I'm a business owner and entrepreneur and I haven't worked for someone else since I was 19. I'm doing this AMA so that I can answer any questions you may have about being in business or starting your own company. The cookie business wasn't my first, nor most successful but it is the one I'm proudest of. Some background:

My adventures started when I was 6 with my own Fire Department in Cleveland, I would pull my red wagon up and down the street with a step ladder, fire extinguisher and garden hose looking for fire (until I got discouraged & spent my time building forts). At 9 I ran a multi-route, paper route and hired other kids to deliver for me. By 19 I was eager to "begin life" and I dropped out of Bradley University in Peoria. Shortly after that I started my first "real business": it was a burglar alarm for apartments. I developed & manufactured the product and sold them by hiring an off-duty detective from the local police force to give “security presentations” in luxury apartment buildings. We would use the party room, he would present statistics, speak about crime and the responsibility of protecting property and I would give a product demonstration and collect orders. A friend would go the next day and install the alarms. This worked out well as I had low overhead & was making a good income.

Some amount of “beginners luck” helped me along the way, the first product that I ever developed with the intention of mass producing was chosen as one of the 100 most important products developed in the world the year that I developed it. This was in 1977, back in the “mechanical” age. Since then, I've developed impact recorders, mechanical accelerometers, temperature recorders to monitor the shipment of perishables, and a widely employed derailment detector to stop subway derailments before they become catastrophic.

Currently I run a business that employs 30-40 people and we produce everything "in-house" near Los Angeles. We are selling high quality dog treat & nutritional supplements in about 2,500-3,000 stores nationwide, a disposable poop scooper (we produce about 20 million annually) and the best chocolate chip cookies you'll ever eat which I started because I missed the 70's style cookies that made the original Famous Amos a Los Angeles sensation. My cookies are currently being sold in about 200 stores and we're shipping anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 lbs per week.

Not directly business related but things you may find interesting. I was on “What’s my Line” and got to hang out with Soupy Sales for an hour, I inspired a front page article in the New York Times regarding corruption and I've coached entrepreneurs & spoken to groups when invited. I’ve been very fortunate in life & see my overall purpose as propagating happiness through my cookies & being of service to others, if I can contribute anything here feel free to ask.

I've been very impressed with Reddit and the community and this inspired me to do an "AMA". Hope you find it useful.


EDIT: Added some pictures: Tunnel oven and the bus we lived out of while trying to start this dream

EDIT2: Here's the picture of the bus originally and today.

EDIT3: Please be patient with me, I'm a slow typer

EDIT4: I've been asked for a coupon code (and about 42 boxes of free cookies) so you can use reddit for 30% off on our website. This allows us to cover our costs only, just for you guys! PS. I may have a job for someone who can help us build a better site. We're having some problems with this one.

EDIT5: Reddit is more amazing then I could have ever imagined!

EDIT6: Here are some pictures of the interior, there is a long 4-page story that goes with. I'm not sure if this link works scribd but this is our bus story!

EDIT7: Can't believe the support, thank you. If you'd want free cookies join our facebook page and we're going to do them for people's birthdays (fair warning, I'm not sure how yet).

EDIT8: I'm seeing a lot of comments regarding gluten free cookies and wanted to say that we HAVE tried this but with no success, we can't get them to come out crispy. With this much interest though we will be trying again.

ALMOST FINAL EDIT: Thank you everybody, Your responses have been wonderful & your comments were appreciated & questions intelligent & important. For everyone who's ordered, we're baking your cookies on Thursday & shipping on Friday & Monday. They're being sent by USPS & this will takes about a week. Many more interactions to follow -thank you all for your great support, Bart & Judy Greenhut & the bakery team.

STILL CLOSER TO FINAL EDIT: We baked about 2,000lbs of cookies for Redditors & shipped our first batch yesterday, more will be sent out on Monday. We heard back from the butter creamery in Normandy so in about 6 or 8 weeks we're going to try a run using what we think is the best butter we've ever tasted. -you guys can let us know what you think. Look for something very cool in a few days... besides cookies! -we're going to change the world, together SOON!

FINAL EDIT: what a great experience! I hope everyone is enjoying their cookies and having a wonderful moment.

