Here's a riddle: when is a cookie not a cookie? Answer: when it's a NOMsense cookie sandwich (aka "NOMwhich")! Oh yes, these are so much more than just your average cookie; they're an entire dessert experience wrapped up in a neat, delicious, portable package. A NOMwhich comes in a bunch of flavors, but it's always two cookies with an indulgent filling, a sweet drizzle, and crunchy topping. NOMwhiches are a manifestation of NOMsense's core philosophy: "dessert maximalism."

Classic flavor NOMwhich

Classic flavor NOMwhich

Our Spruce Street shop has just begun carrying NOMwhiches in two flavors: the Classic (snickerdoodle cookies stuffed with edible  chocolate chip cookie dough, a semisweet chocolate drizzle and crushed toffee topping) and the Cutie Pie (brown sugar cookies, white chocolate and strawberry swirl filling, a strawberry sugar drizzle, and a graham cracker crumble topping). Sounds great, right?! No big surprise, but they pair really, really, really well with coffee.

NOMsense Bakery is a start up founded by two UPenn students, Alina and Roopa.  While we are always interested in our suppliers' stories, this one feels extra close to our hearts.

NOMsense founders Alina Wong and Roopa Shankar

NOMsense founders Alina Wong and Roopa Shankar

The duo met through the Wharton Retail Club, with shared interests in business, fashion, and non-traditional forms of retail (both were campus reps for the fashion startup Rent the Runway during their freshman year in 2012). They became friends, and would get together to hang out and bake. Keeping in line with their passion for innovation, instead of following recipes, they played around with their own creations. Their first  success was a "cookie marshmallow pie thing," which they gave to Alina's hall mates in Harnwell College House. The responses were super positive, and friends encouraged them to start a baking business. They began strategizing, and decided to hold a more official tasting event in Harnwell. Alina and Roopa set up a table with three different cookie sandwich flavors and gave them away, asking for feedback in return. "It was like a party mixed with a focus group," Roopa says. The event saw lots of traffic, including many people they didn't know. Paired with a great write up in Penn's student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, the tasting gave NOMsense some real momentum.  "We realized this could be a huge thing,” Alina remembers. They consider that date, February 14, 2014, NOMsense's debut, meaning they just celebrated their 2nd birthday!  

"After that, it was a whirlwind," Roopa says. The two met constantly to talk strategy, menu development, pricing and website creation, and organize smaller focus groups. There were also plenty of official logistics, as well: becoming certified by the National Restaurant Association, getting insured and obtaining a food safety certificate from the city, and finding a commercial kitchen space. "We were trying to schedule all this in while being full time students, participating in clubs and social was a hectic time," Roopa says. In the fall of 2014 they moved into the shared kitchen space at the Center for Culinary Enterprises in West Philly.  "It feels really official, but homey too," Roopa says. "The people who run it are really great about getting us in contact with potential vendors. It’s definitely like a food incubator."

Currently, NOMsense has two main components to their sales strategy: they are an official vendor at UPenn, and fulfill large catering orders from administration, faculty, and student groups. They're also wholesaling to a few coffee shops (like HubBub!), with plans to expand, and say they definitely see brick and mortar and e-commerce in the future.

They've also just hired eight new people, all UPenn underclassmen, to join their team in various roles. Roopa and Alina, who are both enrolled as part-time students this semester, will graduate in May and hope this group can help to grow NOMsense. They have sites set on job opportunities outside of Philadelphia, but plan to act as advisors on the day-to-day operations of the business. 

For both founders, NOMsense has deeply enriched their college experiences. Roopa says:  

This is probably the best decision I’ve made. We are living our passion - making food and creating a brand around food. We’re experiential learners...we’ve been able to touch every aspect of what it takes to run a business, from marketing to legal aspects, product development, taxes, negotiations with wholesale partners. Now we’re so equipped to go out into the world.

Thank you so much to Roopa and Alina for sharing their stories with us! We are excited to be one of their first coffee shop wholesale accounts, and are intrigued to see where these two passionate entrepreneurs will go.