Social Media Buzz Helps Business Alumna Maude Gagnon ’19 Fulfill Dreams with Southie Cookie
By Ed Brennen
Tuesday is usually a dough day for Maude Gagnon ’19. But a corporate order has come in and the Southie Cookie founder/owner needs to get five dozen salted chocolate chip, chocolate peanut butter and “Party Animal” cookies baked, individually packaged and delivered to Boston in a matter of hours.
Working in her commercial kitchen space in Stoneham, Massachusetts, the Manning School of Business alumna lines baking sheets with 11 billiard ball-sized gobs of cookie dough. After 10 minutes in the convection oven, they emerge as 5-ounce mountains of confectionery perfection — a tad crispy on the outside and oh-so-gooey on the inside.
“I can’t believe it worked out,” Gagnon says while carefully sealing each cookie in a cellophane bag adorned with a Southie Cookie sticker. “I can’t believe I make cookies for a living.”
It’s been her dream since middle school, when Gagnon started tinkering with cookie recipes at home in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
“It’s all self-taught. A lot of trial and error, tweaking different things,” she says.
Originally from Quebec City, Gagnon transferred to UMass Lowell from Framingham State her junior year and chose a concentration in marketing.
“It seemed to me like a great business school, and I was right,” says Gagnon, who has applied her lessons in not only marketing, but also accounting, project management and supply chain management to her Southie Cookie business.
Gagnon worked as a social media assistant in UML’s University Relations office as a senior, attending campus events and producing posts on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. The experience, she says, helped her land a job after college as a marketing coordinator for Atrium Innovations, a nutritional supplement company in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
“My degree really helped prepare me for that first job and gave me the foundation to confidently start my business.”
-Southie Cookie Owner Maude Gagnon ’19
While she was happy to have a steady job in the corporate world, Gagnon couldn’t stop thinking about cookies. In September 2020, during the pandemic, she moved to an apartment in South Boston. Unable to find a neighborhood bakery that made the thick, gooey cookies that she prefers, Gagnon decided to make them herself.
She started posting photos of her craveable creations on Instagram, and soon people were DM’ing her, asking if they could buy some. So Gagnon started taking around eight orders a week, making cookies before work and leaving them on her porch for customers, who paid her through Venmo.
“I was surprised that people would be willing to come to someone’s house that they don’t even know for cookies,” she says.
When the demand for her cookies outgrew the capacity of her apartment oven, Gagnon created a website and joined Food rEvolution, a commercial kitchen in Stoneham, where she would go twice a week after work and bake until midnight.
Then, this past March, she decided to quit her day job and go all-in on her cookie business.
“That was the goal all along — to get that experience in a corporate setting and build my savings,” she says. “My degree really helped prepare me for that first job and gave me the foundation to confidently start my business.”
And business is booming.
Gagnon takes online orders for 500 cookies each week, with customers logging on to her website every Sunday at 5 p.m. to reserve “Lemon Blueberry Cheesecakes,” “Cookie Milkshakes” and more. Sometimes they sell out in 10 minutes.
“The buzz was unintentional,” says Gagnon, who gained 2,000 new Instagram followers after a recent story about her in the Boston Globe. “You still have to have a good product that people want.”
At $4 to $5 apiece, Southie Cookies are in the same price range as those found at Crumbl, which sells nearly a million cookies a day and was the fourth-fastest growing food chain in the country last year, according to food and beverage analytics company Datassential.
“They taste like they’re made by robots,” says Gagnon, who proudly points out that her cookies are “made with these hands, with high-quality, simple ingredients — nothing gross that you can’t pronounce.”
Most weeks, Gagnon spends Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday making her dough. Thursday is a baking and packaging day, and on Friday she delivers the cookies to In Good Company, a gift shop in South Boston where customers can pick up their online orders. Her cookies are also on the menu at Deja Brew coffee shop and The Broadway restaurant in South Boston.
While her family and boyfriend sometimes help out in the kitchen, Gagnon is still pretty much a one-woman show.
“The hardest part right now is trying to figure out the steps I need to take to hire someone. If I’m going to scale, I am going to need help,” says Gagnon, who doesn’t plan to open a brick-and-mortar location any time soon but hopes to offer nationwide shipping in the next year.
“I would like to share the cookie love with the rest of the world,” she says while sliding another tray of salted chocolate chips into the oven.