Comments: 1442 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

Tartantyco522 karma

Have you had any problems with this gentleman?

begreen123142 karma


M3nt0R304 karma

I went on your website, went to the "Company's Story" flash film, and would like to point out a grave error. The life of your company could depend on this very error! Hint: count the fingers

begreen123304 karma

haha -someone is getting fired

metronome251 karma

hello, my name is Iñigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.

begreen12382 karma

that's my favorite line of all time.

begreen12368 karma

you're the first person to notice that! as you can tell, I'm not very good with graphics -you should see our boxes. It could be embarrassing if I think about it too much.

Thenadamgoes282 karma

Holy Crap! those are my favorite cookies of ALL TIME! I buy them every time I'm in Whole Foods! I totally clicked on this expecting to see some bakery cookies I've never heard of...Not my favorite cookies!

The cookies really are the best in the world. Plus they are put in 3 separate packages inside, so you can eat a few and they all won't go stale.

I don't really have a question...I just wanted to say I love your cookies. thank you for making them!

viciousnemesis143 karma

Nice try, begreen123.

begreen12368 karma

that's all one can do. p.s. thank you

begreen12379 karma

p.s. AND, thak you for being a customer!

begreen12341 karma

well, thank you!

[deleted]153 karma


begreen12391 karma

wait 'til tomorrow's photo

ttsci29 karma

I showed my friend the site and the first thing he said is "is she having an orgasm?" Did you guys actually do that? I'm probably gonna buy some cookies anyway, but your answer determines whether I buy one or two boxes. :P

begreen12319 karma

a great one,,, better buy 3

[deleted]120 karma

you're an entrepreneur for a pretty long time - yet while starting your most recent business, you were effectively homeless (living in a bus).

why did that happen?

begreen123120 karma

when we sold our house we were homeless in a sense so we hit the road in our bus. Judy & I have a 1951 Flxible that we restored, painted Elvis Presley pink & took on a 14000 mile road trip for 3 months. When we returned we parked it in our parking lot & ran the business that way for 18 months before we moved into our present place. The bus is in our parking lot..

TimmyFTW90 karma

Sometimes I worry that when I look back on my life I don't think I have lived. Something tells me that is the furthest thought from your mind.

begreen123276 karma

I know a lot of people who built businesses & sold-out to retire. About 20 years ago I did that... sold to a major company & made the money I had always dreamed of & learned the major lesson... the mostr important things in life are 1.) your health, 2.) being in love & being engaged & inspired with what you're doing. Don't let grass grow under your feet- you'll never be sorry for the things you do, -only the things you don't do.

[deleted]96 karma


begreen12348 karma

check our website tomorrow -we're working on it. (& thank you)

angelozdark83 karma

I can't believe nobody asked for a PICTURE OF A BIG AMOUNT OF COOKIES >:(!??!?!

jusched7 karma

Would also love to see pictures of the cookie making process

begreen12315 karma

we were thinking of doing a "how-it's-made" video of everything we're doing here.

molrobocop80 karma

If you gave me a job, would you care if I sent a frozen pizza through the oven at worK?

begreen123134 karma

we tried that & it got burnt as the oven runs at 450F & with our standard running speed the belt provides about 12-14 minutes bake time.

molrobocop84 karma

Lame. Hmm, I wonder if I sent one through on a cold pizza-stone, but covered the top with a pin-holed deep-dish pan. (pinholes to bleed off steam from the cooking pizza, but to reduce the cheese from burning. The oven could be still chug along, but the rate of heat-transfer would be reduced.

begreen123137 karma

bet this would work. -good idea, we'll test it in a few days!

_Civ_12 karma

Probably needs about half that time, if you could put the pizza in halfway, it should work.

begreen12334 karma

can't access the over half-way!

fusionpit55 karma

When are you gonna put weed in them?

begreen123258 karma

oh_the_humanity52 karma

Have you made your million yet? :)

begreen123241 karma

I've made millions & spent millions -owned airplanes, a yacht & house on the ocean. I have less now than I ever did before & I'm happier now than ever. I've been lucky to have experienced wealth at a young age & I had the time to learn & overcome it to attain happiness. For me happiness is about love & contribution -I've found the answer. There's nothing better than producing a product that only exists to be the best & propegate happiness.

