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Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen plots growth after WBE certification

By Adam Rombel

Date:

Cathy Pemberton, owner of Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen, Inc., at work with her staff at her Armory Square store. The homemade baked-cookie business was recently certified by New York State as a women business enterprise (or WBE). (ADAM ROMBEL/ CNYBJ)

SYRACUSE — Cathy Pemberton expects to generate about 35 percent revenue growth at her homemade baked-cookie business this year. The business owner also has her eye on more growth in the future thanks to a recent certification and other initiatives.

Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen, Inc. on Oct. 29 was certified by New York State as a women business enterprise (WBE). Pemberton believes the certification will open new doors for her business. 

“I will be able to do business with any state, local, or government business that has a requirement or goal to do business with a minority or woman-owned business. [That includes] colleges, universities, hospitals, any government agency, anyone within the contract system of New York State — so it’s pretty vast in terms of potential,” she tells CNYBJ. “I haven’t had a chance to explore these opportunities just yet because I’m so busy at the store, but when things quiet down, probably in January, I will contact area businesses [and organizations] to let them know.”

Pemberton says she started pursuing the certification in January and the process took until October to come to fruition. “I pursued the certification because someone mentioned it to me years ago… She worked at Syracuse University (SU) and explained that they have a requirement to work with WBE businesses but there weren’t any in the baking area,” Pemberton says.

She projects that Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen will finish 2019 with about $125,000 in annual revenue, up from $92,000 last year. The revenue mix is about half retail and half commercial or wholesale.

Pemberton is hoping the WBE certification will allow her to gain several new corporate accounts with organizations such as SU or Onondaga Community College. In terms of how much it could boost sales next year, she says, “If I had to put a dollar amount on it, I would say somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000.” 

Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen operates in an 826-square-foot space at 266 W. Jefferson St. in Syracuse’s Armory Square, which it opened in December 2016. The space has a customer counter in the front and active commercial kitchen in the back, visible to customers when they enter the store. Pemberton would like to add more commercial kitchen space in the future as the business grows. 

Pemberton started the business in 2013, operating it from her home in Camillus and later at a commissary (commercial kitchen) at a local church, before opening the store in Syracuse.

Pemberton is the sole full-time employee of her business, but she employs three regular part-time workers. She also utilizes two drivers as needed and an additional two part-time employees in the summer.

Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen makes and sells a variety of cookies, utilizing organic and natural ingredients. Cookie varieties include classic chocolate chip, Milky Way chocolate chip (the most popular item with customers), S’mores chocolate chip (second most popular cookie), peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, butterscotch oatmeal, mini and mega M&M chocolate chip, and white chocolate macadamia nut. The price is $18 per dozen, according to the Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen website. The business also offers custom cookie cakes, as well as gluten free and vegan-cookie varieties.

“There are a lot of reasons” the business has grown, Pemberton contends. “I provide a very high-quality product at an affordable price point. We also have a very high standard for customer service. We go out of our way to provide what people want and when. I very rarely say no to an order,” she says. “I’ve also worked very hard to get my name out there by continuing to participate in events, like the downtown farmer’s market, the buy local bash, donating cookies to community-based organizations, and maintaining those relationships at a very high level.” 

As for what’s next, Pemberton says she is working with a major area retailer to develop a cookie for a new product that business is developing. If the opportunity comes through, Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen may be ramping up production to produce potentially hundreds of thousands of cookies.

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