In the Spotlight: Alison Dahmen and her Skydottir Epic Cookies
On Sundays, delicious smells of freshly baked cookies waft through the hallways of Ballard Kitchen on Market Street. Inside, Alison Dahmen is slaving away for 15 hours to bake and package 1,200 of her one-of-a-kind Skydottir Epic Cookies, each of which will be delivered to thirty different locations throughout Seattle the following day.
“That will last me a week and I go back into the community kitchen to make the dough one evening and bake all day Sunday,” Dahmen said.
Founded in July of last year, Skydottir Epic Cookies sells only one item – handmade old fashion chocolate chip cookies.
But Dahmen’s chewy, old-fashion chocolate chip cookies are anything but simple. They’re vegan and gluten-free, health and environment conscious, as well as fair-trade.
Dahmen spent a lot of time and trial-and-error baking to create the perfect mix of organic and mostly locally-produced ingredients.
“The mix is pretty unique,” Dahmen said. “It includes quinoa, brown rice and tapioca flour, coconut sugar crystals – the world’s most sustainable sugar – and fair trade dark chocolate.”
A very health-concious person herself, Dahmen said people haven’t been as concerned about the ingredients as she thought they would be.
"I still haven't figured who my main audience is but there’s a lot of interest in organic, handmade and locally-produced products in Seattle," she said.
What’s now a growing business started off as fun idea after Dahmen was laid off from her corporate marketing job in 2008 due to the economic downturn.
Among various part-time jobs, Dahmen started working at Capitol Hill’s Healeo, an organic, superfood and supplement store.
While working at Healeo, she did “tons of baking and playing with recipes that were vegan and gluten-free,” she said.
Her recipes were very popular with the customers and one item in particular was flying off the shelves - her old-fashion vegan and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.
“People were really into these cookies. They were ridiculously popular,” Dahmen said. "They seemed to be the missing link people were looking for. Most people who bake gluten-free or vegan find that their cookies become hard and dry but I was never able to finda really good chewy old-fashion chocolate chip cookie. I wasn’t the only one.”
Taking the advice and entrepreneurial skills she had learned from Healeo’s owner Justin Brotman, Dahmen decided to start her own company.
"It was a big challenge," Dahmen said.
She started off by handing out samples to stores and eateries around Seattle like a traveling saleswoman, using her marketing background to market her own product.
“It took almost a year but now people are coming to me instead of me coming to them,” Dahmen said.
Slowly but surely word of mouth advertising has started spreading and she now sells her cookies in 30 different locations. In addition, Full Tilt Ice Cream uses her cookie dough in their ice cream and she's doing cross-promotions with companies like Crown Black Car Service, which offered Skydottir cookies to all its passengers on Valentine's Day.
Her logo, a cartoony viking girl with "Skydottir" written in heavy metal script, describes Dahmen well.
Dahmen grew up in Sunset Hill, not far from where her great-grandparents settled after immigrating to the U.S. in the 1870s.
Being one-quarter Icelandic and one-quarter Norwegian, Dahmen made up the pseudo-Icelandic name, Skydottir Epic Cookies as a nod to her family heritage.
Dahmen's main passion has always been music and she's played in bands since she was 17 years old and working in the Peaches Records and Tapes (later named Beehive Music and Video) on NW Market St and 22nd Ave.
"In a way, it's all come full circle with having my kitchen across from where the record store used to be," she said.
Dahmen said she still works two and a half part-time jobs and she hopes to eventually grow Skydottir into a self-sustainable business.
She likes the community kitchen but would like to have a space of her own.
“The goal is for this to be my main gig,” Dahmen said. “I need to get it to a point where it will pay for my mortgage. And eventually, I’d like to have an employee to help me. But this isn’t about taking my idea and selling it to Mrs. Fields."
"I am so much happier than I’ve ever been," she said. "Even though I am working my butt off and I’m tired and I could use some new clothes."
To learn more about Skydottir Epic Cookies, visit http://skydottir.com/.