BW: When did you first know this was working?
Mitzi Toro: It was pretty paralyzing doing business on Maui, because its hard to get ingredients. I said, I can’t do business like this, waiting for the boats to come in. People on the mainland don’t understand how hard it is to get what you need. As business went on, I had help. I’m realizing now, I can get all these ingredients. I had to decide whether to continue or shut down. I was treating it as a once a month hobby. We got the Maui Film Festival in June with Barry and Stella Rivers. It was such an honor being at that event. We got the Celestial Cinema, they gave us all five nights. It was exciting and we could handle the volume. We got the Grand Wailea, then the Maui Ocean Center.
The Maui Onion Festival asked us in. It’s been incredible, they’ve been wonderful. Costco vouched for us. Jamie Havron, the general manager of Costco, was super supportive. he made that happen. He believes in supporting local, small businesses. We’re a new company and he pushed for us. It’s one of the busiest Costco’s in the country. People land and leave and they pass through Costco. It’s wonderful to get our brand out and sample our cookies. My Dad and I used to get yogurt there all the time. I don’t think he would have ever dreamed of my selling cookies with his story on the bag.
BW: Let’s talk about flavor and texture. Your cookies are big, with intense pockets of flavor. They’re BIG. There’s a weightiness to them. Local appetites tend to be for big plates. What was the decision to make them big in size n flavor.
Mitzi Toro: I don’t know of a lot of people who do giant cookies. I’ve been making that original recipe for 27 yrs. Only the last ten years have I got the consistency, where they bake all the way through. It took years and years to get it. I saw the cupcake craze but I haven’t seen giant crazy cookies. One of the reasons they’re so heavy is that I use unbleached flower. I’m gluten intolerant, which makes it ironic that I have a cookie business. When I eat the flour, I can tolerate the cookie. Its really big, most people can’t eat it on one sitting. The bigger ones are 6, 7 ounces. The Baconaters are 10-11 ounces. we put it on a scale. Its a huge cookie, something big you can’t get just anywhere.
BW: Any suggestions for Maui business owners.
Mitzi Toro: I can’t afford to advertise, we’re still a small business. Word of mouth is essential. I think the biggest help for us has been Facebook. Linked In has been exciting to make the international connections. My dream is to go to Doha or Dubai, that’s why I use Linked In, to make those connections and sell some cookies there. For a local audience, Facebook is the way to go. It can be a lot of fun. If you log on and post once a day, you’ll show up in the feed. Facebook is free, which is nice, and its important once you’re on, to find another small business and promote, to pay it forward. There’s some small businesses that started up that I’m so in love with. Hawaiian Plates, the guy is so nice. I noticed some of his photos weren’t showcasing his products. I took some of his plates, put my cookies on it, and put it on Facebook to promote his product. June K. Harper, a professional photographer, she took a professional photo, of her son and a dog eating one of my cookies, in this awesome shot. It so inspired me and paid it forward to me. So I paid it forward to Hawaiian Plates. It important to support and promote each other as much as possible. The key thing is to whatever your niche or passion is, do it because you love it, not for the money. If you love what you do, the doors will open.
The initial drive of it was honoring my father, it wasn’t about money for me. I love what I do. Somebody finds whatever their passion or hobby is, do it 110 percent and let that be the motivator.
BW: For now, you’re the Willy Wonka of Makawao.
Mitzi Toro: (laughs) For sure!