Daleeburg89 karma

You sir, are living the dream.

begreen12339 karma

good health & love is the answer. you're truly blessed when you have it never know when you're about to lose it.

selflessGene24 karma

What happened to the money?

begreen123112 karma

i learned that you only need enough to live on. Money is a trap set by our society & those who want to sell you something. "a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to live without" -Thoreau

KickapooPonies41 karma

Well, where can I get some of these cookies?

begreen12364 karma

if you're in the US give me your address & we'll send some your way! ---we want to grow through unconventional means.

Btw, if you're in CA, they're in many Whole Foods Stores

[deleted]38 karma


begreen12343 karma

we've not shipped there however, we're contacting the post office to see about cost & declarations, etc.

Walletau24 karma

Any chance of anything in Australia? If not, can I have a home cooked recipe that is similar and try em myself? I want to know what the best cookies in the world taste like.

By the way, you're an inspiration and brilliant individual, great work.

begreen1238 karma

we'll see if we can ship some to you -don't know what shape they'd be in. Thank you for your compliment -it feels like we have a noble job to do.

Namrok12 karma

Why just Whole Foods in CA? I have a Whole Foods next to where I work in VA and now I want to see if they have your cookies there.

And maybe I need to check my reading comprehension, but what brand are your cookies even sold under?

begreen12357 karma

they're called "The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in The World" -they're in a brown box. We're the only people crazy enough to do what we did... remember my ENTIRE premis was to introduce a no-compromise cookie & see if people responded organically, what I mean is I designed the package myself over a weekend using Photoshop. It's not slick. My thought was going back to basics- if I made an incredible product that no-one else was crazy enough to make & priced it fairly, would people appreciate it, find it & spend their hard earned dollars to buy it. SO -we use Belgian semi-sweet chocolate, Madagascar vanilla, fresh eggs & Derigold butter. The answer to my original question is YES. However that brings up more challenges than if the answer was no.

begreen12321 karma

we are in a bunch of Whole Foods in VA! It's really the only market beside CA. There's an innovative distributor called Avenue Gorrmet that distributes to VA & Southern NY. Some of their customers picked up our cookies in N.CA & "inspired" their local stores to satisfy their addiction.

BaghdadAssUp10 karma

How much are the cookies?

begreen12320 karma

14oz $7 or $8 at Whole Foods. 4.5oz about $5 or $6. It depends what store as they don't have consistant pricing.

notwist10 karma

I live in Sweden, if I pay for postage will you send me some for free? If you're interested in expanding I'll totally do translation work and what not for pocket change (I'm a future English teacher so I'd say I'm qualified).

Other than that, I'd like to ask you some questions, I guess I should have posted them as their own comment but I was afraid of you not seeing them:

  • If one was to try a similar endeavour, what advice would you give? Start out small (at home), how do you find customers?
  • If you get a good market response, how do you expand? How do you find machinery? How do you get good packaging? Surely there has to be an "in-between" step from baking your own cookies to buying a warehouse and getting machinery.
  • How do you get your cookies sold in stores? Can you simply go into smaller stores and hope for the best?

Thank you kindly in advance for your reply :)

begreen12311 karma

Hi, sure we'll do that & a translation would be great. Always start small. Home is good. on't worry about expansion until after you validate the market. Going into smaller stores works & SAMPLE, SAMPLE, SAMPLE. People will vote with their taste-buds & with their dollars. Don't hope for the best, you must have a clear defined reason to exist otherwise you will flop.

You can always distribute our cookies there & save the hassle! Stay warm... Bart

Yangoose34 karma

I was all set to order until I saw that I'd have to use Paypal...

begreen12326 karma

sorry about that, it's all we have for now. we'll get amazon setup again and we want to roll out a new site which will include different payment methods

[deleted]29 karma

FWIW, full-fledged credit card merchant accounts are easy to get and surprisingly affordable these days, and give you a lot more control / stability than PayPal. Pretty much every bank offers them, and many will even give you guaranteed next-day funding to a checking account at the same bank. It's worth having PayPal as an option for people who are antsy about giving you their credit card info (or don't have credit cards and can only pay by ACH), but you don't need to rely on it exclusively.

begreen12313 karma

thanks, this is great help.

