By Alina Wong C’16, Rachel Stewart C’16, and Roopa Shankar W’16, Co-founders of NOMsense Bakery
Founded in February of 2014 at the University of Pennsylvania by Alina Wong C’16, Rachel Stewart C’16, and Roopa Shankar W’16, NOMsense Bakery is a cookie business and catering service that has come to represent a passionate hobby turned for-profit business. It all started when, as best friends, we innovated with our own recipes in the kitchen. A friend who received samples mentioned that our desserts were so tasty that she would pay us for our creative bites of indulgence.
That is when we realized that there was white space that we could tap into on campus. Where else could students purchase unique desserts that combined flavors, ingredients, and textures in interesting ways? Beyond standard dessert options like frozen yogurt and gelato, there really wasn’t much else for the novelty-seeking, sweet-toothed student. After strategy after strategy meeting, we ultimately decided that we could color in this white space by introducing an innovative dessert product.
NOMsense Bakery sells one core product—the signature NOM cookie sandwich—and we create several flavor iterations that are all intricately and thoughtfully handmade. Our take on the NOMwich includes: two cookies, a creative filling, a drizzle, and a topping, and each flavor is elaborately designed to embrace “dessert maximalism,” a phrase we coined at the brand’s inception that has come to represent our philosophy of combining maximum indulgence, flavor, and innovation in an inspired way.
With a commitment to quality and originality, we only officially adopt a flavor onto the menu once it has undergone several rounds of testing and focus groups. A flavor in its product development stages for the upcoming season currently features earl grey tea cookies, a marshmallow fluff and caramel sauce filling, a white chocolate drizzle, and a crushed shortbread topping.
We all agree that the highlight of the entrepreneurial experience thus far has been creatively crafting the brand’s personality and image while simultaneously interacting with fans and customers on campus. The essence of the NOM brand is playful, vivid, and imaginative—customers are referred to as “NOMers” and “cookie NOMsters,” and events like a “NOMoween” Halloween sales helped strengthen the association between the brand’s quirky product and the idea of celebratory moments. Our social media campaigns are centered around welcoming customers into the world of NOM through photo sharing, contests, and testimonials that represent organic reactions to tasting the product. And to further connect with fans, NOMsense hosts a flavor contest every semester to allow applicants to think like dessert maximalists and submit their ideas in the hopes of having their cookie sandwich on the official menu. Last semester’s winner was a chocolate chip banana oatmeal cookie, stuffed with creamy chocolate hazelnut and crushed pretzel, and topped with a semi-sweet chocolate drizzle and sea salt.
Of course, there have been challenges along the way—we are full-time undergraduate students who often juggle classes, work, NOMsense orders, and other on-campus commitments. However, there is no disagreement that entrepreneurship as undergraduate students has been ideal. Not only has it been a comprehensive business learning experience that has really supplemented our in-class education, but the wealth of resources and support from student customers as well as faculty has undoubtedly helped shape and grow the business to where it is at today.
This semester, we are taking a break from fulfilling orders to focus on the next stage of the entrepreneurial journey, which will hopefully lead to a wider presence of NOMsense cookies on campus. To stay updated with the business and to learn more, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, check out our website, and e-mail the team at email@example.com if you have any questions or want to connect. Thanks for being a part of our story!
Bios: Roopa Shankar is part of the Wharton graduating class of 2016, studying Marketing and Management. She is originally from San Jose, California. Alina Wong is a junior from San Diego, California studying International Relations and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations in the College of Arts & Sciences. Rachel Stewart is a junior in the College from northern New Jersey, studying History and International Relations.