The Spy Who Baked Me

    The Secret Cookie Service may not be the first company to tap into the college late-night munchie market, but few match their junk food deliveries in terms of flair. The owner is a recent UCSD graduate with a masters degree in chemistry who, in a suited-up, sunglasses-on meeting with the Guardian, asked to remain anonymous. The pseudonym “Agent X” will have to do.

    The concept is simple: The Secret Cookie Service delivers freshly baked cookies anywhere on campus between the hours of 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. And forget the dejected, polo-clad delivery boys of pizza runs past — X hand-delivers each order in a suit and sunglasses. Cookies arrive in his accompanying $4 attaché, a recent acquisition from the Salvation Army.

    Orders can be placed via email (preferably before delivery hours), text message or over a voicemail designed to sound like James Bond. The enterprise has also begun to accept credit and debit cards, sparking a newfound interest among parents who want to send their babies a rather unique care package.

    It all started when X graduated last spring. Job prospects looked grim, so he turned to a tried-and-true success — his mother’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. Planning began a month before the 2011-12 year kicked off, and after a cookie-and-business-card giveaway during Week One, the Secret Cookie Service was up and running. Now, five short weeks later, the business has more than 1,000 likes on Facebook — no doubt due to its ingenious marketing strategies.

    Among the many promotions: Wearing their customized sunglasses at the drop point (the delivery zone) will give you two complimentary cookies. So will liking them on Facebook. Their marketing strategy focuses solely on social media websites and word of mouth — one of the biggest unforeseen successes came from their first few customers, who eagerly took pictures of the delivery and posted them up on Facebook.

    But X didn’t expect the business to take off so quickly.

    “Week One on Saturday, I was out watching ‘Moneyball’ with a friend, and I couldn’t believe it — 11:30 at night, I didn’t think anybody would order the first weekend, and I started getting phone calls,” he said. “‘I want four cookies. I live in Sixth College.’ It was hilarious — I ran out of the movie theatre, ran home, put on the Superman suit.”    

    As for the cookies themselves: X’s mama didn’t lie — they’re good. The main flavor is chocolate chip, but X busts out variations studded with M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces. And each cookie has enough bite and buttery excess to keep munchies at bay for weeks. They’re soft cookies — more like underbaked dough than Chips Ahoy crunch.

    It may seem like all fun and food, but Agent X’s workday is exhausting. After all, he only has a couple of friends helping him out, and he does almost all of the deliveries himself. Each day begins at 9 a.m. with groceries and 50-pound bags of flour. And from noon till 6 p.m., it’s six straight hours of baking, and then straight into deliveries from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. A good day brings in around 30 orders, and Agent X goes out of his way for everybody — even if an order is placed at 1:55 a.m. For X, it’s about accountability.

    “As much as all of this is funny, and we have a lot of fun doing it — we really take it seriously,” he said.

    The company is rapidly growing, and X hopes to expand even more Winter Quarter. In addition to a brand new website, they also hope to start hiring undergraduates to make deliveries. They will screen their potential employees for a sparkling personality — or at least, someone who can keep their cool amid drunken harassment on late night runs.

    In the future, X hopes to sponsor athletic events or do large orders for campus organizations. Next week, he plans to make his first donation. Camp Kesem, a charity that works with children of cancer patients, will receive the majority of profits and donations from a night of cookie deliveries.

    X’s main goal is to open up a permanent shop somewhere on- or off-campus that could act as a base of operations for deliveries. Right now, each delivery is driven from the cookie headquarters in an undisclosed location. But according to X, the house is close to campus. Off-campus students need not feel left out — X also delivers in the general area surrounding UCSD, but he was rather cryptic about the boundaries.

    Physical location aside, X just wants to make work fun.

    “My goal is to create a workplace that is a creative, vibrant place, where people are excited to go to work,” he said.

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