“If I’m thinking about choosing a cloud provider through the lens of a time-to-value equation, DigitalOcean wins every time. "

Customer Storiesunicodemy

How Crave Cookie found success keeping things simple with DigitalOcean

Crave Cookie is a cookie delivery service specializing in gourmet cookies made fresh daily. The company was founded by siblings Shandi Scrivner and Sam Eaton using a family recipe. With Shandi in charge of baking, Sam’s background as a software engineer allowed him to create e-commerce and delivery software “from scratch” that makes the organization hyper-efficient and competitive, enabling them to move faster, deliver more cookies, and provide a superior customer experience.  

Everyone loves Shandi’s cookies. For years, she’s been sharing delicious chocolate chip cookies with friends and neighbors using a family recipe that she adapted to near perfection. As friendly demand for her cookies increased, she contrived the idea for a cookie delivery service where people could place online orders for her cookies and have them delivered fresh and still warm from the oven. 

When Shandi shared the idea with Sam, he offered to create the software needed to support the service. Sam’s extensive experience in software development and previous experiences as an entrepreneur provided valuable insight into the technical needs of the service. 

With the goal of getting up and running as quickly as possible, Sam knew they needed a cloud provider that was affordable and easy to use but could still support the business as it grew. His experience with hyperscalers was frustrating due to the poor developer experience, inability to move quickly, and high costs. After searching for a better fit for his needs, he found DigitalOcean was that perfect partner. He appreciated having straightforward solutions that “work as you expect”, saving time going through pages of documentation to figure out the nuances of the product. 

“If I’m thinking about choosing a cloud provider through the lens of a time-to-value equation, DigitalOcean wins every time. One example is DigitalOcean’s Spaces. On DigitalOcean, there’s a checkbox that asks if you have a CDN. If you say yes, it gives you a URL. With hyperscalers, I’d have to read through documentation or watch a YouTube video to find out how to connect my CDN.” — Sam Eaton, Co-Founder, Crave Cookie

MVP into production

Sam learned from previous startup experience that there’s a significant risk in over-engineering initial software. He realized that putting the minimum viable product (MVP) into production allowed him to remain minimalistic and agile, keeping his startup competitive in its early days.

“I don’t think you need to over-engineer things when starting out. Many people want to work within best practices, but in six months, you’ll be mad at yourself if doing so, you made the software hard to change. The benefits of best practices come into play on a big engineering team so that there’s order to the chaos, but this isn’t a priority for people starting out. The priority is adapting to change and to quickly deliver new value.” –Sam Eaton, Crave Cookie

The cookie business was a side project for both co-founders. They needed to be able to get up and running quickly and with minimal overhead. Sam started with a simple website writing to a JSON file with no database—writing the whole thing in a weekend—and Shandi started with her signature chocolate chip cookies. 

As the cookie delivery service proved to be a hit, Sam thought of ways to improve the online customer experience while Shandi added new cookie recipes to their offerings.

Improve the customer experience at every interaction

Most food delivery services are left with two choices: either use typical eCommerce software that’s not designed for small online restaurants or use a pre-existing food delivery service that takes longer to deliver than Crave Cookie had in mind. Neither option provided the customer experience that the team at Crave Cookie wanted to provide.  

When thinking through the online ordering experience, Sam realized that unlike large online retailers or other e-commerce sites, Crave Cookie doesn’t have large amounts of products that customers would need to sift through—they only have a handful of cookie choices—and those choices can be displayed on a single page. Sam wanted customers to be able to select their choices and complete checkout with just a few clicks.

Operationally, the team wanted to deliver fresh, still warm, cookies. That meant that as online orders came in, they needed to be able to batch and schedule cookie production in the most efficient way possible. In the early days, cookie orders were populated into a spreadsheet, and the Crave Cookie staff had to manually review the orders and determine when to bake and how to batch deliveries together. Sam wanted to improve this process by automating the cookie baking and delivery recommendations, saving time for the team and ultimately money spent on delivery overhead.

Sam created an online storefront that enabled customers to select their cookies and checkout with fewer steps. It also has the ability to save customer information, meaning returning customers can order cookies in mere seconds. After placing an order, the customer sees a confirmation page featuring a delivery status indicator where they can track their order. 

He also revamped the backend admin panel. Now, it handles all the cookie logistics, showing delivery locations on a map along with the time ordered. This enables delivery drivers to group trips based on location and time ordered and deliver cookies faster and fresher than they could with another service. 

Not only do the new efficiencies enhance the customer experience, but they also save time and money for the Crave Cookie team. Being hyper-efficient in everything they do allows the organization to hire fewer employees, save time operationally, and save costs on deliveries. All these cost savings can be passed along to their customers, keeping the price of cookies lower than it would be otherwise. 

The power of simplicity

As Crave Cookie continued to grow, Sam modified his MVP architecture but remained committed to keeping it simple.

In his current architecture, Sam swapped the JSON file for SQLite. He runs a job every 30 minutes to put the SQLite file in DigitalOcean Spaces. If the server is deleted the backups are just another file living in Spaces, and it’s easy to start up again. Crave Cookie does code deployments but hasn’t changed the actual data and the way it syncs since moving to SQLite a few years ago. Today, Crave Cookie runs a seven-figure annual revenue business on this simple architecture, spending only a few hundred dollars per month on DigitalOcean.

Continued growth

Building its platform on DigitalOcean allows Crave Cookie to move more quickly to meet customer needs. The efficiencies gained through their innovative software have afforded them tremendous cost savings, allowing them to provide cookies at a reasonable price while continuing to grow. They now have two storefront locations in addition to their online delivery service and continue to plan for new stages of growth, including an easy nationwide shipping experience. Sam has plans to build his microstore-focused eCommerce software as a SaaS product for other businesses and plans to do so with DigitalOcean.

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