Aaron Seriff-Cullick ’13 answered his phone Tuesday evening with a cheery smile and a flip of his wild red hair.
“Hello,” he said. “Call Me Cookie!”
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”7206″ ]
Walking across Cross Campus, Seriff-Cullick was on his way to deliver more than 50 homemade cookies to hungry Yalies when he received the call. It was just before 11 p.m., and the sophomore on the other end wanted to place her second cookie order of the night.
“To someone who’s truly lazy, like me, it’s great because he comes straight to your door,” said another customer, Lepi Jha ’12, who ordered from Call Me Cookie on Sunday night.
Seriff-Cullick launched Call Me Cookie, a homemade chocolate-chip cookie delivery service, last Thursday. Since then, every night after his varsity diving practice he has baked at a friend’s off-campus apartment for about two hours before traipsing across campus between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. to deliver plates of the freshly baked goodies to his customers. Since he began, he has made about 15 deliveries per night (with about seven cookies in each order) and has sold about 150 chocolate-chip cookies in total, he said.
While Seriff-Cullick said he started Call Me Cookie to help pay for college, he added that he has always loved to bake.
“Nothing beats a homemade cookie,” he said. “People could buy Chips Ahoy cookies — and they would be wrong to do that because these taste like a human made them.”
ONE SMART COOKIE
Seriff-Cullick is no stranger to baking or to entrepreneurial endeavors.
A baker since the age of six, Seriff-Cullick ran a cake-making charity at his Austin, Texas, high school. Every Friday, he and 30 friends would make enough cake so that all 900 students could have a piece of dessert when school got out. Though the group never charged for the cake, it encouraged donations, which it gave to a local charity that gives homeless artists supplies and a place to sell their creations. During high school Seriff-Cullick also rented himself out as a clown for children’s birthday parties and local events. When he applied to college, he wrote his admissions essay comparing himself to every element of one of his original dessert creations: a hot cinnamon beignet on top of melted dark chocolate and raspberry sauce.
At Yale, Seriff-Cullick said he saw the hungry members of the student body as ideal candidates to test out an idea he has had since before coming to college. With a secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies that he developed and perfected in high school, the Pierson College freshman said he believes he has created a unique cookie that will keep people coming back.
Call Me Cookie is not officially a “business,” Seriff-Cullick said: He works entirely alone and has not registered the company as an organization with either Yale or New Haven.
The freshman bakes every night in the Park Street apartment of Jay Frisby ’10, singing and whistling the whole time. In exchange for use of the Frisby’s apartment, Seriff-Cullick leaves Frisby the cookies that are not up to delivery standards — and does the dishes, too.
Currently Seriff-Cullick’s only costs are ingredients, which he said he will continue to buy at Gourmet Heaven on Broadway until he becomes a member of a wholesale grocer like Costco. Though he declined to say how much profit he has made so far, he said that at his current price of 75 cents per cookie, he has at least broken even each night.
“People will buy them because people like the idea of having cookies delivered,” he said. “And people do like the idea that another student is doing it.”
To determine the price of the cookies, Seriff-Cullick said that instead of calculating the average cost of each cookie, he asked his friends all year how much they would be willing to pay for a homemade cookie. Though most said they would pay more than $1, he said he has no need to charge more than 75 cents.
Seriff-Cullick added that Call Me Cookie may grow in the future — perhaps to include special requests on weekends or birthday cakes, for example.
A COOKIE A DAY…
Though Call Me Cookie’s operations began just a week ago, Seriff-Cullick said he had been planning something like the business since the summer before his freshman year. To advertise its opening, he put up flyers around campus, created a Facebook event and alerted all his friends. In one day, almost 400 people indicated they would be “attending” the event, which is scheduled to run until May 13, the last day of the spring semester.
“[Baking] has been really therapeutic and nice for me,” he said. “I like that I just have my seven hours each night to do this.”
On Tuesday night when Seriff-Cullick made a delivery to Linsley-Chittenden Hall at 11 p.m., his two customers said they ordered the cookies on a whim and had them within five minutes of their call. Hayden Mulligan ’11 said the appeal of Call Me Cookie over taking a study break at Yorkside Pizza or a buttery lies in the quick delivery.
The “rush hour” in cookie delivery has changed every night, Seriff-Cullick said, though Saturday was slower because, as he put it, “drunk people don’t want cookies.” Still, he already has a handful of regular customers.
Sam Sanders ’12 placed her second order of the night for 18 cookies, a large order for Seriff-Cullick, at just after 11 p.m. Tuesday. She said she found out about Call Me Cookie over Facebook and had been regularly ordering for different groups of people.
For Seriff-Cullick, baking is about community, he said, which is why he expects people not to be deterred by the six-cookie minimum order required for delivery — so that people can come together to enjoy his baking.
When Drisana Misra ’13 ordered from Seriff-Cullick on Monday night, she said she got a taste of that community feel. After ordering from Insomnia Cookies in New York City, a company that bakes and delivers cookies to dorms at other college campuses, she said she wanted something “warm and gooey” when she took a break from studying.
“It’s more personal because he makes the cookies himself, whereas a buttery just puts Tollhouse [dough] on a pan,” she said. “You get to know him better.”