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Jason McGowan | Co-Founder of Crumbl Cookies

Welcome to “On Becoming a Brand”, a RETHINK Retail exclusive where we dive into the stories that shaped the brands we love—and the people behind them.

On today’s episode, host Gabriella Bock hears from Jason McGowan, Founder & CEO of Crumbl Cookies, about how he and his cousin Sawyer Hemsley founded the country’s fastest-growing cookie company. Join us as Jason shares his story about how, after immigrating to the United States with only an 8th grade education, he taught himself to build websites and launched himself into a promising tech career.

How does tech relate  to cookies? Jason reveals the methodical approach behind the brand’s OG cookie as well as how the company became a near-overnight sensation on TikTok.

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Post Transcript

Gabriella Bock:
On today’s episode, we hear from Jason McGowan, founder, and CEO of crumble cookies about how he and his cousin Sawyer Hensley founded the country’s fastest growing cookie company.

And what’s perhaps most interesting about the crumble story is that the idea for the company didn’t formulate in a kitchen? But instead was the result of two guys who were craving it late night treat. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves because before cookies were ever on Jason’s plate. He was a young Canadian climbing the ranks of the mid two thousands tech boom. And how he got there is where today’s story begins.

Jason McGowan:
So I’m originally from a place where I claim I grew up is Lethbridge, Alberta. So it was a couple different places, but that’s where I spent most of my childhood years was in Lethbridge, Alberta. And later in my life, in my twenties, I decided to move to the United States and be here. Actually, when I came here, I had a friend here and for the first several months I slept on my friend’s floor. So I didn’t really have much money, was just coming here trying to have the American dream and figure everything out and had an eighth grade education, slept on my friend’s floor. And that’s how I got started.

So I’m always like, whenever you see my post or anything that I’ve done on online, I’m always very excited about America and the opportunities that it afforded me to be able to gain the skills and the knowledge and be able to become an entrepreneur to really start something that people have grown to love.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow. And did you always want to be an entrepreneur? Because it is a huge risk to take to. You know, relocate your entire life to a completely different country. And so, you know, what inspired you in. And really motivated you to take this leap?

Jason McGowan:
My dad was an entrepreneur growing up. And he started a business that shuttled people to and back from the airport, because the major airport was in Calgary and it was a few hours away. And so there was this need to shuttle people back and forth. And so as a kid, I remember my dad took me out of school one day and let me ride with them, with a couple of his customers.

And I remember just watching the experience and watching my dad try to be an entrepreneur. And he always had that dream and that hope to become an entrepreneur. As he was doing that, he was so excited to build this. They had another national brand that was a bus tour line. That was just, nope, they didn’t like it. They didn’t want him to be able to do that. He needed to have different licensing to be able to tour people. And anyways, it went to court and all these other different things. And I just remember thinking about here’s my dad, he’s a small entrepreneur trying to make it, trying to come up with something. And there was all these technicalities on travel and licensing and all these things that happened in Canada that’s prevented him from really accomplishing becoming that full entrepreneur, realizing his dreams.

But it always, even though that business ended up not succeeding, that always just gave me this entrepreneurial bug to just building something from nothing and creating a service that people will enjoy and value. And so growing up, that was the roots was watching that entrepreneurship from my dad.

Gabriella Bock:
Yeah, I can imagine that, you know, being a kid who really looks up to their father and kind of just seeing them forge his own path. And as you said, really just trying to create something for himself .. how that would inspire you. But then it also sounds like there’s just kind of that entrepreneurial spirit that runs in your family, which we will get to in a little bit, but I did want to hear about how you went from arriving in the United States, only knowing a handful of people and only having an eighth grade education, to becoming kind of a leader in the tech industry.

Jason McGowan:
I was sleeping on a friend’s floor and I was trying to figure out, I don’t have an education and I need to figure out some skills or tools to figure out ways to make money, just to live so one day I wouldn’t be sleeping my friend’s floor and provide the necessities of life. There was a company that was looking to do a website and this was early on. And they’re like, “We’re looking for someone to do a website. Do you know how to do a website?” And I remember looking at them and I thought, “What’s your budget for this?” And at the time they were like, “It’s going to be about $800 to do this website.” And I’m like, “$800?” To me, that was just so much money. And I was just, “I’ll do it. I’ll know how to build a website. I’ll figure it out.”

And so that’s how it was born. I just literally started going on the internet, figuring out, Wait, how do you actually build a website? I started researching it. And it took me about a month to build something very, very, it was very basic at the time, but that’s how I built a website. And so I built a website for this company, they paid me. And I just remember being so excited in seeing that. And earlier in my tech career, I had somebody reach out to me that’d seen some of the work I’d done on one of the websites. And they said, “Hey, we were looking to build something on Facebook and build some social media presence on Facebook and build these apps.” At the time, Facebook was launching their new platform and was letting developers get onto the platform.

And so I said, “Sure, I’ll come and help do that.” So anyways, I came to work on this program, ended up to be called We’re Related. It grew over to a hundred plus million users on Facebook. And that’s when I just cut all my teeth, right. Figuring out about social media and virality. And when it comes to growth on social media and learning about technology. And so, as I continued, I started to learn about technology and taught myself all about user interface, design, user experience, all those different things to really make a product cohesive and really build a product from nothing. And so I got really, really passionate and excited about technology. I started developing all my skills in technology and built services that hit a 100 plus million users.

And after that, everyone was trying to create these social networks and do all these other different things. At the time, I was working at a company called Ancestry and we were helping people discover their genealogy and all those kinds of things. And I had some successful little part-time companies that had started and sold off. And so I’d gotten this technology career and I had been in it for a while, for over a decade. And I was just getting tired of always just chasing the next technology of like, what was going to be the next social platform, or was going to be the next biggest technology? And I was like, “Maybe I should just try something different. I want to just try something physical.”

And my cousin through marriage, his name is Sawyer Hemsley, who’s amazing. He was also looking, he was going to college at the time. And so I was at working Ancestry, had done some things in my career with technology. He was going to school and we both were just talking back and forth. We were like, “Yeah, we should do something someday.” And at the time DoorDash wasn’t really prevalent. And so it was like, if you wanted to order some food, you could order pizza and that was pretty much it at the time. So I’m like one day I want to deliver something that’s with delivery and all these things. And so we were talking back and forth and I love technology. We both liked to bake. And there were some other concepts that were bubbling up in Utah and we’re like, “We should do a cookie store.” We’re like, “Let’s do it. Let’s go for it. Let’s go do a cookie store.”

