Returning to Her Roots
With a long-time passion for both baking and Boston, Heather Yunger wanted to create cookies that were more than just delicious sweets, but a representation of her childhood memories of baking and of her love for the city of her roots. She did exactly that when she founded Top Shelf Cookies, a cookie company with Boston-inspired names, such as “Green Monster Mint.” Between her unique recipes and outgoing personality, Heather soon gained a large following of customers, particularly through farmers’ markets and other public events where she was able to share her products and connect with the community.
Rethinking a Business
in March 2020, Heather suffered a tremendous and unforeseen loss. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced public event cancellations and college campuses to close, Heather saw her primary source of income abruptly fall apart. “80% of our projected revenue in March and April was cancelled within 6 hours. I can’t even explain the feeling.” Heather knew that to endure the months ahead, she needed to rethink her entire business model. Fortunately, she had recently received a $10,000 business grant to invest in her business from winning the 2019 Samuel Adams pitch room competition. The pitch room is part of the Brewing the American Dream Program – a partnership between Samuel Adams and Accion that makes resources, including capital and coaching, available to small business owners running food businesses. “I’ve been investing it all into my online channel to make that my regular revenue source and that’s what saving me.” Building a stronger online presence has enabled Heather to grow her business both for the present and future. “There’s going to be a lot of staying power out of this.”
Showing Support Safely
One personal challenge for Heather is adapting her outgoing personality to a world of social distancing. “I love being out at farmers’ markets and talking to people. It’s a great way to build that connection with customers, so I’m really struggling.” However, she’s realized that her community has found new ways to show their support. “As small business owners, we’re being asked a huge sacrifice and I think people are recognizing that. We all feel this overwhelming love from our communities right now. It’s taking me so long to process online orders because people have written me such nice notes and I want to respond to each one.”
Heather also feels the unconditional support from the network of small business owners she is a part of. “We’re in a shared kitchen with other bakers and we’re already talking about how we can help each other out at the end of this so that no one is taking on extra costs. That way we’re all stronger together.” For a particularly resilient group of individuals, Heather explained that this time period proves to be no exception. “We’re used to reacting quickly. It’s in our nature. We’re always trying to figure out what the next step is. It makes me proud to be part of this community.”