Meagan Layton and Whitney Smith are the co-owners of Covet Sips & Sweets — a cookie and specialty drink drive-thru (coming soon!) that has evolved from their original Covet Cookies concept. The pair were six months into their original business idea, supplying cookies to a small Okotoks café when the pandemic hit and the pair pivoted to delivery. Today, the plan to create a storefront of their own — a sea can transformed into a gourmet way to pick up a treat without leaving one’s vehicle — is coming to fruition, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign and the ongoing passion the two have for their sweet business.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve taken something you love and created a successful business out of it. What was your biggest challenge starting out?
M: There have been many challenges and those were different for both of us. We joke we’re soulmates; we found strengths that complemented each other that we didn’t anticipate. Whitney can whip up a recipe and nail it on the first go. Then, suddenly, I’m a tech guru making our website.
W: A mutual challenge we both have is we tend to bite off a lot and then we’re like, ‘Oh dang, we have to figure out how to do this.’ Sometimes it’s our own ambition that kicks us in the butts.
How do you build a successful customer base?
W: A lot of our customer base has been organic. We’ve been really lucky in the sense that it’s been just people sharing on Instagram or through word of mouth.
M: We knew right away that our customer is basically us — it’s moms. We wanted the drive-thru because a mom can have her kid in the car seat, and she can have a moment of peace with a cookie and a drink.
W: We really try to make the vibe very approachable for men, too. We want it to be inclusive of everyone.
To what do you attribute your success?
W: Our grit. Our stubbornness. There are times when we’re totally overwhelmed, but we use our perseverance to overcome the hurdles. When we don’t know how to do something, we’re just like, ‘We’re going to figure it out!’
M: And some really awesome cookies! The excitement of having a product that people love and want, that’s our mojo. When people are excited about our products, it’s like, ‘Alright, this will keep us going.’ That fuels our drive.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your business?
M: It changed the trajectory. It forced us to pivot and create our own direct-to-customer business.
W: In some ways, as complex and complicated and psychologically traumatic as the pandemic has been, this little business has kept us grounded and focused and moving forward.
Why did you choose a Kickstarter campaign to fuel the growth of Covet Cookies to Sips & Sweets?
M: I’ve lived in lots of places and nowhere loves small business like Okotoks does. Since we’ve switched to delivery, we’ve seen locals really get into what we’re doing and ordering every week. We thought a Kickstarter would be a great way to harness the love Okotoks has for small business, asking them to support us in a big way. We knew it would be successful because of that environment here.
W: The Kickstarter was mutually beneficial. We could have gone to the bank to get a loan or pleaded with family or friends. But asking the community to help us and offering them perks like discount cards and punch passes, it felt like a win-win.
What was your experience with that process?
W: We went into the Kickstarter with lots of forethought, thinking through what people would want for rewards and who we were trying to tailor the campaign to. Pre-research helped it run smoothly. Meagan nailed down the strategy, making marketing videos and creating levels of rewards.
It was scary because you have to hit your goal or you get nothing. We set a goal of raising $20,000 in a 30-day period. It was a lofty goal! It was wild how immediate the response was and how many people were sharing it on their Instagram accounts. People were so supportive and understanding of what we were up against. We loved how much other people cared about us getting to our goal.
What tools are you using to run Covet Sips & Sweets?
M: We use Shopify and social media platforms. Shopify has been great. It’s been easy to tailor and work into our business model. It’s very user friendly for a small business that doesn’t have the time to become coding geniuses — even I can do it!
W: Right now, with our limited ability to be with people, it has really been about upping our social media game — we use Facebook and Instagram. We are limited with our face-to-face opportunities to get our name and product out there, so the biggest benefit is social media has given us a way to tap into the community while remaining socially distant.
Do you use the services of a professional? Graphic designer, accountant, lawyer, etc.? How do they contribute to the business?
M: Whitney is our graphic designer. We do have a lawyer and he’s been wonderful. I feel like he’s the adult in the room! He’s the only one who gets paid. Everyone else gets cookies.
W: We’ve worn many hats in this business — probably more than we should. But we also have a huge resource of people that we’ve tapped into. We’ve asked so many questions. We’ve picked so many brains. We do as much of it as we can, but there have been many people supporting us.
Everyone we reach out to has been so excited, ready and willing to help. Other people have come out of nowhere offering support. It’s been mind-blowing.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
M: For me, it’s having someone to do it with. I freak out in moments and Whitney is the calm one, and vice-versa. I have just loved so much having someone to talk things through with and bounce ideas off. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any own.
W: We’re super willing to learn and troubleshoot and figure it out and make mistakes. We go into this wholeheartedly knowing we’re going to learn hard lessons, but the highs are what makes all of it worth it.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
M: When we hit milestones that validate our hard work.
W: Moving into this next phase with Sips & Sweets and finishing the conversion on the sea can is also very gratifying. We started this process back in November. Now that we’re close, I’m looking at the thing I manifested, had written on paper. It’s right there. It’s a tangible thing.
It’s cool to see a dream come true. I hope everyone can say that in their lives.
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