Heidi's Heavenly Cookies now offers gourmet cookie and candy gift baskets to celebrities and customers nationwide, but life hasn't always been that "sweet." Heidi Nel, a stay-at-home mom in Alpharetta, Ga., was faced with a new challenge after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Like many other Americans, her husband lost his job as an advertising executive. Nel, who always enjoyed baking, turned a moment of desperation into a path of inspiration.
With $10,000 and support from family and friends, Nel embarked on the road to entrepreneurship with Heidi's Heavenly Cookies in October 2002. In the beginning, family and friends volunteered their time to help drive the new business. Nel's husband Andre created brand strategy,developed marketing material and designed the company website, heidisheavenlycookies.com.
When Nel started her business, she had no idea it would grow as fast - and big as it did. "During our first holiday season, the news of our gourmet cookie baskets spread like wildfire," she recalls. "We were so busy that we had to stop taking orders the first week in December."
Segments on The Today Show, Rachael Ray and features in Southern Living and People StyleWatch magazines helped the business explode, and within a few years the volume of products customers ordered increased 500 percent.
The demand for cookies steadily increased and soon the need for more space was critical. In 2007, Heidi's Heavenly Cookies moved into a 5,700-square-foot building. Nel also realized her business needed a shipping solution.
UPS Account Executive John Feraco recognized an opportunity for the gourmet cookie company to enhance its website with the UPS Developer Toolkit. Nel uses these online tools to integrate UPS shipping and tracking systems into her business model and e-commerce website. Heidi's Heavenly Cookies became more efficient - saving time, money and resources. More importantly, Nel's products consistently arrived on time, allowing her to offer a freshness guarantee.
In addition to the UPS Developer Kit, Nel uses Worldship®, UPS Delivery Intercept®, Quantum View® Manage and Quantum View Notify®. These services allow her to choose the appropriate speed of delivery and track shipments. Her customers can find details about their order including a tracking number and the scheduled delivery date.
Nel attributes much of her success to UPS. Optimizing delivery times has saved Heidi's Heavenly Cookies more than $8,000. "UPS is not just a service provider, my account executive and drivers are like family," she said. "Not only have they saved us money, they literally saved my life," recalling the time a UPS driver saved her from an encounter with a poisonous snake.
One of Heidi's Heavenly Cookies policies mandates that shipments are delivered in two days or less. "Our customers need to receive their cookies at optimum freshness because our reputation depends on it," Nel says.
UPS offers a solution that enables shippers to intercept a package prior to final delivery. With UPS Delivery Intercept, a shipper can request UPS to intercept a package and perform one of the following actions: return to sender, deliver to another address or reschedule the delivery. Now it's easy for Nel to intercept a package that may be stuck in transit or delayed and have a fresh order of cookies sent in its place.
"Every customer has unique shipping requirements and Nel's needs were no different," Feraco said. "We worked together and developed a solution that minimized time in transit while keeping her freshness guarantee a top priority. It is an example of listening to our customers, understanding what they need and working with them to make it happen."