And so we just got started, we just did it. And we went and found a location and it was just several $100 a month. It was under a 1,000 bucks and we got the location, started buying equipment. And then we realized, we have no idea how to make cookies at all. This is not like business 101, you should not do this. You shouldn’t go get a lease on a building. You shouldn’t do all these other different things and then figure out your product. You should figure out your product first. But we were just so excited and we were just like, “Yeah, we’re going to do it.” We’ve got this inexpensive rent. The building was set to be destroyed in three or six months. So we’re like, “If it fails, it’s not the end of the world. We can just start this little cookie shop and it’ll be some fun learning and we can go off and do something else if we want to. And if it fails, it’s not the end of the world.”

And so the problem that we realized though, was we got to learn how to bake cookies. So we were like, “Should we just call up a local provider and just have someone just deliver cookies to us. And then we’ll just bake them and that will be it? And then so we started talking about those things. We were like, “No, we got to build. If we’re going to build to something, we only ever want to do the best.” And so, well, what’s the best cookies? It’s homemade, fresh cookies. And so we started going and we started making cookies and so Sawyer and I would get together and we would start testing all these different things and we’d go in his mom and his parents oven and bake different things. And I’d be back at home at my house and I’d be baking different things.

And so we’d be going through and baking these things and nothing would work out. The cookies are just so embarrassing. If I sent you a picture, it’s just embarrassing. They’re flat, they’re disgusting. And we were just like, “Oh no, what have we done?” And so we were just exhausted and we were like, “Well, we got to just figure it out.” And so we hired some people, consultants to help us learn how to just mix and bake just simple stuff. When we got the commercial equipment, we had our recipe. We were like, “We think we got somewhat of a decent recipe. We’ve tried in our home ovens.” We pour all the ingredients into the bowl and the bowl is sitting there and we’re super excited. And we turn on the bowl and the mixer starts mixing and the mixer paddle didn’t even touch the top of the ingredients.
And so it was mixing around air and we were-

Gabriella Bock:
Oh my gosh.

Jason McGowan:
… so confused. We’re like, “Wait, did we get the wrong mixer?” Because we bought a used mixer, because we were just starting out. We’re like, “Oh I got to go find the right mixer. I totally bought the wrong one.” Well, I didn’t realize it doesn’t make small batches of dough. It only makes large batches of dough. And so we’re like, “Okay, we got a commercial oven, we got a commercial mixer. We’ve got to just figure out how to do this all over again.” So we had to take our recipe and just make it much, much bigger. And then we started making all this dough and then we’d throw them in the oven and it’d be like, “Ugh, that didn’t work.” Well, the whole batch didn’t work and you have to make these massive batches and we’d throw these batches of dough and we’d throw them into these black bags. And it was so heavy that it would feel like a body bag and we’d be just hurling them in the garbage can.

And I remember sometimes, because we were doing it till late at night, 2:00 in the morning, we’d be looking around being like, “Is someone thinking we’re throwing a dead body in the garbage container? Hopefully no cops come by. And they’re like, “What are these two kids doing at 2:00 in the morning throwing a black sack that’s really heavy over a trash can. But we just kept working at it, working at it. And eventually we had told everyone we were launching and we were opening the store and a competitor, actually, another cookie store had just decided they were going to open a week earlier because they heard we were going to launch. So we had to launch. And so we just figured out and we decided to do what we call the taste-test model.

So in my software world, if you want to know which website’s better, you’d say, “Okay, which site would have more sales?” Well, you’d launch two different versions and each customer would see different versions and you’d A/B test it to figure out which one’s the best. Well in the world, I’m like, why can’t we take that same concept and taste-test our way to the best Chocolate Chip Cookie. So when we were doing this and trying to figure out what was the best, we’d go to local gas stations and be like, “Which cookie do you like better?” We changed up the Chocolate Chip. Well, me and Sawyer got into this huge disagreement on whether it should be milk Chocolate Chip or Semi-Chocolate Chip. And so we started getting into these arguments about no, I’m like, “It’s a semi-sweet.” I’m a semi-sweet guy. For sure, semi-sweet chocolate. It makes sense. Sawyer was like, “I’m a milk chocolate guy.” So anyways, we did a poll on Twitter and we found out 70% of people prefer milk chocolate over semi-sweet chocolate.

Gabriella Bock:
Interesting.

Jason McGowan:
So we’re like, “Milk chocolate it is.” That’s how we decide, it’s data. We do it in our professional careers or my professional career. And so we started doing that and iterating on this cookie and taste-testing our way through ingredients and processes. And when we launched, we only had one cookie. We were like, “That’s all we can do.” We were only able to get one done and we’re like, “We’re going to just launch it.” And so we launched the business and we launched with one cookie and this guy comes in. And I used to think he had suspenders on because it was in my memory, but he had a plaid shirt on. I thought he had suspenders and I just found the picture the other day and realized he didn’t have suspenders, but plaid shirt on, came in, bought a cookie, handed me money over the counter. And I remember just thinking, “Oh my goodness, people just spent money and bought a cookie.”

It must have felt like a million dollars at the time to me. I just couldn’t believe that someone was going to just hand us over money and buy our cookies from us. So, that happened and then we were just, from then on all of a sudden, just lines were out the door. People started hearing about it. There’s lines started coming out the door and they would come and we’d just put them, four cookies in a box and they were large and we would just give them the box of four warm Chocolate Chip Cookies and they would leave. And that was it. And just word traveled around and it started getting really, really busy and that’s how Crumbl was born.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow. That is an incredible story.

Jason McGowan:
No, it’s a little crazy when you hear it. I’m sorry, but that’s exactly what happened.

Gabriella Bock:
No, it’s a fun story. I love it. It’s such a start contrast from I would say the majority of cookie companies or bakeries. It said you guys saw this gap in the market and Crumbl was really born out of wanting to solve this problem of that there were no real dessert delivery options in your area, as opposed to having this innate passion for baking or for cookies. And the approach, sounds like a very methodical process to figuring out what the best cookie would be and what people would respond to best. So I think that’s really cool. And I think your background in tech definitely makes so much more sense now and you can see how that was incorporated and how that served as the backbone of Crumbl in a way. And I think that’s really cool.

So I wanted to know, so you told me a little bit about launch day and just how amazing that felt. At first, how did you guys start getting the word out?

Jason McGowan:
Yeah. So I think this is another thing that has really been something that’s different from us too as well, out the gate. My partner, Sawyer Hemsley, is totally, always been about social media. It was in college. He understood it really, really well, had tons of followers. He’s got a great eye for brand and that’s what he went to school for. And so when we got started going out, I did a lot of the Facebook and Instagram and all that marketing before and Sawyer had this great eye for branding and design and these other things. And so instead of doing these radio and commercials and print ads and everything, we’re like, “Let’s just do all social, all social media.” And five years ago, today you could look at and say, oh, “Hey, that makes sense, how big social media’s become,” but even just five years ago, that wasn’t necessarily the recipe for success.

