For a Couture Cookie Shop, Branding Is Everything

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At Cookie Couture in Miami, co-owner Jael Toledo is careful about the image she projects. Together with her sister and business partner Cindy Toledo, Jael has eschewed more well-known daily deal sites in favor of “high-end” niche sites like Gilt City as a way to position Cookie Couture as South Florida’s premiere purveyor of chic baked goods.

You recently had a deal on Gilt City — how did that come about?
Gilt City contacted me directly and asked me to be part of it. The process was super-smooth and my experience with them was amazing, amazing, amazing.

Can you walk me through the process of putting together a deal with Gilt?
The first thing they did is they contacted me and they wanted to learn more about what Cookie Couture is. I guess they heard about our company somewhere — we don’t know where — and they wanted to know what we do, how we do it, and what kind of clientele we have. They just asked me what’s different from the competitors’ cookies, what makes us so special, how we are doing in terms of business, how did we start, and those kinds of things. I guess they like businesses that are unique and are able to remain stable, even though it’s not an easy economy, and have many things to offer. So, I guess they liked those things about us and they asked me a little bit about that. Then we went through the process of signing the contracts and what kind of deals I wanted to provide for their clients. Just filling out the contracts, sending the pictures, and organizing the kind of deal page and how it was going to be designed. They designed it for me, which is great because they did a very good job.

What made you want to do a deal with Gilt City, versus any of the other daily deal sites out there right now?
Actually, I’m going to be honest. All I had heard of before was LivingSocial and I never tried applying. But with Gilt you don’t apply. With Gilt, they have to invite you. It’s more like a high-end kind of thing. With LivingSocial and Groupon you apply and they tell you, “Yes, we want you,” or “We don’t want you.” But with Gilt, they look for you. I don’t think there’s an option for you to apply. I guess I went into it not even thinking twice. I know that Gilt City has very unique vendors, and very good products with high quality — which for me is extremely important, to have that standard for my high-end couture, chic cookies.

What did you do to prepare for the sale before it went live?
I prepared my Web site. I prepared my materials. That’s about it.

Was Gilt City able to give you any sense of how many customers to expect?
No, I was very surprised. I wasn’t even expecting the outcome. I did it because I thought, I have nothing to lose. Even if I gain one or two customers, that would be great. But the sale started at 2 p.m. and I was with my kids at the park. I didn’t think everything would be so quick. Within three hours, we sold 48 coupons. So, it was insane. My phone was ringing – and me with the kids at the park not thinking I needed to be at home. I didn’t know how it worked, but with Gilt it was extremely amazing. Daily Candy also requested for me to be a part of their deal site, but I didn’t do so good with Daily Candy. I only got one customer.

Why do you think that was?
I don’t know. I think that with Daily Candy, the deal was not as attractive as it is on Gilt and the way the page was presented on Gilt was more clear. You know, it’s very easy: $10 for two dozens cookies. I think with Daily Candy, they show you many deals on one page and everything is very confusing. There are many things going on at the same time, so it’s not focused on one thing. On Gilt City, yes there are many deals but each deal has one square on the page. It’s very clear, very visual, and very clean. Customers want something that’s simple. I see this, I like it, I click, I buy. Not, “Oh my God, where do I go? What do I click?” That’s what I think. Also, with Daily Candy they have to invite you. You can’t apply. So, they did call me to be a part of it, but I only gained one customer from it. With Gilt City, it’s been going since last week and we sold already around $500, and the coupons are $10 each, so it’s been crazy.

Were you able to negotiate on the deal you offered with Gilt City?
Well, they do have an idea of what they want to provide for their clients. They really take good care of their clients. They said, “You know what we usually do? We do a 50% discount.” On Gilt City, I had two services. So let’s say I sold two dozen cookies on my website, it’s $17. Well it would be $10 for two boxes with the coupon. Then, I also have another service, which is a party cookie station. So, you can bring us to your party to make cookies. We did a $50 gift certificate for a $100 party. So, it is more or less 50% off. They don’t like offering less than that.

How else have you tried advertising, besides offering group coupons?
Well, until right now I’ve had an amazing PR company. I don’t advertise and I don’t pay for advertising at all. I don’t believe in that, and the PR company that I worked with, they didn’t believe in it. What we do is editorials and that’s how I’ve gotten all my clients. So, a publicist pitches my press release to all these companies and since the story behind our cookies is very interesting people have found out about our cookies that way. But we don’t pay for advertising, just editorials about our cookies.

Editor’s note: A Daily Candy spokesperson has gotten in contact since this story was published and noted that Cookie Couture was included on Daily Candy’s editorial site, though not as part of the company’s daily deal offers.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.