Business profile: The Cookie Cups
Owner Nicole Pomije funded her sugary startup with strategic use of credit cards
Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of “Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families.” She writes “Small Business Credit Profiles,” a weekly column featuring small business owners' journey with credit and credit cards for CreditCards.com.
All Nicole Pomije wanted to do was whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Without a proper baking sheet, she used what she had: a mini cupcake pan. The inspired result was so delicious that she founded The Cookie Cups, a bakery in Wayzata, Minnesota. Everything, from fresh strawberry cookies to mac and cheese bites, is in cupcake form.
“People love the brand,” says Pomije. “When they get their pink box you can see the happiness on their faces. They thank me for being here. This neighborhood didn’t have many options before we started. It’s an older area that’s turning around. We’re a positive part of the community.”
Successful now, The Cookie Cups may never have risen without some plastic injection.
Creating a retail bakery space from the ground up must have been financially daunting. How did credit cards fit in?
I self-funded as much as possible and used a lot of my money up. The only loan I took out was for $7,000. The rest was credit cards. I had two before I started, a Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express and a Bank of America card, and I already owed on them. So I called Bank of America for a credit line increase, and they gave it to me. It was scary to add to my debt, but I had to pull out as much money as I could for the business, but in a way that didn’t put me in a terrible financial position.
When did you know you needed greater borrowing power?
During construction I discovered that everything cost more than I anticipated. When you’re building a space, nothing is what you think it’s going to be. There were all these surprises, like when the contractor tore up a wall for electricity, but there were no wires. That construction bill doubled, and I didn’t have the money. In a panic, I went online and started applying for credit cards. I got a lot of denials, and all the applications were hurting my score. It was about 630 and I was in huge debt, but somehow, I was approved for a couple of cards.
Which accounts were you eventually granted?
A Citi Double Cash Card, and it’s been great. I get 2 percent cash back on certain purchases. I see the money I earned right away and redeem it as a statement credit. The other is a low limit Credit One card, and it’s been good for smaller things. I wouldn’t have been able to pay for what I needed without these credit lines. There was all this stuff I had to have, like the shelving and stainless-steel equipment. I charged them and when I paid the card down, I’d use it again. It was a really trying process and I got really creative. I made it work.
So these are your personal accounts, but what about business cards?
I’ll branch out to business cards soon. I’d like to have one through Bank of America that’s linked to my other accounts. I also want a business American Express card with high rewards and little or no fees. They’re an easy company to work with. Great customer service and you can always get someone on the phone. I’ll let certain employees have access to the business cards so they can pay venders when I’m not there. That would be a big help.
Any credit card advice to other entrepreneurs?
Do your research before applying so you don’t hurt your credit score! Honestly, I didn’t realize how many are out there, and they all have different rewards, fees, that kind of thing. Then when you get them, be prepared for the bills. In the beginning it’s OK to send the minimum payments, just keep up so your credit report shows you’re in good standing. As long as you have cards that give you cash back or miles and manage them smartly, it’s dumb not to use them for a business. I’ll be starting The Cookie Cups catering and opening a second store. Of course, I’ll be using credit cards when I need them!