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Class Notes May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

One Smart Cookie
Nicole Wilkins Bergman, Warren, '95

Have you founded a company? Worked at a company started by a UCSD alum? We want to know. 
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Founded in 2009, Simply Nic's herbed shortbread cookies were born from a recipe that Nicole Wilkins Bergman, Warren '95, inherited from her mother-in-law. The New Jersey-based mother of two who loves to bake was craving a creative outlet, and her shortbread-loving friends encouraged her to start a business. She did, and it thrived. Bergman averages about 2,000 cookies a month—and increases to about 2,000 a week during holiday times—a number that's difficult to maintain solo.

"I didn't think I would go full-scale retail but I began to get such positive reactions to my product that I knew I had to try," says Bergman, who utilizes social media, local press and farmer's markets to get the word out about her product. "A friend who works in a local specialty food store in Princeton test-marketed my product and it did very well. That's when I knew I had something special and viable."

Currently, Bergman makes four different kinds of thick, artisanal shortbread—the original rosemary, lavender, cardamom-candied ginger and espresso cacao nib—using all local ingredients.

Bergman calls her product "sustainable cookies," as they are made without preservatives and no ingredients go to waste—if she uses lemon zest, she finds another use for the rest of the lemon.

Using locally grown seasonal ingredients serves as both a challenge and an inspiration. Around fall, Simply Nic's offers a pumpkin cookie and in summer, lemon thyme.

But the biggest challenge for Bergman, is deciding which direction to take her one-woman company—remain local or expand to a larger market. She still runs the entire operation herself, with occasional help from her husband during the holiday season. Additionally, because the cookies are all-natural and made without preservatives, they have a short, three-week shelf life, so everything is made-to-order.

As Simply Nic's local fan base grew, she approached the head of Princeton's Whole Foods market, who was very supportive of her product; her shortbread ended up being placed in a very visible section of the store, where it continues to sell today.

Simply Nic's shortbread also can be purchased (in packages of six bars/variety for $8) online at www.simplynics.com.

—Neda Salamat, Muir '12