TraderTiki33 karma

I'm a small-time entrepreneur, and looking for any advice I can get. I sell syrups and cocktail mixers as Trader Tiki's Exotic Syrups and I'm just finishing off my first year. The money isn't there just yet, and I'm looking to get it up to speed to replace my wife's salary, as we're expecting. How do you decrease materials costs without compromising quality? How do you start a dialog with distributors? At what point can you start drawing a salary from your business without impacting inventory? What advice do you have for a craft food manufacturer getting into the biz?

Okole Maluna!

begreen12332 karma

1 it is not easy however, if you take your time & don't overextend yourself you can do well. Generally, the only way you can decrease material costs & retain the quality is by purchasing higher quantities & obtaining the available discounts. Over the last few years there has been a lot of consolidation of distributor & that means that distributors are seeking greater margins. This hurts small companies. To be important to a distributor you should have a product line with a strong position. Not a parity product. You must have an impressive reason why someone would purchase your product over anyone elses. #2 take the responsibility to build your own loyal customer base -this adds value. Do not figure on a salary until you are actually making enough cash beyond what your business needs to survive. NEVER, EVER BORROW FROM YOUR CREDIT CARDS (unless short term & a sure payback within 90 days). Your wife & family shoud come first -do not allow yourself to be owned by your business. REMEMBER: investors are only interested in a ROI don't EVER believe anything else. Go slowly, be very careful. #1 don't ever NEED money -desperation saps the joy from life. However, if a great opportunity opresents itself be prepared (with your wife) to go all-in. In that case borrow from friends & family... not before. Best of luck. it's difficult, not for the faint-hearted but it can be gratifying.

rkarsk29 karma

The asian woman on the frontpage of your website is exceedingly uncomfortable to look at. It's not the asian woman per say that is the problem, it's the combination of her facial expression and hand placement. Very unsettling.

begreen12368 karma

take a picture of youself eating the cookies & we'll replace her!

bodyglove28 karma

Do you ever get bored? (My guess is not, since you keep on inventing new things)

How much time do you need to keep it all running (personally)?

How much time do you have for your family?

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Do you ship those cookies overseas? (I'm from europe, but i'd love to taste some of those! :-) )

begreen123118 karma

I never get bored & I'm just getting to a point where I'm actually trusting that everything's going to turn out alright. It does get stressful at times especially when we need to make payroll during times when we need to fulfill large orders. We've learned to leverage our relationship with vendors & they've been very helpful allowing us to increase our purchases when we're building for orders. I really hate banks & am distrustful of people with money because they always believe that money is the answer to success -to me the creativity & the people that make the business successful.

Be prepared to work 24/7 My kids are grown so, I have more time now


bodyglove54 karma

the creativity & the people that make the business successful. I can't upvote this as much as I wish

begreen12334 karma

it's an unusual concept & it's difficult to fight to prove every day but, I'm proof positive that it can be done if you're willing to not give up.

catmoon27 karma

I'm in product development. I work for a small company as an engineer. I wonder what it was like for business owners back in the 70s and 80s. Today there are so many hurdles that it makes me wonder how anyone gets a product to market without angel investors or millions in capital to begin with.

I guess the question I'm getting at is how do you think the modern business environment helps or hurts entrepreneurs?

begreen12368 karma

it's never better & never worse than it is now. There are challenges every minute. I read a quote from an author a while back... something like this: "writing a book is like driving across the country at night, -you can only see as far as your headlights but that's all you need to get you there". just commit. Then, take a small step every day -just put one foot in front of the other & in not too long you'll be amazed that you did it. I hate money & generally distrustful of being ripped-off by people that have it. Most importantly have a product or service that has a distinguishing quality over the competition & find your first customer. That will dictate all else

designated24 karma

Hi, Bart! Are you you able ship to APO addresses? I adopted a soldier in Iraq and send him care packages every month. This sounds like a great treat for him and his friends over there.