And so we went all in on Instagram and Facebook and started just building content and started building teams and everything around just posting great content and engaging with the community. And so by doing that, we started getting followers from friends and family and other people started following us. And we started building up this Instagram following in the town. And all of a sudden people started looking to that Instagram post to see what was going on and see what was new. And we really started to build community. And so using social media and that, as a platform really helped jump us off to how we get the word out, how do we communicate? And all that.

And that is actually still how we communicate today. So what’s interesting is even when it comes to TikTok, we’ve gone all in, spent tons of resources and time and energy creating this content. And if you look at our following, we had more following on TikTok than Nike and Starbucks combined. And so it’s that constant commitment of saying, obviously, these other brands are spending a lot of time and energy and money in all kinds of different avenues. We just say, “We’re going to go all in on social and we’re going to engage and reach out.” And that sort of thing. So even to this day, if you reach out on social media and DM us or try to communicate with us, we don’t get everyone, but we sure do get almost everyone and talk to a lot of people. And that slowly compounds over years and years of communicating with our audience and that continues to grow.

Gabriella Bock:
Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve seen over the last year or so, because I don’t know, I’m on TikTok quite a bit and I definitely have noticed, that’s where I first learned about you guys. I think it was either last year or in 2020. And you guys definitely do have a cult-like following of fans on social media, especially TikTok and from what I’ve seen, I think in large part, that’s due to your consistent rollout of new flavors.

We see people going to their local Crumbl and getting the new flavors of the week and opening up the box in the car and just trying them all on, right then and there. So I know you guys did the Chocolate Chip Cookie and Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie first. And then, when did you guys decide to roll out more flavors? Was your intention always to roll out more flavors and have it be this interactive and engaging thing? And if that wasn’t the case, when did you first formulate that idea?

Jason McGowan:
No, that’s a great question. So I think for us, when we got started, we were just thought focused on trying to even learn how to bake. So it was like the Chocolate Chip Cookie is all you got, but slowly after that, we were like, “We need to start introducing new cookies.” And so we would do random things. Our first, what we call specialty cookie, which was a cookie other than the Chocolate Chip, was a Midnight Mint. And the reason why it was Midnight Mint is we used to be open until 2:00 AM and we’re like, “Look, what if we just create a cookie and it’s only available from midnight till 2:00 AM. And we [inaudible] more people. And so we just created this cookie called Midnight Mint. It was a dark base with mint chips and it was so good.

Anyways. So that’s how we started doing it. And we started saying, “Okay, well let’s start adding in new cookies and adding in new flavors.” And so we started adding in, and again, we took that same approach of testing and trying out and that sort of thing. And so we started getting to the menu and then we opened up in Orem and then we opened up our first franchise model, which was in Bountiful. And in Bountiful, we sold all the specialty cookies. I think it was something like 9 or 10 or 11. I don’t know. It was a lot of cookies to have on the menu at the same time. And we started just be noticing that we would frustrate some customers because they would come in hoping for a certain flavor and that flavor would be gone.

And so we were like, “We can’t keep up this. We can’t keep adding new flavors and we can’t keep up with even these small amount of flavors,” because people who want those specific flavors, they would be out. And you only have so much storage capacity and baking capacity in the ovens and all that sort of thing. So anyways, so what we decided to do is we said, “Well, let’s just do a rotating. Let’s just start rotating these flavors. Instead of rotating like we’re rotating, let’s just do a weekly drop. We’ll just drop them every single week. We’ll hype them up. We’ll get people really excited about them and then we’ll just take them off the menu completely.” They may show up again. They may not. And if they do, it might be months away. So we just got really, really excited.

And so that was a born out of a necessity. I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, look at this amazing model that they put together.” And da, da, da, da, da. “And they’re geniuses.” It’s like, no, we were rolling with the punches. But I think what we did do well was we listened to our customers and we listened to the experiences that they were having. And as we did that, we formulated what would work really well for Crumbl. And I think any brand can learn from that, which is, listen to your customers and see what they’re telling you and try to figure out and create experiences that are great for you, because even though this worked for us, there might be something else that works for you and your brand. But I think we really spent time listening to the customer and we started doing these weekly drops and we were like, “Well, if we’re doing the weekly drops, we really got to start announcing and making it even more exciting.”

And so we started getting into videos. And then all of a sudden, as we started getting into videos and started doing these announcements, we’re like, “Okay, we’re going to just announce at the same time every single week.” When we started announcing at the same time every single week, and all of a sudden our social media just started getting flooded. People started to set alarm clocks to it. And that’s when we started having this cult following because people started just seeing all these weekly different drops. Well, it got so bad that Instagram and Facebook, mostly Instagram, started thinking our account was spam. And because we started replying to people and trying to communicate with them and all of a sudden a video would drop. And so many people would comment and like right away that it would get flagged in their systems of, “Hey, this is a spammy account. There could be some issues with this account.”

So we really had to work with them, figure that out, help them understand, no, this is our concept. And we are having a ton that just flow in. So that created that weekly drop, that weekly moment where everyone could share. And I think one of the reasons why it also became successful is years ago, Netflix and all these other businesses have come out where people would binge. So television and all these shows and everything that you can work together as a country or a community, used to be able to talk about shows, you used to be able to talk about these things, but those are all gone now. They’re all just spoilers. Other than live sports, no one gets around and really enjoys the same thing.

So as we’ve gone across the country and we have over 500 locations now, it’s really fun to drop a flavor and everyone in the country, so if your sister is on one part of the country and you’re in another part of the country, you can both go and enjoy the same thing and talk about it and experience it together. So it’s been really this great thing that really brings these friends and brings family closer together even if they’re farther away or if they are closer together, they can talk about it at work or at home. And it’s really been this great experience that really brings people together.

Gabriella Bock:
Yeah. Well, I love that. It sounds like you guys really identified a challenge and then adapted. And now those weekly drops, they really do touch on these trends around, as you said, engaging the consumer in this almost exclusive experience, like FOMO, because you don’t know if that flavor will ever return and you want to be a part of it. You want to be a part of the conversation and share in on that. So I think that’s really smart.

And then how else do you engage your customers? So do they have any input in any of the flavors that will be coming out? Do they vote on anything?

Jason McGowan:
They do. So we do have surveys every once in a while, but we also are constantly checking social media. I’ll go on Reddit and just say, “Hey, what’s going on in Reddit? What are people talking about? What cookies do they wish they had? What are they not liking about the current cookies? Or what are they liking about the current cookies?” Same thing. And so my partner Sawyer, he’ll be on that too as well.

So his team, he and the R&D team are over all the development of the cookies. And so they’re constantly checking social media, looking at all the details, crafting experiences, whether it’s themed weeks and those kinds of things around really that community. So a lot of times most businesses, they just will be like, “Okay, that’s great. That’s social, let’s have someone off to the side,” but we’re in the heart of it and thick of it.

