DALLAS (SMU) – The team at Big iDeas would like to officially announce Lisa Rawlins as the first staff member invited to join the SMU Incubator! Rawlins works at SMU as the Lead Academic Counselor for Football, and also runs her own business, Hello Cookies!
Long before starting her business, Rawlins loved to eat the dough as her grandmother made cookies. Later, she began to bake herself and brought her own twist and flair to her grandmother’s recipe; since then, Rawlins has been making delicious, homemade cookies at the request of family and friends, a few of whom suggested that she sell her cookies and make it a business. One particularly savvy and entrepreneurial friend, The Academic Collective’s director Desiree Taylor, kept pushing Rawlins to “just do it,” and even offered to help. While Rawlins felt the drive to build a cookie business, she did not follow through since her mind would flood with excuses such as: “I already have a full-time and intensive job. When would I find the time to bake? How could I run a business?”
But this past June while a friend was visiting and eating her cookies, a conversation started again and she encouraged Rawlins to start it as a business. And that was the beginning of Hello Cookies! Rawlins doesn’t know why that particular visit proved to be so special, she only knew that she was now finally ready. She then told herself, “I have to do this! I have to do everything instantly and not look back because if I do then I will find a reason to stop.” A week later she met with Desiree for dinner and set up an LLC for Hello Cookies! She then met with Desiree’s sister, Tess, who completed the graphics and website design for Rawlins’s logo. From June until the end of July, Rawlins got boxes, labels, logos, a website, and all social media sites up and running. In short, she went all in and didn’t look back. Hello Cookies! has been turning out delicious cookies ever since, and Lisa’s advice to young entrepreneurs is simple and straightforward —- “Just go for it!”
Rawlins was sponsored for an Introduction to Entrepreneurship for Executives course taught by SMU’s Dr. Jerry White and Dr. Simon Mak of the Caruth Center for Entrepreneurship and SMU Cox Business School, respectively. She loves the class and looks forward to learning how to scale up her business. She also enjoys working with other entrepreneurs, listening to their experiences, learning from those further along, and understanding how they have approached the different stages of growing a business. She shared that when Dr. Mak offered Rawlins the opportunity to take the class, she hopped on the chance because “you don’t say no to that. You just go! [And] it’s been totally worth it.”
Here are a few Q&A from the interview:
What were some of the challenges you faced, and where did the people who helped you come from?
I gave myself a budget and looked at what resources I had to work with. I first ordered the cookie boxes from Amazon because that was a simple, quick, and easy task that I could do myself. I had Desiree’s sister Tess work on the logo and I also paid Tess to design my website and teach me how to run the website myself. My brother is a professional photographer, so he took pictures for me to post on my website and social media. I also sought advice from other social media savvy folks to get help on strategies and producing creative content. Every night, I had to do something for the business, whether it was check on stock, post on social media, or build the website,working to scale my business. Luckily, marketing hasn’t been a challenge because once people try the cookies, the product speaks for itself!
How do you juggle your day job at SMU and the Hello Cookies! business?
During the day, I work full-time at SMU. I had planned to get Hello Cookies! up and running by the end of the summer because I could donate more time to it! Now that the business is up and running and the foundation is strong, I just bake! I developed a routine to bake the cookies in the evening and package them in the morning. I deliver the cookies if the orders are at SMU; otherwise, my husband will deliver for Hello Cookies!
How would you advise rising entrepreneurs for finding resources?
This was a scary time for me, and part of the reason I didn’t start the business sooner is because I really had no idea. I got a list of things to do from Desiree and once I started, I met more and more people that I got help and advice from. If you talk to at least one person that has done it, that gets you started.
Did you take any business classes beforehand?
None. If I can start a business, anyone can.
Hungry for her cookies? Go to her website!
Check out Desiree’s company, The Academic Collective!