begreen12315 karma

Hi & yes, we'll ship by USPO. Bart

Quellman23 karma

How do you figure out local laws and ordinances for setting up your business? I figure making cookies requires health inspections. Congratulations on your successes.

begreen12341 karma

we actually need to be licensed in a similar fashion to a restaurant kitchen. The regs are crazy & expensive -CA especially. We also need to register every product annually, individually in each of 50 states. The cookie business has grown because they're unusual & people are beginning to seek them out. Building traditional distribution is costly & time consuming. We're trying to come up with another way than "normal" as this is about speadin happiness & providing a 100% uncompromised product. If we went through normal channels it would force compromise (I've been there before)

tootie29 karma

What about your private fireman services? How was that legal? Did another kindergardener pretend to be a lawyer?

begreen12319 karma

sadly, it's gotten that bad.

DannyInternets20 karma

Can you make me a pair of rocket boots?

begreen12349 karma

what speed? -does the cake mean you're having a birthday?

[deleted]18 karma


begreen12318 karma

a 1951 Flxible (it's spelled like that) Visi-coach. Judy & I restored it - it's go-anywhere vehicle & it's tricked out as I love design. (we're thinking of changing the colow next year) I'll post a better picture in a few minutes.

Code34715 karma

What has always fascinated me about distribution is this? How do you go about getting the attention of a chain in order to get your product in there? Does cold calling work?

begreen12379 karma

90% chain stores charge "slotting". This pervents small & innovative products from ever being seen by the public. It SHOULD be illegal & it's totally un-American. What the store Buyers do is sell the same shelf space several times a year for CASH. They "test" your product & if they don't make enough cash flow they kick you out & re-sell the same space to someone else. The deck is stacked as the small company can not EVER spend the promotional money to create the velocity required to keep the product on the shelf & they start out right from the beginning selling the opening inventory at a total loss. THIS IS THE DIRTY SECRET OF THE GROCERY INDUSTRY that most consumers don't know about. It's one of the underhanded scams that they run that forced great little companies (like Ben & Jerry's & many others) to sell-out to large companies. By the way, I'm talking BIG bucks like $25,000 & more to have one facing of shelf space. It's disgusting & us Americans are having our choices grossly limited & fair trade grossly tilted away from us. This is probably much more than you asked for as a response.

Code34710 karma

No...not at all. It is an eye opener. It really would take being able to take a hit on losses in order to get your product to market. This is something most people, like myself, never knew. I had always thought there was some way to pitch the product to the company and get some mutual profit deal out of it. This sounds like a hamstringing from the beginning.

Now I know that you said your cookies were in Whole Foods, is it the same process for them as well? The company has an image of not rolling like the others. Or did your product have to meet certain ingredient standards?

I find this extremely fascinating. What you describe is a basic choking of the competition due to monetary restraints creating an unfair competition. Do you think a chain of stores that did things to promote the small producers would do well? Is this kind of what Whole Foods is about?

Thanks for answering...it is not often you can bend the ear of someone who has been in the trenches like this.

begreen12320 karma

we only deal with companies who don't charge slotting fees, so no, Whole Foods doesn't do this and so we're happy to sell through them. when stores do things honestly and let space and selling power be determined by how consumers vote with their dollars everybody wins, but now large supermarket chains recycle the same small space for entrepreneurial product never giving anybody a chance. on top of that stores will introduce a their own branded version of the same thing you're trying to sell forcing you to compete against yourself and there's just no way you can do that as 'the little guy'. after the little guy is forced out what's left over is a bunch of the store branded goods and then consumers will have to pay top dollar for them because there won't be any competition, it's a huge scam.