And we actually take a lot of feedback from our customers on what we can do to improve. I think that’s, again, our different mindset is, you have other concepts that are like, “We’re the professionals, we’re the chefs we know better than customers. We know better than you. Here’s our perfectly crafted thing. Let me hand it over to you and hopefully you enjoy it,” where our approach is, “Here’s our thing. What would you improve? Okay, let’s do it. Let’s change that.” So it’s food and it’s product that’s built by this community over time to really make every single product better. And we’ll take a cookie. And if a cookie has been okay, but has not lived up to our standards, we’ll totally reimagine it with all the feedback from our customers and relaunch a re-imagined version of that cookie and take it to the next level. And so we’re constantly improving, optimizing our cookies and our experiences and our processes to really match the level of feedback that we’re getting from our customers.

Gabriella Bock:
That’s fantastic. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone say optimizing our cookies. So I-

Jason McGowan:
Not digital anyways. Yes, physical. That’s right.

Gabriella Bock:
That’s right. But really cool stuff, how you guys are just really getting the customer involved and having them be a part of the brand. From helping come up with cookies ideas, and then serving as marketing, word of mouth. As you mentioned, you guys are huge on TikTok and that’s how I discovered you guys. And everyone on my team was so excited when they found out you guys were coming on the show, because you guys really have become a nationwide phenomenon. So I think that’s pretty incredible too. And you guys have seen some impressive growth.

So I wanted to pick your brain a little bit. So you said 500 locations, which is incredible. So how have you guys been able to scale so quickly and still maintain the quality and cohesive brand identity among so many locations so quickly?

Jason McGowan:
That’s a great question. So I think we’re over 500 stores and under 5 years and we almost have 50 states. So we’re even in Alaska and Hawaii right now.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow.

Jason McGowan:
So we’re really close to hitting 500 stores in 50 states in 5 years. And so it’s really, really rapid growth. And a lot of people ask, “Hey, how are you able to keep up,” like you said, “With operationally quality wise and how do you get that many people and how do you grow that many stores that quickly?” From the operational standpoint is we spend a lot of time and energy building tools and technology that really helped us leverage understanding quality. For example, whenever someone places an order, whether it’s to curbside or delivery or pickup or in-store, they will come in, they will purchase their cookies and then we will send them a survey afterwards.

But in that survey, they also have the ability to upload a photo and we get hundreds of thousands of photos a week. I think we might even be close to millions of photos a week of the cookies that they purchase. And so what we do is we have a team that comes here and looks at every single one of those cookies and they rank those cookies and rate those cookies. And so all the stores across the whole nation have a ranking of how well their cookies compared to other people in the state and across the country. And not only that is, we can say, “Hey, how well are you doing on your bake size? Your bake and your temperature of that?” Let me rephrase that. Sorry. When we look at the data on the cookies and each store can see the cookies across the different states or nationwide, they can see, “Hey, how well, or are our sizing just correct? Is our dressing look like it’s advertised?”

So all these different nuances in the cookies that we look for to make the world’s best cookies, that data is shared in a mobile app that every one of the franchise partners, the crew members and the managers at the stores can actually go and see how they compare, look at each other’s photos and see where they’re doing and how well quality’s doing across the country. And then we have individual teams and troubleshoots that can say, “Okay, now that we know that data, and we’re not just like, ‘Hey, how do we solve 500 stores at the same time?’ We can say, ‘Okay, look at that. There’s an issue here in Arizona in these two stores. Send somebody to go out there to do a quality refresh, or let’s go and have a conversation over the phone to see if we can work with them. Is it a training issue? Is it a temperature issue in that climate area?’”

So we know all these nuances, but technology has really leveraged us in building these tools so that as we scale rapidly, we can still see quality wise, how we’re doing as a company. And we are doing really, really well. So the other hard part too, is as you scale from 10 stores to 500 stores, sometimes it looks like, oh, there’s more and more pictures of bad quality coming in. But because we can look from our data standpoint and say, “Okay. Hey, where are we at quality wise per store, as we continue to grow?” Because if you have three bad cookies in a week, times it by 500 stores and you see 1500 cookies online, you’re like, “Wait, is the world falling apart? Is quality falling apart?” And a lot of times some communities may see that and say, “Oh, wait, is the quality failing here?” But from our metrics and our internal standpoint, we’re able to manage and see per store and as we scale out, how well quality is doing. And as we make certain changes to processes, to specific rules, those kinds of things, we can see how that affects quality nationwide.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow. Yeah, definitely, as you said, you guys are really leveraging technology again, to really keep up with all those, as you said, little nuances, whether that be within different regions or down to the store level. So it sounds like you guys have a wide view of everything that’s going on at any given time.

Jason McGowan:
As far as the operations is concerned too, as well. So we’ve got the quality and all these different benchmarks that we look at individual stores on, but I think what’s also made us really successful to grow is that we really focus on unit economics. And what that means is we look at a store’s individual, how well is the store doing? Are the owners successful financially because they’re running these stores? So we look at quality, but we also look at the unit economics because if the model and a store works really, really well, those owners want to open multiple stores. So almost every single one of our franchise partners doesn’t just own one store. They own three stores or six stores or multiple stores. And so they continue to want to have more stores and more locations because they’re having success with their first locations.

So we’ve never advertised ever our franchise concept to anyone. And so it’s all been internally driven, people coming to the stores and doing that sort of thing. And we’ve never had a store fail. So a lot of these concepts that are closing a 100 stores this year, 30 stores this year, we went bad markets this year. So we’ve never had a store location fail, ever. So we’ve been open for five years, all stores that we’ve ever opened have been running and are opening and are doing well. So I think that creates that drive for people to want to continue to open more locations as we continue to make sure the model and the financial works for the owners too, as well.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow. Wow. Yeah. Wow. 500 stores and not one has failed. That is pretty impressive. And wrapping up, I did just want to know, 500 is a lot, but what are you growing toward? What are your goals and how do you envision the future of Crumbl?

Jason McGowan:
Well, thanks. I think there’s two futures that we see with Crumbl. The first is really to become a nationwide brand. And I feel like we’ve done that. We’ve gone across the nation. We don’t sit down there and say, “Okay, we got to hit this many much benchmarks, or we need to have this growth be X now, or this much year over year.” We have no investors and so we have no one to sit there and be like, “Hey, you have to have it certain ways, or you have to meet certain metrics.” We just really look at growing quality stores throughout the nation, as fast as our model allows. And so we just let the natural tone of things and the natural people wanting more stores and all that stuff just naturally funnel the growth of where it goes from the growth.

So that’s where we see us continue to be a dominant player, to be one of the most loved brands in all of the United States. And the second part really we’re doubling in is we really want to go international. We really feel like there’s lots of opportunities to go international. And so we’ve sold several international locations. So we’re really, really excited to continue to expand around the globe. And so the United States is our first place that we’re working on, but that will not be our last and we are planning on really going international.

