Reaching Goodness One Cookie at a Time

Alan Goodman learned to bake under duress.

As a child, after lying about his whereabouts after school – playing basketball instead of going to the library – he paid his penance by helping his mother in the kitchen. But his punishment had unintended consequences: he started to enjoy it, and soon graduated to baking using family recipes.

Capitalizing on his baking skills and passion didn’t cross his mind until nearly 40 years later when he attended a friend’s dinner party, bringing homemade bread pudding as a dish to pass. 

“When it was time for dessert, my friend pulled me to the side. He said, ‘Look at everyone tasting your dessert. Look at how happy they are. You should be selling this.’  That was the first time that I thought about baking as a business,” he says. 

But the entrepreneurial spark wasn’t quite ready to ignite. Nearly a decade later, the long hours of his corporate job caught up to him and he quit to pursue baking as a passion project. He researched what it meant to be a successful entrepreneur, and, finding inspiration in young entrepreneurs in Milwaukee’s African American community, started A Goodman’s Desserts in 2018.

Using his treasured family recipes, two scratch-made desserts were added to the menu: a glazed butter cookie, and his famous bread pudding.

The inefficiencies of opening a brick-and-mortar bakeshop didn’t sit right with Goodman, a Lean practitioner. He opted for an e-commerce model with a retail rollout strategy, working to fulfill orders from a rented commercial kitchen.

Like many entrepreneurs, Goodman has had no shortage of roadblocks to overcome: gaining customers and credibility, funding (“That’s always an issue”), and maintaining confidence and perseverance, especially as a self-proclaimed introvert.

“Even though I have run a business or two, it’s vastly different on my own. It’s not as simple as taking a product from your kitchen to retail – there are many steps in between,” he explains. “And you won’t be able to accomplish those tasks on your own. I had to abandon that mindset quickly.” 

Introversion hasn’t stopped Goodman from scaling up. He has three pitch competition wins under his belt: Rev-Up MKE in 2019, Project Pitch It in 2022, and the AARP Make Your Move Entrepreneur Contest, which earned him a meeting with celebrity entrepreneur Daymond John.

His devotion to basketball also came full circle when he secured the Milwaukee Bucks as a customer during the 2020-21 Championship season, which Goodman calls “a dream come true.”

While success has seemingly come quickly for Goodman, he considers owning a business “one of the hardest and scariest things [he has] ever done” and says more can be done to support his and other local Black-owned businesses.

“Get to know us,” he urges. “Find out why we have our businesses, our vision, and what motivates us. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy. By supporting our businesses…you’re helping us to employ local residents who want to make an honest living and improve their lives.”

And of course, purchases and referrals go a long way. “Recurring purchases help us stay in business,” Goodman says. “When you like something, be an advocate for us.”

As the volume of orders continues to grow, Goodman is transitioning into a co-manufacturing arrangement and moving to selling wholesale. This new era of his business will free up time in the kitchen, allowing him to do what’s most rewarding – forging relationships.

“I want customers to eat a good dessert and feel good and happy as a result. And to take those good feelings and serve someone else,” he explains. “We need more goodness towards each other. That brings me joy.”

Emily Allen, FaB Wisconsin

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