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‘I Like To Make People Happy With Cookies’: Penn State Sophomore Serving Up Tasty Treats For Students & Families

Powered by the oven in his apartment at Alight State College, Penn State sophomore David Hayes started a cookie-baking business that rivals that of the Penn State Bakery. “David’s Dough” set out to fuel college students, tailgates, and Penn State parents with delicious, homemade cookies. So far, he’s succeeding.

From his roots in New York, baking started as a hobby for 8-year-old Hayes when he began making loaves of bread. Slowly, he began branching out into other bakery staples.

While in high school, Hayes’ hobby became an outlet to decompress from his schedule as a full-time student.

“My friends would see me at home and say ‘Oh, David is stress-baking again,'” Hayes said.

“Stress-baking” eventually grew into small gifts for his friends that he called “birthday bread.” Hayes made his birthday bread for small occasions but still didn’t see baking as a business opportunity.

As a sophomore criminology and economics major, creating a cookie business seemed like an unlikely place to start learning about entrepreneurship.

David’s Dough came along in the summer of 2023 when Hayes was balancing a full-time work schedule at Jersey Mike’s, doing odd jobs for his neighbors, and working FedEx overnights. Hayes decided he needed to slow down and turn his attention elsewhere. One night during the summer, he quit his job at FedEx and made a logo to start selling cookies on Instagram, and David’s Dough was born.

After piloting David’s Dough and selling to neighbors in his hometown of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Hayes moved his operations to State College after he returned for his sophomore year.

Right now, David’s Dough is an operation run entirely out of his apartment at Alight State College.

“The oven is always running,” Hayes said. “I pay my roommates monthly for the electric bill.”

David’s Dough currently offers only one type of cookie: chocolate chip. However, Hayes has plans for expansion.

Hayes bakes seven dozen cookies four times a week, taking days off on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays to focus on his coursework and a hectic after-class schedule as an ROTC cadet and dual-major undergraduate.

“This fuels my coffee addiction,” Hayes said about his schedule. “I found I can function off of five hours of sleep. Six is optimal, seven is great.”

A big part of Hayes’ business so far has been supplying cookies to fans at tailgates.

“People love them for tailgates,” Hayes said. “I run a ‘If you don’t like them, you get 100% of your money back’ guarantee, but no one’s ever asked for one, so they must be pretty good.”

In the future, Hayes hopes to get parents involved in sending David’s Dough care packages to their students and has big plans once football season ends.

“Right now, I want to get into chapter formals with Greek life after football is over,” Hayes said. “Chapter events are huge.”

Hayes wants to expand David’s Dough’s operations to brownies, protein cookies, and other new delivery options for his mouth-watering sweet treats, too.

Right now, David’s Dough is planning to cash in on the fall spirit and will continue to follow his recipe for success that’s helped him grow his business so far.

A key strategy for Hayes and his business has been the help of his friends and their entrepreneurial advice. Hayes says that his friends with experience in marketing and photography have been instrumental in getting him to this point, while social media has been a big part of his business, too.

“[Instagram] Reels from friends and word-of-mouth marketing drives a lot of business,” Hayes said.

David’s Dough also operates with a pretty efficient delivery system. You can order David’s Dough straight to your door, with a small upcharge to cover gas, or you can opt for a pickup time in the HUB where Hayes will wait while knocking out some of his homework for the week. From the day of purchase, David’s Dough will have cookies in hand in about a week.

“It’s a fun way to meet new people and brings smiles to people’s faces,” Hayes said. “[It’s] not so much about money.”

Hayes hopes that his business can be competitive, even with the presence of the Penn State Bakery’s catalog of sweet options to choose from.

“The [Penn State] bakery, Crumbl, no one is making homemade cookies. You can’t replicate good homemade cookies — no company can push out “homemade” cookies large-scale,” Hayes said.

For now, Hayes hopes to capture more attention from the Penn State community by upping his marketing game. He talked about his plans to break into Facebook markets with Penn State parents and community members on that platform, along with other platforms like Reels and TikTok. Hayes hopes that pushing into these areas can open David’s Dough to an entirely new audience for his cookies.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m in over my head, but sometimes I feel like I can do this,” Hayes said of his whole operation. “My family supports and roots for me. I like to make people happy with cookies.”

Folks can order David’s Dough online using his website recently created with the help of his roommate and can also follow him on Instagram.

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About the Author

Luke Pieczynski

Luke is a junior accounting major hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, and is Onward State's social media manager. He can often be found sipping on a cold brew or skipping through his Spotify playlist to find a song that's just right. Please send your best take on why VLOOKUP is better than INDEX and MATCH to his Twitter @lukepie11 or his email [email protected].

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