Gabriella Bock:
That’s excellent. I’m excited to see it. And Jason, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your story about the Crumbl brand with us. And I really appreciate your time.

Jason McGowan:
All right. Hey, thanks so much, Gabriella.

Gabriella Bock:
On today’s episode, we hear from Jason McGowan, founder, and CEO of crumble cookies about how he and his cousin Sawyer Hensley founded the country’s fastest growing cookie company.

And what’s perhaps most interesting about the crumble story is that the idea for the company didn’t formulate in a kitchen? But instead was the result of two guys who were craving it late night treat. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves because before cookies were ever on Jason’s plate. He was a young Canadian climbing the ranks of the mid two thousands tech boom. And how he got there is where today’s story begins.

Jason McGowan:
So I’m originally from a place where I claim I grew up is Lethbridge, Alberta. So it was a couple different places, but that’s where I spent most of my childhood years was in Lethbridge, Alberta. And later in my life, in my twenties, I decided to move to the United States and be here. Actually, when I came here, I had a friend here and for the first several months I slept on my friend’s floor. So I didn’t really have much money, was just coming here trying to have the American dream and figure everything out and had an eighth grade education, slept on my friend’s floor. And that’s how I got started.

So I’m always like, whenever you see my post or anything that I’ve done on online, I’m always very excited about America and the opportunities that it afforded me to be able to gain the skills and the knowledge and be able to become an entrepreneur to really start something that people have grown to love.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow. And did you always want to be an entrepreneur? Because it is a huge risk to take to. You know, relocate your entire life to a completely different country. And so, you know, what inspired you in. And really motivated you to take this leap?

Jason McGowan:
My dad was an entrepreneur growing up. And he started a business that shuttled people to and back from the airport, because the major airport was in Calgary and it was a few hours away. And so there was this need to shuttle people back and forth. And so as a kid, I remember my dad took me out of school one day and let me ride with them, with a couple of his customers.

And I remember just watching the experience and watching my dad try to be an entrepreneur. And he always had that dream and that hope to become an entrepreneur. As he was doing that, he was so excited to build this. They had another national brand that was a bus tour line. That was just, nope, they didn’t like it. They didn’t want him to be able to do that. He needed to have different licensing to be able to tour people. And anyways, it went to court and all these other different things. And I just remember thinking about here’s my dad, he’s a small entrepreneur trying to make it, trying to come up with something. And there was all these technicalities on travel and licensing and all these things that happened in Canada that’s prevented him from really accomplishing becoming that full entrepreneur, realizing his dreams.

But it always, even though that business ended up not succeeding, that always just gave me this entrepreneurial bug to just building something from nothing and creating a service that people will enjoy and value. And so growing up, that was the roots was watching that entrepreneurship from my dad.

Gabriella Bock:
Yeah, I can imagine that, you know, being a kid who really looks up to their father and kind of just seeing them forge his own path. And as you said, really just trying to create something for himself .. how that would inspire you. But then it also sounds like there’s just kind of that entrepreneurial spirit that runs in your family, which we will get to in a little bit, but I did want to hear about how you went from arriving in the United States, only knowing a handful of people and only having an eighth grade education, to becoming kind of a leader in the tech industry.

Jason McGowan:
I was sleeping on a friend’s floor and I was trying to figure out, I don’t have an education and I need to figure out some skills or tools to figure out ways to make money, just to live so one day I wouldn’t be sleeping my friend’s floor and provide the necessities of life. There was a company that was looking to do a website and this was early on. And they’re like, “We’re looking for someone to do a website. Do you know how to do a website?” And I remember looking at them and I thought, “What’s your budget for this?” And at the time they were like, “It’s going to be about $800 to do this website.” And I’m like, “$800?” To me, that was just so much money. And I was just, “I’ll do it. I’ll know how to build a website. I’ll figure it out.”

And so that’s how it was born. I just literally started going on the internet, figuring out, Wait, how do you actually build a website? I started researching it. And it took me about a month to build something very, very, it was very basic at the time, but that’s how I built a website. And so I built a website for this company, they paid me. And I just remember being so excited in seeing that. And earlier in my tech career, I had somebody reach out to me that’d seen some of the work I’d done on one of the websites. And they said, “Hey, we were looking to build something on Facebook and build some social media presence on Facebook and build these apps.” At the time, Facebook was launching their new platform and was letting developers get onto the platform.

And so I said, “Sure, I’ll come and help do that.” So anyways, I came to work on this program, ended up to be called We’re Related. It grew over to a hundred plus million users on Facebook. And that’s when I just cut all my teeth, right. Figuring out about social media and virality. And when it comes to growth on social media and learning about technology. And so, as I continued, I started to learn about technology and taught myself all about user interface, design, user experience, all those different things to really make a product cohesive and really build a product from nothing. And so I got really, really passionate and excited about technology. I started developing all my skills in technology and built services that hit a 100 plus million users.

And after that, everyone was trying to create these social networks and do all these other different things. At the time, I was working at a company called Ancestry and we were helping people discover their genealogy and all those kinds of things. And I had some successful little part-time companies that had started and sold off. And so I’d gotten this technology career and I had been in it for a while, for over a decade. And I was just getting tired of always just chasing the next technology of like, what was going to be the next social platform, or was going to be the next biggest technology? And I was like, “Maybe I should just try something different. I want to just try something physical.”

And my cousin through marriage, his name is Sawyer Hemsley, who’s amazing. He was also looking, he was going to college at the time. And so I was at working Ancestry, had done some things in my career with technology. He was going to school and we both were just talking back and forth. We were like, “Yeah, we should do something someday.” And at the time DoorDash wasn’t really prevalent. And so it was like, if you wanted to order some food, you could order pizza and that was pretty much it at the time. So I’m like one day I want to deliver something that’s with delivery and all these things. And so we were talking back and forth and I love technology. We both liked to bake. And there were some other concepts that were bubbling up in Utah and we’re like, “We should do a cookie store.” We’re like, “Let’s do it. Let’s go for it. Let’s go do a cookie store.”

And so we just got started, we just did it. And we went and found a location and it was just several $100 a month. It was under a 1,000 bucks and we got the location, started buying equipment. And then we realized, we have no idea how to make cookies at all. This is not like business 101, you should not do this. You shouldn’t go get a lease on a building. You shouldn’t do all these other different things and then figure out your product. You should figure out your product first. But we were just so excited and we were just like, “Yeah, we’re going to do it.” We’ve got this inexpensive rent. The building was set to be destroyed in three or six months. So we’re like, “If it fails, it’s not the end of the world. We can just start this little cookie shop and it’ll be some fun learning and we can go off and do something else if we want to. And if it fails, it’s not the end of the world.”

