Cookies on the Concourse

Nestled away in Coventry station is one of the West Midlands’ best kept snacking secrets: Wicked Cookies, a pop-up booth run by Sally Rees, supplier of delicious cookies for thousands of commuters every day. Sally’s kitchen creates new and exciting flavours with ingredients sourced as locally as possible, and she’s keen to stay in touch with what hungry Coventry commuters want.

Since we’re partial to a bit of sugary temptation ourselves, we talked to Sally about starting her own business, sourcing local, and the support she receives to keep the cookie monsters satisfied. 

Building a business from scratch

Wicked Cookies is, at its heart, a family business, and from the very beginning, the entire family has been involved in the process - even the kids! Sally and her husband Giles own the business together, but Bailey (seven) and Zac (five) are the brains behind the operation. “When our children,” starts Sally, “read a bedtime story where a squirrel went on a treasure hunt and found freshly baked cookies for his prize, they decided that cookies could get them their dream trip to Disneyland.”

And it wasn’t long before that dream became a reality: in February 2016, Sally and the kids toured the local neighbourhood selling ‘Bailey and Zac’s lovely cookies.’ 

Wicked Cookies the family

“The short version,” she adds, “is that this proved very popular, and after selling multiple days, markets and online ordering soon followed! We had no idea that Virgin offered pop-ups. We went on a family trip to London catching the train from Coventry. At the time, we commented on how empty and grey the station was, and wouldn’t it be great to sell our locally made cookies there. And so began our mission.”

It’s very hard to resist a tasty snack (especially before a long day at work), and so shortly afterwards Wicked Cookies opened up on the Coventry station concourse with support from Virgin Trains. 

We’ve supported Sally’s adventure from the word go, working with the family to speed up the business’ growth and being there to advise at every stage, especially in the ideas - and taste-testing - department. Small businesses like Sally’s bring a lot of good to the local economy, and so they’re just as important to us as any other business, customer or supplier. 

Yummy cookies at Wicked Cookies

Putting down roots

And it’s worked wonders for publicity: Sally believes working with Virgin Trains has fast-tracked Wicked Cookies’ growth, putting them as much as two years ahead of where they’d have been otherwise. 

“Most small businesses get known through tiny little craft and market events,” Sally notes, highlighting the problems with exposure many small businesses face. “Virgin’s help in accessing potentially high footfall areas in an affordable way can really kickstart the awareness and growth of a little business. It most certainly has for us!”

It’s important for brands like Virgin Trains to recognise and help small-scale enterprises because we’re able to offer promotion and marketing help beyond what these local and microbusinesses could otherwise afford. Why is this good? Aside from supporting local people, Sally feels it’s small businesses leading the way with the new economic climate of emphasis on ethics and the environment.

Wicked Cookies Boxes

“Big brands that have the sincerity and ethos of a business like Virgin Trains,” she says, “can truly help small and micro businesses to really put down roots and start to grow. Not only does this benefit the local businesses they are supporting, but it helps the public to see beyond the ‘corporate’ face of big business and realise that they care about what’s happening locally.”

And delicious cookies aside, we really do love our local areas. 

The case for going local

At Virgin Trains, we support local businesses because we’re in a position to bring people together from all over the country. For Sally, who sees thousands of customers come through the Coventry concourse every day, that’s a unique opportunity to shout from the traintops about shopping locally. But it’s not just a task for the concourse. As part of their mission to inspire other businesses to source locally and ethically, the family make sure to promote this to Wicked Cookie’s many social followers.

“We love that we can show people that sourcing locally, ethically and making good environmental decisions for our business is something we can all do,” Sally says, speaking of their efforts in raising awareness. “And since we launched our ‘plastic-free’ UK spring water, packaged in 100% compostable bottles made from plants, that has certainly raised eyebrows and generated a lot of enquiries. If we can do this, any business can.”

So what’s so important about local produce? 

The benefits, Wicked Cookies believes, are twofold. Reducing the use of fossil fuels used in travel is an important aspect of production: impressively, Sally’s flour travels from less than 24 miles away, and the eggs are less than 10 miles from the kitchen. There are no air miles involved, because the vast majority of the rest of their ingredients are British, too. 

Wicked Cookies on Display

There’s also a direct economic impact. Buying locally equals supporting the local economy, and with that comes the small businesses and families that create amazing products.

“We find,” Sally says, “that local and small seem to care more about quality, ethics and the environment than big businesses, and that’s one of our core values as a family and a business.”

There’s certainly demand for local creations in Coventry. Some of Sally’s most enthusiastic customers are students from Coventry and Warwick universities, and Wicked Cookies has also developed a cadre of loyal, regular customers. It’s all part of the small business charm: the Rees family love that they’re part of their customers’ day, just as much as the customers love the cookies. 

“Our station cookie monsters are just the loveliest people,” Sally admits. “All nationalities, all ages, all backgrounds.” 

It’s no surprise: because there are probably very few people could resist a luxury local treat, ourselves definitely included.

Thinking for the future

For small business owners, thinking about the future is one of those things it’s easy to forget about until it’s happening. Sally’s plans for continued cookie domination include staying as local as possible, and over the next few years they’re planning to open a shop or two to include ‘milk and cookies’. 

“We will be expanding our range to cover more than just cookies,” hints Sally, “but that’s top secret for now!”

Over time, Wicked Cookies hopes to spread their success locally to employ more helpers over time (and grow their cookie-monster family). Since their cookies are lovingly handmade at every stage, it’s important to keep that selling point even as the range expands - right now, there are over 30 different flavours. What’s Sally’s personal fave?

“That’s actually the hardest question of all!” she says. “I can only narrow it down to three; Chilli & Chocolate, Gingerbread and Mocha Walnut… but then again, I do like something a bit different!”

Wicked Cookies Coventry

Getting your cookie fix

If you’re keen to sample everything Wicked Cookies has to offer, we’ve got trains to Coventry from Birmingham running just about every 20 minutes during the day. Why not spend the trip deciding which cookies you’re going to treat yourself to?

And of course, if they haven’t sold out, you can pick some cookies up for the way home too (and probably eat them on the train).

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