3. The Early Mishaps

Robert Armstrong
7 min readMar 17, 2022

Since I was re-launching, I wanted to take the opportunity to implement some changes I learned from the 1st go around ….and one of those was the brand name. When I started the company in 2009 I copied how breweries name their beers with unique clever names for each beer. The company name was Selma Good Company, LLC…..which came from me wanting to show good can come out of Selma.

I named my 2 cookie flavors; Mo Buddas and Gammy Mammas ….no one could pronounce them right so my idea didn’t really pan out. So when I started thinking thru how to adjust this, I decided to focus the brand more on my grandmother instead of the Selma part. So I decided to brand the “line” of cookies after her nickname, Gammy….but I settled on GMomma. I thought that would be the easiest for people whether you are from the south or not. I would just name the cookies what they were and throw in some southern accent in some of the words like “butta” instead of butter ….to reinforce the southern aspect of the brand.

As far as the packaging design goes, I had created an apparel brand called Abba Threads in the time between the 1st go and the 2nd. The designer I used to create that brand had a style that really fit with my vision for the new GMommas brand…. so I hired him to come up with the design for new logos and packaging.

For nutritional labels I was able to use the contract bakeries resources to get those and was also able to get a little advice on “estimated” shelf life to start with. At the time I wasn’t completely sure what the shelf life was, but during the 1st go around I just started with 2 weeks and after each week the cookies were still good …I would extend it. It ended up being over 6 months that they would stayed fresh.

Worked with a box printer / manufacturer located in Anniston, AL to come up with a display box. It would tear away to create a counter top display or you could stack them on top of each other on the floor to create a floor display. It was a cool design but not very cost efficient to ship.

I designed the website myself …as that’s what I’d been doing to support myself for the past 3 years.

It came time to order bags, and I was extremely new to package printing. Flexo, Rotogravure, Digital, etc. ….I didn’t know what any of these terms were ….I just knew what I liked. I figured my bakery might help suggest a printer …so they did and I asked the printer to do a short print run. I sent them an example of the print quality and feel of another product I liked …and started getting my brokers revved up to start selling. After about 3 weeks I received the bags and they were horrible ….didn’t look anything like the artwork or the sample bag I sent. It was crazy frustrating.

1st Version …pretty terrible!

Literally about 15 minutes after receiving the bags I got in the car and drove an hour to the nearest Earthfare, found a bag I liked on the snack aisle. I called the number on the back of the bag and asked the person that answered; “who prints your bags?”. They gave me the name and on the way home I called and got a quote in process. That was the printer I used from then on. In hindsight that is how I should have approached it from the get-go.

Took 14 weeks, here is the official version I launched with.

I knew I needed to get into a distributor to be able to grow the store count quickly and so I worked backwards …to start I went to a few stores I wanted to be in and asked who their distributors were …one of them was Wood Fruitticher, based in Bham.

Luckily, I had a Selma connection with a salesperson that worked for Wood Fruitticher and he was extremely helpful in setting up a meeting with the head buyer. The buyer liked the product, but said in order to bring it into their warehouse I would need to move 20 cases a week ….and I would need to `drum’ up the business myself. So….he kindly gave me a list of stores they serviced that he thought would be a good fit and I spent 2 weeks driving from Pensacola, Destin, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Mobile, Montgomery, Selma, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Cullman, and Huntsville to pre-sell the cookies. I was working on getting enough stores to agree to bring it in so that I could get my first order from Wood Fruitticher.

A side note, in order to actually schedule a production run with the bakery in PA I needed to have them bake a few thousand pounds at a minimum. That’s a lot of cookies …so in other words I needed a lot of stores to put them in. So I had to make a lot of pre-sells to get it jump started.

After those 2 weeks, I was able to get my first order from Wood Fruittcher….and that same week I was also able to pick up another distributor called APCI ….who serviced about 150 independent drug stores throughout the southeast.

It was just what I needed to get started; about 30 stores thru Wood Fruiticher and about 120 from the APCI distributor right off the bat.

I did some cold outreach to Al.com and the Selma Times Journal, and both were gracious enough to do a write-up about getting back in business.

I scheduled the bake with my contract bakery …..and man was I feeling good!

I didn’t feel the need to be there during the 1st bake, as we had just baked everything perfectly.

There was a lot of buzz and things seemed to be coming together.

The cookies were baked, packed and shipped to the 2 distributors — a few days later I went into a store and purchased one of my own bags to just double check the quality. I opened it…and my heart fell through my stomach.

They looked like pancakes — definitely not my cookie. In over 150 stores the wrong cookie everyone is now getting their first impression from. It wasn’t just that the cookie was baked wrong, it was that there was too much moisture in the cookie — thus — greatly reducing the shelf life. (i.e. 6 months to 1 month)

Not a good deal. I honestly had a nervous breakdown no doubt.

BUT with the help of some family and friends I came up with what to do next.

I called the 2 distributors and said that I wasn’t completely satisfied with this batch of cookies, and we’d replace whatever was still in the warehouse free of charge. So I hooked a trailer to my truck and headed to Birmingham. I then drove the pallets of cookies back to Selma straight to the food bank.

Not a good start at all …but I was determined we’d get it right.

You don’t know what you don’t know — and I knew nothing about how to implement Quality Control for our baking runs. I just started by asking a bunch of questions and looking around online. Just from our conversations I realized the bakery was already doing a few things to keep records for some of their other customers. They included things like moisture content, color grade, thickness, width, etc. Moisture being the most telling variable we finally figured out that that was going to be the key to verifying the cookies were baked correctly. (this all happened over the course of a year and a half)

During the fiasco of picking up the cookies from the 2 distributors and sorting all of that out, I found the World Market buyer on Linkedin and sent her a message offering to send samples. Surprisingly, she responded and wanted to try the cookies. 2 weeks later I followed up and she gave me a verbal commitment to putting them in all 300 stores around the country. That’ll keep you going!

Shortly thereafter, she sent over my first order and it was a big’n! Right at a $34,000 order, I was floored. I remember thinking that day, “this is it…I’ve made it!”.

I went to PA and was there when they baked for World Market, just so we didn’t have the same problems as before. I could watch and be sure the product was baked right.

In just the first 3 months I was in 500 stores around the country.

Heading into 2014, I was feeling good about where this thing was headed …you could feel the head of steam that was building.

Next: The Wandering

If you want to read them all now here are the links:

  1. The Beginning
  2. The Relaunch
  3. The Early Mishaps
  4. The Wandering
  5. The Facility
  6. The Progress
  7. The Growth
  8. The Crumbling (pun intended)
  9. Putting it to bed
  10. Reasons it failed and what I’d do different

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Robert Armstrong

I like to build things. Founded @gmommasays . Grew it to 2000 stores & failed. Currently helping others not make the same mistakes.