And so the problem that we realized though, was we got to learn how to bake cookies. So we were like, “Should we just call up a local provider and just have someone just deliver cookies to us. And then we’ll just bake them and that will be it? And then so we started talking about those things. We were like, “No, we got to build. If we’re going to build to something, we only ever want to do the best.” And so, well, what’s the best cookies? It’s homemade, fresh cookies. And so we started going and we started making cookies and so Sawyer and I would get together and we would start testing all these different things and we’d go in his mom and his parents oven and bake different things. And I’d be back at home at my house and I’d be baking different things.

And so we’d be going through and baking these things and nothing would work out. The cookies are just so embarrassing. If I sent you a picture, it’s just embarrassing. They’re flat, they’re disgusting. And we were just like, “Oh no, what have we done?” And so we were just exhausted and we were like, “Well, we got to just figure it out.” And so we hired some people, consultants to help us learn how to just mix and bake just simple stuff. When we got the commercial equipment, we had our recipe. We were like, “We think we got somewhat of a decent recipe. We’ve tried in our home ovens.” We pour all the ingredients into the bowl and the bowl is sitting there and we’re super excited. And we turn on the bowl and the mixer starts mixing and the mixer paddle didn’t even touch the top of the ingredients.
And so it was mixing around air and we were-

Gabriella Bock:
Oh my gosh.

Jason McGowan:
… so confused. We’re like, “Wait, did we get the wrong mixer?” Because we bought a used mixer, because we were just starting out. We’re like, “Oh I got to go find the right mixer. I totally bought the wrong one.” Well, I didn’t realize it doesn’t make small batches of dough. It only makes large batches of dough. And so we’re like, “Okay, we got a commercial oven, we got a commercial mixer. We’ve got to just figure out how to do this all over again.” So we had to take our recipe and just make it much, much bigger. And then we started making all this dough and then we’d throw them in the oven and it’d be like, “Ugh, that didn’t work.” Well, the whole batch didn’t work and you have to make these massive batches and we’d throw these batches of dough and we’d throw them into these black bags. And it was so heavy that it would feel like a body bag and we’d be just hurling them in the garbage can.

And I remember sometimes, because we were doing it till late at night, 2:00 in the morning, we’d be looking around being like, “Is someone thinking we’re throwing a dead body in the garbage container? Hopefully no cops come by. And they’re like, “What are these two kids doing at 2:00 in the morning throwing a black sack that’s really heavy over a trash can. But we just kept working at it, working at it. And eventually we had told everyone we were launching and we were opening the store and a competitor, actually, another cookie store had just decided they were going to open a week earlier because they heard we were going to launch. So we had to launch. And so we just figured out and we decided to do what we call the taste-test model.

So in my software world, if you want to know which website’s better, you’d say, “Okay, which site would have more sales?” Well, you’d launch two different versions and each customer would see different versions and you’d A/B test it to figure out which one’s the best. Well in the world, I’m like, why can’t we take that same concept and taste-test our way to the best Chocolate Chip Cookie. So when we were doing this and trying to figure out what was the best, we’d go to local gas stations and be like, “Which cookie do you like better?” We changed up the Chocolate Chip. Well, me and Sawyer got into this huge disagreement on whether it should be milk Chocolate Chip or Semi-Chocolate Chip. And so we started getting into these arguments about no, I’m like, “It’s a semi-sweet.” I’m a semi-sweet guy. For sure, semi-sweet chocolate. It makes sense. Sawyer was like, “I’m a milk chocolate guy.” So anyways, we did a poll on Twitter and we found out 70% of people prefer milk chocolate over semi-sweet chocolate.

Gabriella Bock:
Interesting.

Jason McGowan:
So we’re like, “Milk chocolate it is.” That’s how we decide, it’s data. We do it in our professional careers or my professional career. And so we started doing that and iterating on this cookie and taste-testing our way through ingredients and processes. And when we launched, we only had one cookie. We were like, “That’s all we can do.” We were only able to get one done and we’re like, “We’re going to just launch it.” And so we launched the business and we launched with one cookie and this guy comes in. And I used to think he had suspenders on because it was in my memory, but he had a plaid shirt on. I thought he had suspenders and I just found the picture the other day and realized he didn’t have suspenders, but plaid shirt on, came in, bought a cookie, handed me money over the counter. And I remember just thinking, “Oh my goodness, people just spent money and bought a cookie.”

It must have felt like a million dollars at the time to me. I just couldn’t believe that someone was going to just hand us over money and buy our cookies from us. So, that happened and then we were just, from then on all of a sudden, just lines were out the door. People started hearing about it. There’s lines started coming out the door and they would come and we’d just put them, four cookies in a box and they were large and we would just give them the box of four warm Chocolate Chip Cookies and they would leave. And that was it. And just word traveled around and it started getting really, really busy and that’s how Crumbl was born.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow. That is an incredible story.

Jason McGowan:
No, it’s a little crazy when you hear it. I’m sorry, but that’s exactly what happened.

Gabriella Bock:
No, it’s a fun story. I love it. It’s such a start contrast from I would say the majority of cookie companies or bakeries. It said you guys saw this gap in the market and Crumbl was really born out of wanting to solve this problem of that there were no real dessert delivery options in your area, as opposed to having this innate passion for baking or for cookies. And the approach, sounds like a very methodical process to figuring out what the best cookie would be and what people would respond to best. So I think that’s really cool. And I think your background in tech definitely makes so much more sense now and you can see how that was incorporated and how that served as the backbone of Crumbl in a way. And I think that’s really cool.

So I wanted to know, so you told me a little bit about launch day and just how amazing that felt. At first, how did you guys start getting the word out?

Jason McGowan:
Yeah. So I think this is another thing that has really been something that’s different from us too as well, out the gate. My partner, Sawyer Hemsley, is totally, always been about social media. It was in college. He understood it really, really well, had tons of followers. He’s got a great eye for brand and that’s what he went to school for. And so when we got started going out, I did a lot of the Facebook and Instagram and all that marketing before and Sawyer had this great eye for branding and design and these other things. And so instead of doing these radio and commercials and print ads and everything, we’re like, “Let’s just do all social, all social media.” And five years ago, today you could look at and say, oh, “Hey, that makes sense, how big social media’s become,” but even just five years ago, that wasn’t necessarily the recipe for success.

And so we went all in on Instagram and Facebook and started just building content and started building teams and everything around just posting great content and engaging with the community. And so by doing that, we started getting followers from friends and family and other people started following us. And we started building up this Instagram following in the town. And all of a sudden people started looking to that Instagram post to see what was going on and see what was new. And we really started to build community. And so using social media and that, as a platform really helped jump us off to how we get the word out, how do we communicate? And all that.