[deleted]12 karma

Is there any way to come by and pick up some fresh cookies, or do you ship only?

begreen12323 karma

of course, we're in el monte specifically and happy to have a visitor. tomorrow after noon sometime? if that works let me know

photokeith12 karma

Dog treats, nutritional supplements, cookies and... pooper scoopers? Are all of these done in the same facility, and if so how did such a random variety of products come about?

begreen1239 karma

not easy. we section-off the facility. All of our natural treats employ the same high quality human, food-grade ingredients & the same standards so we don't have cross-contamination issues. We take our cookies to a higher standard of ingredients (like real eggs & butter etc.) Survival is an important motivator for diverse products as our cookies are not really "commercial" -we produce the other products to provide cash flow and an income for our employees & to allow us to continue the cookies.

orangeh11 karma

I see you are listed as "coming soon" on amazon. I hope you can speed up the process! I'm always nervous about giving my information to small companies like yours if I can avoid it. Years of working in IT security has made me paranoid

begreen1239 karma

i was working on that this morning. we'll have that fixed by tomorrow, and no worries! will send you a pm when you can get them on amazon

[deleted]11 karma

I don't know if this was asked but can you elaborate on how you inspired an article on the New York Times about corruption (did you expose shenanigans or did you do shenanigans)? Also, was your choice of random Asian chick with porno face intentional for your website, or am I just twisted? Lastly, if you are ever in Atlanta with your flippin sweet bus, and need some metal fabrication done, I have a contact for you, and he may work for cookies.

begreen12311 karma

check it out on Google -NY Times "Rubbing Shoulders with Trouble & Presidents"

carpeggio10 karma

Can you make the cookies with the oreo in the middle?

begreen12312 karma

we specialize in just one cookie... all-natural, bakery-fresh, golden-brown, deliciously crunchy, bite-size morsels!

coolmrbrady8 karma

How did you first start selling the cookies? Friends and family? Did you go into stores and market them?

Were there any significant startup costs beyond the oven purchase?

begreen1238 karma

Judy & I would bake them at home & sell them at Farmers Markets in LA. We graduated to Baxter rotary ovens & then got our oven at auction in Texas & moved it to LA. Licensing is an issue (expensive). That's why most companies employ co-packers however... they're giving up quality control, inventory control & a 50-60% gross margin to the co-packers. I like to go slowly, learn the expertise & invest what a normal company would invest in inventory in production equipment & a high quality product. Ours is not a practical way to set-up or run a business. We are very fortunate -but, we are also very small & grossly undercapitalized in the scheme of things.

Zanius8 karma

Is your burglar alarm the one that made the top 100 most important products in the world?

begreen12338 karma

no, my Protect-A-Pak, a omnidirectional shock indicator. I figured how to overcome gravity (mechanically) because I didn't accept that you couldn't do it. The device is employed to indicate if a product received a shock or impact from ANY direction that was above the fragility point of the packaged product inside. Used on everything from rental car fleets to landing gears of carrier based aircraft to the (old-fashioned, 1970's) disk-packs, the Mark 48 gyro-system. Basically it indicates the probability of concealed damage & saves lots of QC money. Sold that company in 1980 as part of my earlier program of developing companies & selling them to larger companies.

sblinn7 karma

This is awesome. Question: are these cookies definitely peanut-free? (I checked the ingredients list, certainly not there, but being processed around peanuts can be bad.)

begreen12316 karma

yes, definitely peanut free. We do make cookies with nuts but there is no way for them to mix.

sblinn5 karma

AWEsome. (Different ovens?)

begreen12311 karma

we don't use peanuts in anything. the oven is completely washed down between uses but it is the same oven. to be safe i'd have to suggest if you have a nut allergy that you stay on the safe side and don't get them for now. sorry!

nasdarovye7 karma

See, this is why I hate the fact that I cannot resist the word "cookies". I am diabetic but I am currently ordering some of yours because I have to support Redditors and I have no willpower.

I bet you're proud of yourself, Bart. Are you?

begreen12316 karma

proud but be careful... invest sugar wisely. We want to keep you around. Bart

formalwear6 karma

Have you ever had business ideas that you threw out because you couldn't do them without the significant help of others?

For example, if I have an idea for a website, yet know nothing about web design and would need to hire someone to do all of the actual website aspects of the business, is it even worth it?

begreen12310 karma

I've thrown business ideas out many times. Life is a sorting process. The determiner in many cases is testing in a low cost prototype fashion to see if your potential market responds. If it does, then figure out the next step. Take slow baby steps but constantly move forward. (you could always co-venture with a web-designer & save some cost -everybody is interested in a good opportunity)