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How the cookie crumbled: Former entrepreneur laments the business that got away

How the cookie crumbled: Former entrepreneur laments the business that got away

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To look at the website for Soozie’s Doozies, a cookie-dough company in Union, you’d never know there was a real person behind the name.

Susie Wilson wants people to know her story. She coined the Soozie’s Doozies name in 2003 and built a successful business selling cookies online and in Dierbergs and Straubs stores, and she gets angry when she thinks about how she’s been written out of its history.

The website says Soozie’s Doozies was founded in 2015, and the brand’s Facebook page explains the “cool name” by saying that “their cookies are doozies! And what rhymes with Doozies?”

That’s all true — 2015 was when the company switched to its current model of selling refrigerated dough — but Wilson knows there’s more to the story.

Her story is about how life sometimes gets in the way of entrepreneurial dreams. It’s also a cautionary tale: Wilson now knows she shouldn’t have signed a document she didn’t fully understand, and should have gotten legal advice when selling her company.

When the Post-Dispatch profiled her business in 2005, Wilson was baking 5,000 to 6,000 cookies a day at a commercial kitchen in Ellisville.

In 2007, she went through a series of personal crises: a divorce, arm surgery and a move to Mountain Home, Ark., to care for an ailing family member. A doctor said her arm problems were caused by the repetitive stress of mixing cookie dough.

She sold the business to Robert Stanton, who is chief operating officer of Soozie’s Doozies’ parent SKU Foods. Wilson says she always believed she kept a 10 percent interest, but she didn’t read the contract. When shown a copy of the agreement a few weeks ago, she learned that she has no ownership.

As of early March, she also has no role. As an independent broker, she had been paid for getting the cookie dough into Harps supermarkets in Arkansas and had arranged meetings with Walmart. Olivia Kelvin, SKU Foods’ chief executive, said in an email that Wilson’s brokerage agreement was terminated “due to lack of performance on her part.”

Kelvin also said Wilson requested that her name and likeness be removed from Soozie’s Doozies marketing materials.

Wilson says the brokerage agreement was terminated after her attorney sent Kelvin a letter demanding more compensation. She hasn’t taken any further legal action.

As far as SKU Foods is concerned, Wilson was part of a predecessor company that has nothing to do with the current incarnation of Soozie’s Doozies.

“The terms of the sale were clearly spelled out in a purchase and sale agreement that she executed, and she received payment in full as provided in the agreement,” Kelvin said in her email. “We also want to make it clear that the product being sold now is different than the product being sold in 2007 when SKU acquired the business and the business name.”

Soozie’s Doozies has raised money from the Prosper and Capital Innovators accelerator funds and members of the St. Louis Arch Angels. The company recently introduced a ready-to-eat cookie dough bar, and its products are sold in supermarkets in 38 states.

Wilson, meanwhile, remains emotionally attached to the brand she created. “The reason I stayed on as long as I did was because of the love and the passion,” she said. “It’s still very much a part of who I am and it will always be that.”

She’s also still baking. Every Sunday, she treats members of her Mountain Home church to cookies made from the original Soozie’s Doozies recipe.

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