When Kristen Tomlan was a young girl growing up in St. Louis, she spent much of her time in the kitchen with her mother.
Upon moving to New York City after school, Tomlan brought her love of baking with her — despite the size of her apartment's small kitchen.
Recalling her favorite part of the whole cookie-baking process as "the pure, dough-ey goodness of the unbaked cookie," she could not help but crave it, even when she walked into a bakery with her girlfriends one weekend in Philadelphia.
It was at that moment when Tomlan realized what her next big adventure would be.
Beginning as an online business, DŌ — a ready to eat cookie dough experience — the idea eventually made its way to a shop in New York City where it has since made its way into the mouths of many who equally crave this dough-y confection (some wait hours in line to taste).
Q. What is it like to be a female entrepreneur, specifically in the baking industry?
A. It's exciting! There are so many amazing, passionate women in the industry doing really cool, innovative things. It's great to be part of such an amazing group.
Q. What is one specific childhood memory you have that helped the idea for DŌ come to life?
A. Baking in the kitchen with my Mom is something that comes to mind first. Specifically, setting aside cookie dough in a little plastic container for my Dad whenever we were making cookies. If he came home and there were fresh baked cookies, his first question as he opened the fridge was, “Where’s the dough?"
Q. Once you came up with the idea, what was the process of getting into the spotlight?
A. I first wrote a business plan, worked on recipes, and starting designing the brand and experience. I chose to launch online initially to test the market and the concept really took off. I then decided to open the shop, and here we are at LaGuardia Place in New York today.
Q. What was the biggest barrier you faced along the way?
A. The biggest barrier for me was entering a completely new industry. I came from a corporate background, and my degree was in design, so the food industry was a different venture. I had to learn everything from scratch and troubleshoot as I went. Also, we created a brand new dessert category – it's not really a bakery... and it’s not an ice cream shop. We had to figure out how to create a successful concept no one had attempted before. Though a challenge, it is both exciting and rewarding at the same time.
Q. The frequent (and often incorrect) stereotype is that a "woman's place is in the kitchen." How do you believe your business reconstructs this stereotypical portrayal of women, making it positive?
A. I think the future is female. My business shows that women have the ability to do anything they dream of and put their mind and heart into. I empower and mentor a variety of young women on my team and love watching them learn, grow, and become amazing leaders and managers both in and out of the workplace.
Q. Feminism is a hot topic these days, and arguably one of the most important global conversations of the moment. Do you consider yourself a feminist? How do you define it?
A. I would consider myself a feminist. For me, feminism is about equality. It doesn’t matter your gender, race, religion or sexual preference. Everyone should be treated fairly, with respect, and as you would like to be treated. I tell my staff that all the time – use your judgment and treat people how you would want to be treated. Make sure all leave the shop with a smile on their face. That is a philosophy we live by here at DŌ.
Q. Describe an instance, if you've had one, where you became more aware of a gender gap in your career. What did it look like and how did you respond?
A. A lot of people ask me, "Who was your investor or mentor?" — assuming that I was backed or guided by a male or a group of males that had experience in the space or capital to back. People are shocked to hear that I bootstrapped the business and was able to build organically, using personal intuition and experience as my guide. It makes me proud to call the brand mine knowing how hard I’ve worked to make it what it is today.
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Photo Credit: Dina Coloma