And that is actually still how we communicate today. So what’s interesting is even when it comes to TikTok, we’ve gone all in, spent tons of resources and time and energy creating this content. And if you look at our following, we had more following on TikTok than Nike and Starbucks combined. And so it’s that constant commitment of saying, obviously, these other brands are spending a lot of time and energy and money in all kinds of different avenues. We just say, “We’re going to go all in on social and we’re going to engage and reach out.” And that sort of thing. So even to this day, if you reach out on social media and DM us or try to communicate with us, we don’t get everyone, but we sure do get almost everyone and talk to a lot of people. And that slowly compounds over years and years of communicating with our audience and that continues to grow.

Gabriella Bock:
Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve seen over the last year or so, because I don’t know, I’m on TikTok quite a bit and I definitely have noticed, that’s where I first learned about you guys. I think it was either last year or in 2020. And you guys definitely do have a cult-like following of fans on social media, especially TikTok and from what I’ve seen, I think in large part, that’s due to your consistent rollout of new flavors.

We see people going to their local Crumbl and getting the new flavors of the week and opening up the box in the car and just trying them all on, right then and there. So I know you guys did the Chocolate Chip Cookie and Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie first. And then, when did you guys decide to roll out more flavors? Was your intention always to roll out more flavors and have it be this interactive and engaging thing? And if that wasn’t the case, when did you first formulate that idea?

Jason McGowan:
No, that’s a great question. So I think for us, when we got started, we were just thought focused on trying to even learn how to bake. So it was like the Chocolate Chip Cookie is all you got, but slowly after that, we were like, “We need to start introducing new cookies.” And so we would do random things. Our first, what we call specialty cookie, which was a cookie other than the Chocolate Chip, was a Midnight Mint. And the reason why it was Midnight Mint is we used to be open until 2:00 AM and we’re like, “Look, what if we just create a cookie and it’s only available from midnight till 2:00 AM. And we [inaudible] more people. And so we just created this cookie called Midnight Mint. It was a dark base with mint chips and it was so good.

Anyways. So that’s how we started doing it. And we started saying, “Okay, well let’s start adding in new cookies and adding in new flavors.” And so we started adding in, and again, we took that same approach of testing and trying out and that sort of thing. And so we started getting to the menu and then we opened up in Orem and then we opened up our first franchise model, which was in Bountiful. And in Bountiful, we sold all the specialty cookies. I think it was something like 9 or 10 or 11. I don’t know. It was a lot of cookies to have on the menu at the same time. And we started just be noticing that we would frustrate some customers because they would come in hoping for a certain flavor and that flavor would be gone.

And so we were like, “We can’t keep up this. We can’t keep adding new flavors and we can’t keep up with even these small amount of flavors,” because people who want those specific flavors, they would be out. And you only have so much storage capacity and baking capacity in the ovens and all that sort of thing. So anyways, so what we decided to do is we said, “Well, let’s just do a rotating. Let’s just start rotating these flavors. Instead of rotating like we’re rotating, let’s just do a weekly drop. We’ll just drop them every single week. We’ll hype them up. We’ll get people really excited about them and then we’ll just take them off the menu completely.” They may show up again. They may not. And if they do, it might be months away. So we just got really, really excited.

And so that was a born out of a necessity. I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, look at this amazing model that they put together.” And da, da, da, da, da. “And they’re geniuses.” It’s like, no, we were rolling with the punches. But I think what we did do well was we listened to our customers and we listened to the experiences that they were having. And as we did that, we formulated what would work really well for Crumbl. And I think any brand can learn from that, which is, listen to your customers and see what they’re telling you and try to figure out and create experiences that are great for you, because even though this worked for us, there might be something else that works for you and your brand. But I think we really spent time listening to the customer and we started doing these weekly drops and we were like, “Well, if we’re doing the weekly drops, we really got to start announcing and making it even more exciting.”

And so we started getting into videos. And then all of a sudden, as we started getting into videos and started doing these announcements, we’re like, “Okay, we’re going to just announce at the same time every single week.” When we started announcing at the same time every single week, and all of a sudden our social media just started getting flooded. People started to set alarm clocks to it. And that’s when we started having this cult following because people started just seeing all these weekly different drops. Well, it got so bad that Instagram and Facebook, mostly Instagram, started thinking our account was spam. And because we started replying to people and trying to communicate with them and all of a sudden a video would drop. And so many people would comment and like right away that it would get flagged in their systems of, “Hey, this is a spammy account. There could be some issues with this account.”

So we really had to work with them, figure that out, help them understand, no, this is our concept. And we are having a ton that just flow in. So that created that weekly drop, that weekly moment where everyone could share. And I think one of the reasons why it also became successful is years ago, Netflix and all these other businesses have come out where people would binge. So television and all these shows and everything that you can work together as a country or a community, used to be able to talk about shows, you used to be able to talk about these things, but those are all gone now. They’re all just spoilers. Other than live sports, no one gets around and really enjoys the same thing.

So as we’ve gone across the country and we have over 500 locations now, it’s really fun to drop a flavor and everyone in the country, so if your sister is on one part of the country and you’re in another part of the country, you can both go and enjoy the same thing and talk about it and experience it together. So it’s been really this great thing that really brings these friends and brings family closer together even if they’re farther away or if they are closer together, they can talk about it at work or at home. And it’s really been this great experience that really brings people together.

Gabriella Bock:
Yeah. Well, I love that. It sounds like you guys really identified a challenge and then adapted. And now those weekly drops, they really do touch on these trends around, as you said, engaging the consumer in this almost exclusive experience, like FOMO, because you don’t know if that flavor will ever return and you want to be a part of it. You want to be a part of the conversation and share in on that. So I think that’s really smart.

And then how else do you engage your customers? So do they have any input in any of the flavors that will be coming out? Do they vote on anything?

Jason McGowan:
They do. So we do have surveys every once in a while, but we also are constantly checking social media. I’ll go on Reddit and just say, “Hey, what’s going on in Reddit? What are people talking about? What cookies do they wish they had? What are they not liking about the current cookies? Or what are they liking about the current cookies?” Same thing. And so my partner Sawyer, he’ll be on that too as well.

So his team, he and the R&D team are over all the development of the cookies. And so they’re constantly checking social media, looking at all the details, crafting experiences, whether it’s themed weeks and those kinds of things around really that community. So a lot of times most businesses, they just will be like, “Okay, that’s great. That’s social, let’s have someone off to the side,” but we’re in the heart of it and thick of it.

