For 25 years, Joanne Adirimi served as Founder and Executive Pastry Chef at HannahMax Baking. Starting in a small catering kitchen in Los Angeles, Joanne began by crafting gourmet desserts for the exploding coffee house scene in Southern California. Through hard work and determination, she scaled the business with many prominent national accounts, including Trader Joe’s, Target, Safeway, Kroger, and more.
In 2012, Joanne launched the original Cookie Chips™ Brand. The first snacking cookie sold in a resealable pouch. An innovation in the cookie aisle at that time. After exiting the company in 2016 and moving with her family to Florida, Joanne is back with the Cookie Chips™ Baking Mix, the first-ever pastry chef-quality baking mix that makes thin snacking cookies. As with all of her dessert products, Joanne uses premium ingredients that she sources from artisan manufacturers and suppliers. She is excited to bring her 25 years of expertise to the at-home baking community.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Joanne Adirim: Hello Readers. I’m Joanne Adirim. Pastry chef and founder of Cookie Chips.
Can you tell our readers in what ways you are disrupting your industry?
Joanne Adirim: I first disrupted the food industry on the cookie aisle by launching Cookie Chips as the first thin snacking cookie sold in a resealable pouch. They were made from simple non-GMO ingredients, with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The product, the package and the ingredients were all key disruptors. That was in 2012. In 2022, I launched the Cookie Chips brand as the first ever pastry chef crafted, simple ingredient Cookie Chips Baking Mix. Including the original non-GMO ingredients and without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
Artisan style pastry chef mixes are not standard fare. You will find articles with pastry chefs providing their knowledge about what mixes are best to use, but there aren’t any major baking mixes created by a pastry chef.
Did you become a disruptor by choice or by necessity? Tell us more about the journey.
Joanne Adirim: I was a wholesale baking manufacturer for a number of years prior to disrupting the cookie business. The creation of Cookie Chips started in my home kitchen for fun and then I further developed it in my bakery. While I was excited about creating a snacking cookie and launching it into grocery, I didn’t have any knowledge about this industry. My focus had been purely wholesale baking and selling. Shortly after launching Cookie Chips I learned that the product was an industry disruptor for the cookie aisle. I was told that the cookie aisle was a fairly sleepy section of the grocery store for many years.
So, basically, the disruption was not created with the purpose of disruption.
Now for the main focus of this interview: Many readers may wonder what are the biggest challenges women entrepreneurs must overcome to be successful?
Joanne Adirim: Personally, I did not experience the typical challenges that many women entrepreneurs express. I was always welcomed in sales situations by men and women buyers without prejudice. I was always welcomed by male chefs when selling wholesale desserts to restaurants and hotels. The challenges in business I did face are as described below.
One of the biggest challenges that I have faced is taking a quality product and scaling it in for manufacturing. Doing so without losing quality, artisan-ship, and excellence is tricky. It takes a talented team of baking professionals to make this happen. In wholesale baking, there are many challenges along the way. It’s important that you never give up when facing equipment issues, ingredient issues or formulation problems that arise when scaling for large quantity baking.
Another significant challenge was with the Cookie Chips™ business. The product demand expanded rapidly. When a brand experiences hyper growth, you would think that it would be easy. In reality, keeping up with insane demand is incredibly difficult. Not only is this kind of growth physically challenging, it’s also financially challenging. We needed support. In 2016 we entered into an investor relationship, selling the majority of the company. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end. Over the next two years, I watched what I had created, what I loved, spiral down into failure. This experience was one of the most challenging times of my career. It was awful. Amazingly, I recovered the Cookie Chips™ brand, including our trademarks and formulas. Today, I am venturing forward with my new company. I want to showcase quality pastry chef desserts that everyday bakers can easily make at home, and enjoy to eat.
How did you overcome these obstacles? Who helped you during these difficult times and how did they?
Joanne Adirim: All my challenges were shared with my business partner and husband. My husband gave up his career the day I received my first order from Trader Joe’s, five years after starting the business.
With every step of the business, every manufacturing difficulty, every significant customer challenge and with the bringing on of an equity partner to help fuel the growth of Cookie Chips, my husband and partner was there to help balance the decision making process and bring business clarity to what we were doing.
We are both very strong people who never give up. Any obstacle, and there were many, any challenge we faced, we battled them head on.
How did these lessons shaped the way you conduct business today?
Joanne Adirim: Wow. Good question. I’m still excited about what I do. I love to bake and create artisan pastry chef desserts and especially Cookie Chips. I’m definitely a little older and wiser. A little calmer and more paced about how I get my work done. I also have a different perspective about how success is created.
What advice you wished you had received when you started, that you’d like to share now with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Joanne Adirim: I definitely needed advice when I first started. My husband actually detailed the reasons why not to leave the healthcare industry and go into wholesale baking. I wasn’t listening. There was nothing anyone could say that would deter me.
Advice to women entrepreneurs….Take the time to plan your business. Understand your cost structure. Your value proposition. Who you are going to sell to and how. Take the time to get it all right.
Out of all of your proudest moments as an entrepreneur, is there a particular one that stands out the most?
Joanne Adirim: Launching Cookie Chips. It was an amazing product development and the most fun I had with anything I did in my baking business.
What do you plan on tackling during the 2022 year? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Joanne Adirim: To make the Cookie Chips Baking Mix a big success. For the first time I am tackling the direct to consumer (DTC) market. A big part of developing this new business venture rests on online advertising and social media. This is a new skill set for me.
I’m sure our readers will be very thankful for the insights you have shared. What is the best book you’ve gone through lately and please share some take away lessons from it.
Joanne Adirim: I’m not reading any business books today. I’m enjoying learning and reading works by Rabbi David Fohrman via his organization alphabeta.org as well as other learning’s via Chabad. Including Torah and Tanya.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, I do have one more question for you. When was the last time you did something for the first time and what was it?
Joanne Adirim: I moved from Los Angeles to Florida during the height of the pandemic and moved into a house I bought sight UNSEEN with my family.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Joanne Adirim for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Joanne Adirim or her company, you can do it through her – Instagram
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