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Toiling couple who sold all belongings on eBay now run £1million company

A couple who felt stifled in minimum wage jobs sold all of their possessions on eBay to raise £1,200 to start their own business – and they have successfully made £1million in the past year.

30-year-old nightclub promoter Olly Martin and 33-year-old customer service advisor Anja Hammond were struggling to get by when they came up with a business proposition in their kitchen.

Olly claimed that he felt like a “failing” hospitality worker living on just £600 a month while Anja “hated” her job and was spending every waking minute applying for new roles and getting nowhere.

According to The Mirror, Olly said: ““Anja was being turned down for every job she applied for, she didn’t even get a chance of an interview.

“Without a pay rise in sight, we decided to take matters into our own hands.”

Olly says he always wanted to start a business and Anja was a keen baker, so they combined forces and, in 2016, Gookie Dough was born.

The pair now have their own factory in Nottingham

The duo were just 25 and 28 at the time – and very much broke.

“We had no money so we listed everything we owned on eBay – apart from the bare essentials.”

The duo raised £1,200 which gave them the headstart they needed.

“Our original plan was to create a mail order cookie company,” Olly explained.

“But it failed because we kept eating all of the cookie dough before it made it into the oven. That was our second dose of inspiration.”

They have attracted some high profile fans, including Olivia Bowen and Zara Holland
They have attracted some high profile fans, including Olivia Bowen and Zara Holland

The couple U-turned and started working on a safe-to-eat cookie dough recipe instead.

“We started piloting recipes for cookie dough that was safe to eat raw – in the final recipe there are no eggs and the flour has been heat treated.”

A year later, the company went public.

Olly and Anja built a website using their restricted budget and started messaging celebrities.

“We launched our website and instantly got 20 orders in the first couple of hours so we knew we were on to something.

“We sent batches of our products to Love Islanders and other TV stars and they shared the product on their Instagram feeds. It was then that our following skyrocketed.”

Their fans included Zara McDermott, Tamzin Outhwaite, Olivia Bowen and Zara Holland.

Demand started picking up and the duo, who were still working from their kitchen alongside their full-time jobs, were struggling to keep up.

“At the time, we were labelling tubs, making the dough and packaging orders every night after work and at the weekends,” Olly said.

Gookie Dough is now stocked in Selfridges, ice cream parlours and online
Gookie Dough is now stocked in Selfridges, ice cream parlours and online

“Most nights we would be up until 3am before getting up to do our day jobs at 7am.

“Our volumes had grown so large that we were having pallets of ingredients and packaging delivered to our house.

“Finally, in 2019 we moved into our own factory in Nottingham where we manufacture our cookie dough.”

Gookie dough is now stocked in Selfridges, ice cream parlours and online.

It retails at £3.75 for a 150g mini tub and £36 for a bundle of 4 x 450g ‘monster’ tubs.

In year one, the business’ revenue hit £50,000.

This more than tripled to £171,000 a year later and in the past year, despite the pandemic, the duo have passed the £1million revenue barrier.

Over lockdown their orders rocketed and their partnership with Selfridges began.

“We were working 14 hour days through the height of the pandemic,” Olly said.

But amid a year of many highlights, there have been several setbacks, too.

“It’s not been an easy feat,” Olly said, recalling how at one point, their adverts were banned on Facebook.

“Facebook mistakenly banned our ad account. It has also been difficult building a brand with no previous food manufacturing experience.”

Right now, Olly is the company’s chief executive and they have four full-time employees in addition to their factory in Nottingham.

This year, the business says it wants to venture out on to the high street.

“Whilst last year we saw a spike in sales due to lockdown, this year we are seeing a slowdown in growth due to the economic shift in people getting out and spending on hospitality.

“We plan to counteract this by expanding into retail, food service and wholesale.”

The duo are also rebranding the business to launch other sweet treats beyond cookie dough.

“Our main focus is expanding the product range but also developing and launching sugar free and gluten free products as this is what our customers are asking for.”

Speaking on the past four years, Olly says it’s been bittersweet.

“It’s been the best and worst experience of my life. I’m super proud of what we have achieved so far and I love that we are our own bosses but it’s certainly much more stressful than a none-to-five.

“I’m excited for us to move to the next level and see what the future holds.”

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