Business spotlight: Cookie Club of America looks to support military service men and women

Cookie Club of America cookies are imprinted with the emblem of every branch of the United States Armed Forces.

The San Diego-based Cookie Club of America is seeking funding to begin production to support military families and nonprofits through the sale of a buttery, vanilla shortbread cookie imprinted with the emblem of every branch of the United States Armed Forces.

The cookies salute all seven service branches as a tribute and in recognition of their dedication of service to the country and its citizens: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

Clifford Smith Courtesy

Cookie Club of America plans to wholesale to all military nonprofits through an affiliate model that easily and inexpensively maximizes fundraising efforts by providing a sell-through channel. Founder and CEO Clifford Smith said the more than 45,000 military-related nonprofits in the country will be able to raise money in support of their own programs by reselling the cookies. Additionally, the cookies could be sold direct to consumers through the website and would be available in retail stores, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the National Military Family Association.

Smith comes from a family with a long line of military service, including two brothers who served in Iraq. His brother Dave is a retired Marine sergeant, brother Steve is a retired Army colonel, and his nephew is a Marine sergeant currently stationed at Camp Pendleton.

“It is because of this selfless service to country and the millions like them that we launched our company with a mission to support our military personnel and their families in a unique way,” said Smith, whose background includes founding a San Diego tech company and a 27-year career in hospitality with Marriott International.

Smith first launched the Cookie Club of America in 2003, motivated to support the military after 9/11. He obtained special authorization from all of the U.S. military branches to be able to use their emblems on the cookies.The cookies were successfully introduced and tested in 22 states through 12 large grocery retailers. The company supported the National Military Family Association (NMFA) through donations and branding on every package—Smith said the extra exposure helped the organization bring in millions more in direct donations.

Tons of cookies were shipped to troops and to bring comfort to recovering service men and women at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Hospitals and VA Hospitals around the world.

The original boxes had cookies from all branches in one box and Smith said he fielded numerous requests for just a Navy box or just an Army box. At the time he could not do it due to the requirements of the bakery but that is his goal with the relaunch.

In 2008, he stopped production of the cookies.

“A lot has changed since 2008,” said Smith, noting that technology has improved for e-commerce, there is improved profitability and there’s more social media marketing.

“We now have the opportunity to really do it correctly,” he said, adding that he has assembled a team dedicated and driven to make the venture succeed with partnerships that reach across the country and around the globe.

Smith said 46 major chains have expressed interested in the product, separated into the different boxes. Ideally, the cookies would sell twice a year in the retail space, from Military Appreciation Month in May through July 4 and then again in November for Veterans Day through the holiday season when people are looking to remember those serving far from home.

The Fort Wayne, Indiana bakery that the Cookie Club expects to use has a capacity to make 2 million cookies a day and Smith believes there is so much opportunity for the company to help support military nonprofits in a big way.

“What we’re looking to do right now is the reformation of the company. Our goal is $250,000 to get into the market, to get these cookies made and sold,” Smith said. “San Diego is an extremely patriotic place …I should not have to leave San Diego to find the partners. Let’s get it done in our town and we can make a significant impact on the lives of the men and women who serve our great nation.”

To help bring the cookies to market contact or call (619) 850-0854.

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