Know How Two Cousins Turned a Cookie Side Hustle into a Billion-Dollar Empire

In 2017, two cousins lacking any professional baking experience made a bold move to launch a cookie business together.

Today, Crumbl Cookies boasts over 980 stores nationwide, crossing the $1 billion sales mark across all franchises and selling over 300 million cookies in 2022, according to co-founders Jason McGowan and Sawyer Hemsley.

“I never imagined in my wildest dreams that we would do over $1 billion in sales,” remarks McGowan, 43, who estimates investing around $68,000 of his own money to kickstart the venture. (The company opted not to disclose its 2023 sales, citing ongoing auditing.)

The ascent of Crumbl began when McGowan, a former tech executive at, and i.TV teamed up with his cousin. At the time of their first store opening in Logan, Utah, in 2017, Hemsley was still studying marketing at Utah State University.

“We just thought it was a fun side hustle,” reflects McGowan.

Crumbl's weekly cookie drops on TikTok create buzz,
Crumbl’s weekly cookie drops on TikTok create buzz, with flavors garnering reviews from millions of followers.

Although neither McGowan nor Hemsley had prior professional baking experience, they rigorously experimented with various cookie recipes, soliciting feedback from friends, family, and strangers. Their confidence grew in Crumbl’s signature chocolate chip cookies, which became the cornerstone of their initial location.

Leveraging their backgrounds in tech and marketing, the co-founders capitalized on social media to cultivate a substantial following from the outset. Employing tactics akin to the fashion industry, they orchestrated weekly “drops,” unveiling new, limited-edition cookie flavors on TikTok.

“It creates that hype. It creates that excitement. And it also creates some scarcity, because you can only have that cookie for that week,” explains McGowan. Individual Crumbl cookies typically range from $4 to $5 each, with prices decreasing for packs of four, six, or 12, as per the company’s website.

Crumbl’s social media presence now exceeds 16 million followers across platforms, with TikTok emerging as a significant platform boasting over 7 million followers and a viral hashtag, “#TasteWeekly.” Users flock to TikTok to post reviews, both favorable and critical, of Crumbl’s latest cookie flavors.

Despite challenges, Crumbl's co-founders see their success
Despite challenges, Crumbl’s co-founders see their success as replicable and continue to expand, eyeing international markets.

The buzz surrounding Crumbl has attracted considerable interest in franchising, leading to the opening of over 600 new stores between 2022 and 2023. While the expansion rate may decelerate going forward, Crumbl has ambitions for international growth, including in the U.K.

However, Crumbl’s success has also drawn imitators, resulting in two trademark infringement lawsuits in 2022, both resolved through undisclosed settlements. “Just as any company would, Crumbl chose to protect its brand,” notes a company spokesperson.

McGowan acknowledges that one of his key takeaways thus far is the potential simplicity of replicating Crumbl’s success.

“As I get older and as I build this company, I realize more and more that everything that we do is just something that anyone can do,” he reflects. “Whether you don’t have a mixer yet, or you don’t have a recipe for a cookie yet, you just get started.”

Michael Manua
Michael Manua
Michael, a seasoned market news expert with 29 years of experience, offers unparalleled insights into financial markets. At 61, he has a track record of providing accurate, impactful analyses, making him a trusted voice in financial journalism.
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