plus more traditional chocolate chip cookie doughs, some vegan, all gluten-free.
Some of them are gobbled up before leaving the factory: “I have days that I will literally eat ice cream or cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Bricken. “The tough part is I get a headache if I have too much chocolate. At the end of product development days I think I will never want to eat another cookie or Dough•Chi, but I wake up the next morning and am excited for more.”
Turnover: £1.2m this year, set to hit £5 million in 2022