And we actually take a lot of feedback from our customers on what we can do to improve. I think that’s, again, our different mindset is, you have other concepts that are like, “We’re the professionals, we’re the chefs we know better than customers. We know better than you. Here’s our perfectly crafted thing. Let me hand it over to you and hopefully you enjoy it,” where our approach is, “Here’s our thing. What would you improve? Okay, let’s do it. Let’s change that.” So it’s food and it’s product that’s built by this community over time to really make every single product better. And we’ll take a cookie. And if a cookie has been okay, but has not lived up to our standards, we’ll totally reimagine it with all the feedback from our customers and relaunch a re-imagined version of that cookie and take it to the next level. And so we’re constantly improving, optimizing our cookies and our experiences and our processes to really match the level of feedback that we’re getting from our customers.

Gabriella Bock:
That’s fantastic. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone say optimizing our cookies. So I-

Jason McGowan:
Not digital anyways. Yes, physical. That’s right.

Gabriella Bock:
That’s right. But really cool stuff, how you guys are just really getting the customer involved and having them be a part of the brand. From helping come up with cookies ideas, and then serving as marketing, word of mouth. As you mentioned, you guys are huge on TikTok and that’s how I discovered you guys. And everyone on my team was so excited when they found out you guys were coming on the show, because you guys really have become a nationwide phenomenon. So I think that’s pretty incredible too. And you guys have seen some impressive growth.

So I wanted to pick your brain a little bit. So you said 500 locations, which is incredible. So how have you guys been able to scale so quickly and still maintain the quality and cohesive brand identity among so many locations so quickly?

Jason McGowan:
That’s a great question. So I think we’re over 500 stores and under 5 years and we almost have 50 states. So we’re even in Alaska and Hawaii right now.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow.

Jason McGowan:
So we’re really close to hitting 500 stores in 50 states in 5 years. And so it’s really, really rapid growth. And a lot of people ask, “Hey, how are you able to keep up,” like you said, “With operationally quality wise and how do you get that many people and how do you grow that many stores that quickly?” From the operational standpoint is we spend a lot of time and energy building tools and technology that really helped us leverage understanding quality. For example, whenever someone places an order, whether it’s to curbside or delivery or pickup or in-store, they will come in, they will purchase their cookies and then we will send them a survey afterwards.

But in that survey, they also have the ability to upload a photo and we get hundreds of thousands of photos a week. I think we might even be close to millions of photos a week of the cookies that they purchase. And so what we do is we have a team that comes here and looks at every single one of those cookies and they rank those cookies and rate those cookies. And so all the stores across the whole nation have a ranking of how well their cookies compared to other people in the state and across the country. And not only that is, we can say, “Hey, how well are you doing on your bake size? Your bake and your temperature of that?” Let me rephrase that. Sorry. When we look at the data on the cookies and each store can see the cookies across the different states or nationwide, they can see, “Hey, how well, or are our sizing just correct? Is our dressing look like it’s advertised?”

So all these different nuances in the cookies that we look for to make the world’s best cookies, that data is shared in a mobile app that every one of the franchise partners, the crew members and the managers at the stores can actually go and see how they compare, look at each other’s photos and see where they’re doing and how well quality’s doing across the country. And then we have individual teams and troubleshoots that can say, “Okay, now that we know that data, and we’re not just like, ‘Hey, how do we solve 500 stores at the same time?’ We can say, ‘Okay, look at that. There’s an issue here in Arizona in these two stores. Send somebody to go out there to do a quality refresh, or let’s go and have a conversation over the phone to see if we can work with them. Is it a training issue? Is it a temperature issue in that climate area?’”

So we know all these nuances, but technology has really leveraged us in building these tools so that as we scale rapidly, we can still see quality wise, how we’re doing as a company. And we are doing really, really well. So the other hard part too, is as you scale from 10 stores to 500 stores, sometimes it looks like, oh, there’s more and more pictures of bad quality coming in. But because we can look from our data standpoint and say, “Okay. Hey, where are we at quality wise per store, as we continue to grow?” Because if you have three bad cookies in a week, times it by 500 stores and you see 1500 cookies online, you’re like, “Wait, is the world falling apart? Is quality falling apart?” And a lot of times some communities may see that and say, “Oh, wait, is the quality failing here?” But from our metrics and our internal standpoint, we’re able to manage and see per store and as we scale out, how well quality is doing. And as we make certain changes to processes, to specific rules, those kinds of things, we can see how that affects quality nationwide.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow. Yeah, definitely, as you said, you guys are really leveraging technology again, to really keep up with all those, as you said, little nuances, whether that be within different regions or down to the store level. So it sounds like you guys have a wide view of everything that’s going on at any given time.

Jason McGowan:
As far as the operations is concerned too, as well. So we’ve got the quality and all these different benchmarks that we look at individual stores on, but I think what’s also made us really successful to grow is that we really focus on unit economics. And what that means is we look at a store’s individual, how well is the store doing? Are the owners successful financially because they’re running these stores? So we look at quality, but we also look at the unit economics because if the model and a store works really, really well, those owners want to open multiple stores. So almost every single one of our franchise partners doesn’t just own one store. They own three stores or six stores or multiple stores. And so they continue to want to have more stores and more locations because they’re having success with their first locations.

So we’ve never advertised ever our franchise concept to anyone. And so it’s all been internally driven, people coming to the stores and doing that sort of thing. And we’ve never had a store fail. So a lot of these concepts that are closing a 100 stores this year, 30 stores this year, we went bad markets this year. So we’ve never had a store location fail, ever. So we’ve been open for five years, all stores that we’ve ever opened have been running and are opening and are doing well. So I think that creates that drive for people to want to continue to open more locations as we continue to make sure the model and the financial works for the owners too, as well.

Gabriella Bock:
Wow. Wow. Yeah. Wow. 500 stores and not one has failed. That is pretty impressive. And wrapping up, I did just want to know, 500 is a lot, but what are you growing toward? What are your goals and how do you envision the future of Crumbl?

Jason McGowan:
Well, thanks. I think there’s two futures that we see with Crumbl. The first is really to become a nationwide brand. And I feel like we’ve done that. We’ve gone across the nation. We don’t sit down there and say, “Okay, we got to hit this many much benchmarks, or we need to have this growth be X now, or this much year over year.” We have no investors and so we have no one to sit there and be like, “Hey, you have to have it certain ways, or you have to meet certain metrics.” We just really look at growing quality stores throughout the nation, as fast as our model allows. And so we just let the natural tone of things and the natural people wanting more stores and all that stuff just naturally funnel the growth of where it goes from the growth.

So that’s where we see us continue to be a dominant player, to be one of the most loved brands in all of the United States. And the second part really we’re doubling in is we really want to go international. We really feel like there’s lots of opportunities to go international. And so we’ve sold several international locations. So we’re really, really excited to continue to expand around the globe. And so the United States is our first place that we’re working on, but that will not be our last and we are planning on really going international.

Gabriella Bock:
That’s excellent. I’m excited to see it. And Jason, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your story about the Crumbl brand with us. And I really appreciate your time.

Jason McGowan:
All right. Hey, thanks so much, Gabriella.