When buying shortbread sugar cookies can help raise funds for a nonprofit organization, it’s a win-win situation.
For locally owned and operated Laura Jo’s Cookies for Kids, December was a record-breaking month for sales.
“We did over 700 (dozen) orders in two weeks, which is a lot of cookies,” said Jason Stahl, chief executive officer of Seymour-based Laura Jo’s Cookies. “Usually, we do close to that in a month, so to do that in half of a month was a little overwhelming.”
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To prepare for the possibility of large orders, Laura Jo’s bakery tries to stock up and bake cookies ahead of time because the cookies freeze fresh.
“We can then pull the cookies and decorate them, and that helps a little bit,” Stahl said. “We were loaded up this year, then got hit so hard that we drained that inventory immediately, so we were playing catchup like crazy.”
He said it was great, though, because cookie sales this month raised more than $5,000 for their nonprofit partners.
“Our partners benefited from this big time, and they do each month, but this month was especially strong,” Stahl said. “We will be more prepared next year. We just weren’t expecting that response.”
Jason is the son of Jon and Laura Jo Stahl, and it is Laura’s famous 50-year-old cookie recipe and love of working with children that led her son to combine the two and open the business in September 2019.
Laura Jo was a teacher for 40 years before stepping into the role as executive director of Mental Health America of Jackson County, working with both children and adults with mental health issues.
Originally, the nonprofit partners were all associated with helping children in some way. Since then, a few other nonprofit categories have been added: Pets, recovery (including sobriety and mental health) and heroes.
“The heroes category is ready to go, but unfortunately, we haven’t had any of those organizations reach out to us yet,” Stahl said. “We’re looking for nonprofits that benefit soldiers, first responders and any of those types of organizations. We’d love to have them on board.”
Stahl said they have a lot of Jackson County partners, including YoJack, Brownstown Elementary School, Brownstown Central High School, Trinity Lutheran High School, Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry and Child Care Network.
“We also have the Humane Society, Redding Elementary, Red Sky Rescue and a bunch of others in Seymour,” he said.
Laura Jo’s Cookies currently has more than 70 nonprofit partners, and from those, customers can select which one they would like their 25% donation to go to.
The customer chooses an organization during the ordering process on the website laurajoscookiesforkids.com.
According to the Laura Jo’s Cookies for Kids Facebook page, a lot of New Year’s cookies have been shipped out this week, and they are excited to put a close on 2020 and begin a new year with much optimism and gratitude.
Since Laura Jo’s Cookies opened last year, it has given close to $100,000 in donations to its nonprofit partners.
Stahl said they ship cookies nationwide, and their current delivery area includes four markets: Columbus, Seymour, Brownstown and Nashville.
“We’ll be expanding as the business continues to grow and hope to add Johnson County as another delivery market later next year,” he said.
Some of the nonprofit organizations that are frequently selected to receive a percentage of proceeds from cookie sales are Seymour-Redding Elementary School and Immanuel Lutheran School.
The Humane Society of Jackson County and Red Sky Rescue both do pretty well, too, Stahl said.
“It just depends on the order, like one example would be back in October when Aisin had a huge cookie order,” he said. “From that purchase, over $700 was donated to Child Care Network in Seymour because that’s where a lot of the employees’ children go.”
Stahl said they are heading into a slow time of year now, which will allow them to prep for the farmers markets, and they plan to expand into new markets this summer, including Seymour.
They’ve found that expanding through the farmers markets puts them in the communities a lot deeper, and that’s translating to more sales, Stahl said.
“At the farmers markets, we’ll be asking our nonprofit partners to run our booths for us, and they’ll get 25% of that morning’s sales,” Stahl said. “We’ll provide the booth and cookies and pay the fees, and all they’ll need is to provide a volunteer to sell the cookies.”
As for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that disrupted the supply chain and forced him to make some changes. But overall, the fact that the business is e-commerce has been a huge benefit for them, he said.
Cookie prices are currently around $26 to $30 a dozen.
“We’ve had a busy fall, and from August up to now, it has been extremely, extremely good,” he said. “We look forward to having that happen again next year.”
Stahl is looking forward to 2021 and being able to operate the business model as it’s supposed to be operated.
“A lot of what we do is community-based, and we only got half of the summer with the farmers markets this year,” he said. “It’ll be nice to take our business model out for a full summer of farmers markets and fall festivals, so we’re looking forward to that.”
Now that the dust has settled, they’ve taken a few days to recover from Christmas orders and are excited to begin work on new Valentine’s Day designs.
Ruth Riley, shelter manager at Red Sky Rescue said a friend took them some Laura Jo’s cookies about a year ago and they were instantly in love with the cookies.
“Once we learned about their unique fundraising program for non-profits, we signed up immediately to be one of their sponsored organizations,” Riley said. “Over the past year we have been surprised and delighted with the monthly checks we receive that help provide so much for our homeless dogs here at Red Sky Rescue.”
Riley said the staff at Laura Jo’s are great folks and enough cannot be said about how much she and the Red Sky volunteers enjoys eating and promoting Laura Jo’s Cookies.
On the Web
Laura Jo’s Cookies for Kids: laurajoscookiesforkids.com