Introduction

Cookies strike a chord. They come in countless shapes, sizes, and flavors, so there’s something out there for just about everyone. The smell of cookies can evoke memories of a happy moment, and it’s easy to spread that happiness by sharing them.

Wunderkeks turns this classic dessert into an opportunity to have a safe, heartfelt conversation. The company sells cookies by the box online, and it’s aiming for supermarket shelves next. We reached out to co-founders Hans Schrei and Luis Gramajo to learn about how their own stories led to Wunderkeks and how social media helped them turn bad luck around.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Funding Round Details

Wunderkeks logo
Company: Wunderkeks
Security Type: SAFE
Valuation: $20,000,000
Min Investment: $150
Platform: Republic
Deadline: Nov 4, 2022
 
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In your own words, how would you describe Wunderkeks?

We built Wunderkeks from our belief that the foods we share help tell the story of who we are and that by openly, fearlessly telling our stories, we create the safe spaces others may need to tell theirs.

The way we see it, food and beverages are the new external signifiers, and as such, brands have the power to become symbols of allyship and markers of safe spaces for the next generation of consumers. 

So we’re building a cookie company as a means to achieve this end.

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

We left our home country of Guatemala because we could not get married and thus be recognized as a family. So Wunderkeks was, at first, a way to make a living. As we grew, we found our purpose, which energized us to dream even further of the possibilities and what we could achieve if we were to bring this to a huge scale, so we’re taking that path.

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Our team is the two of us, Bernie, our assistant, and five baking specialists. We’ve been together for seven years, four here in the US. For a long time, it was only the two of us until we (all of a sudden) started growing into an e-commerce business. We circled through a lot of employees to find our current team of five baking specialists, who have become family, absolutely aligned with our mission. Bernie was recommended to us by a friend out of his excitement when he learned about what we aim to do and has been holding the fort together as we focus on rounding up the rest of the team.

How did you transform Wunderkeks from a farmer’s market stand in 2019 to a seven-figure business today?

Back in March 2020, our business was doing great. We’d made a name for ourselves in Austin, so an opportunity came up to do a pop-up shop in a fantastic location during South by Southwest (SXSW). So we had 25,000 cookies ready. SXSW was due to start on Monday. The Friday before, the whole thing was canceled due to the pandemic, so we were in trouble. 

We started talking about our predicament on social media, and the Austin community was very kind to us, buying a couple jars at a time, until someone asked if she could send some to her mom. We said yes and put them online, so by the end of the weekend, we had about 40 orders. On Monday, we woke up with a surprise: Busy Phillips, an actress who has 2 million followers on Twitter, had gotten wind of us, ordered cookies, and shared our story. We had 700 orders to fulfill, and they kept coming. That week, we got a call from The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair, our first TV appearances, and a lot more support. In two weeks, we had sold 35,000 cookies, and we became an e-commerce business. We built from there.

The next step was telling our story as it evolved, which helped us connect with customers beyond the product itself. It’s proven to be a winning strategy and one we’re carrying as we grow into retail.

How is Wunderkeks transforming the baked goods industry?

We’re going beyond the cookie and instead focusing on what the cookie represents. Sharing dessert is a ritual, an opportunity for conversation. Sure, the cookies are great, but we tie our memories to the special moment we shared, not to the cookie itself.

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Sweets is a somewhat abandoned category where innovation is usually through versioning in legacy brands (such as Oreo) and alternative diets, such as gluten-free (which, though growing, represent less than 5% of the market). So the space for the Gen Z-adored brand in the sweets category is there for the taking.

What is your plan for expanding to retail stores?

We’re currently in conversation with Costco, aiming for a summer launch. The goal is to focus on a single retailer and grow nationally there, which will strengthen our negotiating position with the rest. 

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

We will use it for two things: hiring a full team with retail experience and finance inventory for the eventual launch into retail.

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

It’s very easy to dismiss our company to the tune of “Oh, how cute. They make cookies!” or to get blinded by shiny things: “Adaptogenics! Vegan! Non-grain base!” But the reality is that the American diet is not changing that quickly. The money is still in the middle market in traditional categories that have been overlooked by the rise of direct-to-consumer darlings appealing to the top 5% of incomes. 

We’re building Ben and Jerry’s for Gen Z. (Also, we happen to have one of Ben and Jerry’s founders on our board.)

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

The most likely exit is via acquisition to one of the major food players. We’ve made a point of being on their radar from the beginning, so when the time comes, we’re a top choice. 

As minority and underrepresented founders, what difficulties have you encountered working on your company? What advice would you give to other minority and underrepresented founders?

The hardest part has been being dismissed as a founder because we’re recent immigrants and lack a network. Our advice would be to purposefully build a network and not be shy about asking for someone’s time. But don’t be transactional about it. Make long-term connections, even if you can’t see their immediate benefit. Sometimes just making friends is the ticket. 

We look forward to seeing where Hans, Luis, and their team take the company. Wunderkeks is currently raising on Republic.