#FemaleFounders - Aoibheann McCormack, Dumb Dough

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#FemaleFounders – Aoibheann McCormack, Dumb Dough

What’s the best way to fight pandemic blues? Cookies.

There’s a new female founder on the block, and her delicious cookie boxes are taking Liverpool by storm. Aoibheann McCormack founded Dumb Dough during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing a much-needed pick-me-up for people across the city.

This is a rather special edition of Female Founders, as Aoibheann worked as an intern for us back in 2018 while she was studying at Liverpool John Moores University. We’re so proud of how far she’s come – from interviewing female founders to becoming one herself. Bossing it. 

Let the mouth-watering cookie photos commence. 

1. Which 3 skills would you say are crucial to being a founder?

For me, it has been focus, determination and patience. 

The ability to focus is essential because multitasking is pretty much a given when you start your own business.  The ability to learn to focus on the task at hand allows you to get shiz done when you need it done, instead of spreading yourself too thin. Secondly, determination is what will drive you to succeed. 

Starting my business took a long time with lots of work and, as is life, it came with some setbacks. However, if I didn’t have the resolve to push through them, I would be a lot more inclined to either not work as hard, delaying the process, or worst-case scenario; giving up. 

Lastly, patience. As I mentioned, creating a business takes a long time. You have to get the not so fun bits perfect before you can start the fun parts. Legalities, finances, and a robust business plan is not done in a week, or even a month. Plus, once you do open, you likely won’t see amazing results straightaway. I’d say resilience definitely comes in with that too.

2. What is your favourite thing about being a business owner so far?

Everything, really. If I had to pick one element that has benefitted me the most, it would be being able to have total creative freedom. Nothing brings me more joy than creating my social media content or making customers cookie boxes on a Thursday evening, filling it with all the bits and bobs that make our brand stand out. Also, who wouldn’t say being able to work when I want isn’t a massive benefit? If I fancy having the morning off, I can. Parks and Recreation binge session incoming! 

3. What have you found most challenging about starting your business?

The most challenging aspect of starting my business is that I have multiple roles to fulfill. Right now, I am wearing a gazillion hats. I am of course the creator and baker of Dumb Dough Cookies themselves, so I spend two whole days in the kitchen from around 8am-8pm. Additionally, Fridays are totally set aside for deliveries. So the other two weekdays are filled with admin work, health and safety processes, social media scheduling and responding to emails or queries. 

4. What are the biggest barriers you face when it comes to growing your business?

Right now it has to be the pandemic. If it wasn’t here, we would be doing a lot more face-to-face promotion with the people of Liverpool. Whether it be at food markets, trade shows or catering events. My end goal is to own a commercial premise in Liverpool – Being limited to operating in our own domestic premises, and only physically interacting with Customers during delivery (even then it’s just a quick hello and thank you) could definitely be classed as a hindrance. 

5. If you could learn more about one area of marketing, what would it be?

For my business, influencer marketing is becoming an important tool. I arranged a couple of Influencer collabs myself but found that I wasn’t 100% certain on what I needed. I made the decision with a friend, who is starting her own marketing agency centring on influencer marketing, to outsource this marketing to her.

6. How did you recognise that you were an entrepreneurial person?

I wouldn’t like to think I have ever been a bad employee, but I always knew that when working for someone else, I was never content. I have worked in a really corporate environment for most of my working life, and I resented how unless you were of a certain level, your ideas were dismissed.

Even though I had as much experience as my peers in the room, I was often talked down to and I remember thinking ‘Nah. Not for me.’ 

Listen, I know not every company is like that, I had a fantastic internship role in my final year that was the total opposite. However, I knew that I deserved to share my ideas and put them into action without having to worry about pleasing someone else. 

7. How do you fight Impostor Syndrome?

I am a massive believer in the power of positive thinking and manifestation. Imposter Syndrome was something I severely struggled with when I started working in my corporate roles and at times it was almost crippling. 

A myriad of things help me, but it’s mostly through maintaining as much of a balance within myself towards my work as possible. I start every morning with a great book called ‘The 6 Minute Success Journal’. Every morning, I take the time, usually over my morning coffee, to set my daily intentions. This includes a focus of the day, usually my biggest task. Today, it was responding to my Female Founders Interview for example. Then you set your over-all to-do list, including the bigger and smaller goals. Although, for me, the most important part is that it makes you write something you are grateful for, something you’re looking forward to, a ‘to-relax list’ AND at the end of the day you state your thoughts, ideas and wins of that day. I guess the main way this helps me fight Imposter Syndrome is it helps me achieve a great work-life balance. It’s also physical proof that I’m succeeding in something business-related on a daily basis and it is all because of me. 

8. If someone was struggling to start a business due to confidence, what would your advice be?

No one is ever 100% confident enough to take the plunge and start their own gig. Even if you are 99% sure, there’s still fear and uncertainty causing that 1% doubt. 

I would advise people to focus on what is making you consider starting a business in the first place. For example, I really wanted something to call my own. I didn’t want a two-hour commute daily anymore, I wanted to be my own boss and work on my terms to build something I was truly passionate about. It took me six months to even get all of the paperwork done to get my premises license and six months is a lot of time to build doubt- and it did. HOWEVER, I knew that ultimately, this is what would make me happy. That’s what drove me to start. Knowing that this was my goal, the 70% confidence I had turned into 100% and it keeps growing.

9. If you could magically change one thing about your business now, what would it be?

I would have commercial premises, for sure! Not only is it a wee bit challenging doing everything in one small-ish kitchen, but I want the space to be able to make more products, as well as to have a physical presence in Liverpool. I want people to be able to get Dumb Dough Cookies whenever they want them. That is my goal within the next year and a half. 

10. Tell us about another brilliant businesswoman that our readers should know about 

Ali Gibney, Director of The Big Trust, Liverpool. I was so lucky to work with Ali on multiple projects during my work in Corporate Social Responsibility. The Big Trust works with multiple organisations and businesses in Liverpool to help the most disadvantaged people in our community.

I worked with The Big Trust on multiple projects including working with local schools and community groups on Career Aspiration days and Ready for work schemes, for vulnerable adults. She has set up partnerships with some of the largest organisations in Liverpool all with the aim of helping others. She is a fantastic woman and is helping so many people. A true BOSS.

Dough it your way

Inspired by Aoibheann’s story? Learn more about being a female founder from our interviews with Kassandra Gordon, founder of Kassandra Lauren Gordon Jewellery and Kate Murray, founder of Handled With Care Design.  

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