“I started this company the first time I baked,” says Howe, chief cookie officer of Fat T’s Cookies.
Howe, who graduated from Archbishop Hoban High School in 2010, returned to the area with a masters degree in sports management. He’d hoped to get a job as an athletic director, but soon found that, “you need a teaching degree for everything.”
Rather than return to school, Howe explored his options. And one night in June 2017, feeling down about his situation, made cookies.
“I thought, hey I could sell these,” he recalls.
That same night he baked that first batch, he made a Facebook page to let friends know he was in the cookie selling business.
His next move was baking and selling cookies out of the trunk of his car at the Hartville Marketplace. Messages from markets inviting him to sell cookies and customers seeking special orders flooded his inbox.
Howe, with no experience selling at farmers’ markets, used the sports sales tactics he learned in college and applied them to cookies.
“When I go to events, my goal is to sell out. Not to make the most money. My goal is to sell out,” Howe says.“Because if the [customers] see you sell out, then they know you are good and will come to you earlier next time.”
The next event, Howe brings a dozen more cookies and sells out again. “And that keeps going and going until the point I can’t bring anymore,” he says.
At one event, he sold 227 pounds of cookies in a couple of hours. Bringing more inventory is physically impossible, he says. “It’s a good problem to have.”
In August 2017 Howe got a call from Cleveland Magazine. Fat T’s had been voted the best cookie in Northeast Ohio.
“I thought it was my buddies putting someone up to a prank, so I hung up,” Howe says with a laugh.. “They gave me an ultimatum — become a real business, or don’t be in the magazine.”
In October 2017, a few months after baking that first batch, Fat T’s Cookies, the company, was born.
The business’ first event was Taste of Cleveland at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
“We gave away 500 free cookies that night,” Howe says. “My company was like three or four days old. It probably put (us) in the red.”
Fat T’s was still a cottage bakery and Howe was churning out cookies from his mom’s house — “one dozen with the Kitchenaid, one dozen in the oven. Sometimes I would be baking for 20 hours a day because I could only make a dozen at a time.”
Today, Howe is at a professional production facility.
Howe is big on the word “we.” Fat T’s is not a one-man operation, he says.
“I call my following on social media platforms the ‘Fat Fam.’ They are part of that ‘we.’ I didn’t win an award, we did,” he adds.
Howe now ships cookies as far as Australia, Hong Kong and China. His Facebook page updates his weekend markets so fans know where to find him. Cookies are available online and at several local retailers, including Acme.
Howe’s experience working at The Akron Rotary Camp, a YMCA camp for children and adults with disabilities, helped him realize the importance of giving back to the community. He continues to support the organization by giving the camp half the proceeds of his s’more-inspired S’mummer Camp cookie. Nearly $6,000 has been raised so far.
Howe says it’s the face to face interactions with customers that continues to drive his passion.
“When I open my shop, it will be here in Akron, it’s got to be Akron. Even my business card, notice the odd colored chip, that’s Akron,” he says. “Anytime I make a list, if they say Cleveland, I call them and have them change it to Akron. It’s where it’s at.”
Find Fat T’s Cookies on Instagram and Facebook at @Fat_Ts_Cookies and online at www.FatTsCookies.com
Teresa enjoys spending time at the Akron Art Museum, quilting and reading
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