By: Sara Wong, Peak Associate
From sourdough to banana bread to pancake cereal (yes, this is a real thing), home baking trends have taken over everyone’s social media feeds. While amateurs like myself were busy kneading, mixing, and flipping for the ‘gram, fifth year SFU student Lucy Lei was hard at work building a business that would make some serious dough.
Moki Cookies is an online business specializing in Asian-flavoured, mochi-filled cookies. Currently, they have three flavours available — matcha, milk tea, and ube. Each is studded with white chocolate chips, adding a little sweetness to the cookies. “I thought they’d be perfect for the Vancouver food scene, especially with the growing demand for Asian cuisines nowadays. I was confident that these Western Asian fusion cookies would be a huge hit!” Lei said.
As a student in both the Charles Chang Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship program and the Technology Entrepreneurship program, Lei has gained a wealth of knowledge on starting and running a small company. Having also studied other “food entrepreneurs,” Lei was able to put together a team to perfect Moki recipes and launch the business. She explained, “As the founder, I had to know how to do a bit of everything, which required a lot of research and learning. However, as we familiarize our operations, I now lean towards marketing and business development because I know our team of bakers and other members can handle the rest of production.”
Not everything was a piece of cake for Lei and her team. According to the Moki Cookies founder, “There were few recipes available online for mochi cookies, since it was such a new concept. Most of the recipes online didn’t meet our expectations.” The Moki bakers then began a month-long process of experimenting with different ingredient ratios, a task which became especially challenging when it came to the milk tea flavour. “[We were] the first to attempt infusing milk tea flavours into a traditional chocolate chip cookie,” Lei said. Despite the large time setback, Lei affirmed, “It was worth it because we want our cookies to be extraordinary.”
Having tried the cookies myself, I can say with certainty that they are extraordinary. Distinct flavours of matcha, ube, and milk tea are distinguishable in every bite. The hefty amount of mochi filling makes the cookies incredibly soft and chewy, and it’s fun pulling the cookies apart to see the mochi stretch out in front of you. If you like desserts that aren’t too sweet, I recommend the matcha and milk tea cookies because the tea flavours are strong enough to balance out the sweetness — though my personal favourite is the ube.
With their online shop up and running, I asked Lei what was to come next. “Some short-term objectives include hiring more bakers, expanding our menu, and beginning corporate partnerships,” she replied. “We then plan to expand the business to Toronto next year, in which I’d be leaving our Vancouver team to my right-hand man and flying to Toronto to build a second team. Depending on how [COVID-19] progresses, we’re determined to open our first franchise in Vancouver within the next 2–4 years.”
Finally, I asked Lei if she has any advice for fellow SFU students looking to start or grow their own business. She shared, “My biggest advice is [to not] overthink it and just do it. Start anywhere whether it’s writing your idea on paper, drafting it out, talking to friends about it, prototyping, etc.”
Lei added, “Take action and get the ball rolling. Everything else will fall into place, but not without a lot of stumbling. That’s simply the nature of entrepreneurship. I truly believe that there is no such thing as failure, you are always either learning or succeeding. Trust the process and don’t give up!”
To celebrate their grand opening, Moki Cookies is offering free delivery to Vancouver, Burnaby, and Richmond from now until October 7. Normally, free delivery is only valid for those who live in Vancouver and order a dozen or more cookies. There is also a pickup option, available Fridays at the A&W outside of the Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain station between 1 and 5 p.m. Additionally, in celebrating their grand opening, Moki Cookies is donating $1 with every half dozen order and $2 for every one dozen order to the Canadian non-profit Feed It Forward.