One smart cookie—founder of RubySnap Cookies, Tami Steggell, is committed to her customers and to her communityAug 08, 2023 03:49PM ● By Ella Joy Olsen
She may cook sweet, but the gal’s got grit.
Tami Steggell is the founder of RubySnap Bakery where daily she bakes and serves up cookies. It is her dream job and may sound like the sweetest gig in the world, but Steggell worked hard, and continues to work hard, to make it so.
Steggell’s father was a Marine, and as such, she grew up all over the world. She calculated that she’d moved 21 times by the time she was 18 years old. At about age 15, her family was living in Saudi Arabia, and she decided to move back to the States for educational opportunities.
She finished high school and went on to get her degree in Architectural Design from BYU. After that, she spent 15 years in the industry. At that time she was an avid cyclist, training all week, and on her one day off she wanted nothing more than something wonderful to eat. She’d think about it all week, because “every edible moment meant something to me,” but invariably the sweets she found would taste like nothing but sugar.
That’s when she started baking for herself, experimenting with seasonal ingredients like beets, rhubarb, cherries, mint and vanilla beans sourced directly from Bali. Her own cookies were “worth her time and calories,” sweet-talking her architectural clients with a batch of fresh-baked was a success, and she thought maybe she had created something special.
In 2008, she quit her job, cashed out her IRA and opened the flagship store at 770 S. 300 West, in an area that is becoming the redeveloped and cool Granary District, but back then it was surrounded by industry and empty store fronts. Still, she liked the vibe of the place and it was rent she could afford. With sweat equity, she gutted the building and opened the doors. And the customers came.
Thankfully, the cookie didn’t crumble
That’s not where the story ends, and things haven’t always been sweet.
At conception, the company was named Dough Girl, a name Steggell had copyrighted, but Pillsbury sued anyway, as the name was a little too close to Dough Boy for their liking. Steggell decided she could be stuck in the courtroom proving she was right, or she could continue her dream journey, baking great cookies. She opted out of a lengthy legal battle and it took her $50,000 to rebrand to RubySnap, but her customers and the community responded and rallied behind her.
By 2018, RubySnap had expanded to five stores, a couple out of state, but Steggell realized with all the expansion, she and her crew had been working harder, not smarter. Her life was unbalanced. It was a hard decision, but RubySnap closed all but their flagship store and pulled out of 165 retail outlets, getting back to their core priorities.
And now we have the Salt Lake “Cookie Wars.” There is fresh cookie competition and it’s getting heated, as Crumbl, Dirty Dough and Crave battle it out in the bakery and in court. RubySnap is out of the legal fray, but when asked about the pop-up cookie shop competition on the South Valley Chamber Podcast, Steggell wasn’t worried, “Competition forces ingenuity, an evaluation of your product and priorities, and the people who win are the consumers.”
Change and innovation keep it fresh for this smart cookie
Steggell has a passion for fresh produce in season. She builds the flavor of her cookies through real ingredients and no preservatives: strawberries in the spring, peaches during harvest, citrus in the winter. She is always experimenting with new flavor palates and wants the seasonal options to taste “pulled from the garden.”
Each day visitors to the store are able to choose from 22 different types of cookie, and the choice isn’t easy. Eighteen are menu/customer staples, two are seasonal specialties, and two are show-off cookies, made with a variety of unusual ingredient combinations. Each cookie is named after one of the “We Can Do It” women of World War II, who Steggell so admires and who are a part of the RubySnap brand.
There’s the Ellie, a gluten-free (you’d never know it) topped with seasonal peaches, created in honor of a former employee with significant dietary restrictions. There’s the Sophia made with passion fruit and hibiscus, the Margo with chocolate cinnamon dough and a milk chocolate mint center, and the Trudy, an old-fashioned chocolate chip girl. All in all, Steggell says they have developed and baked over 90 different recipes.
For those who don’t live close to the flagship store, frozen dough can be found at Harmons, Lee’s Marketplace and Whole Foods across the state. And for this next holiday season, RubySnap is creating a dry cookie mix for baking and gifting with flavors like eggnog and chocolate peppermint.
Something else to chew on
Steggell is the mom of seven and a new empty-nester. This left her with a tiny crumb of extra time, and because one cannot live on cookies alone, Steggell started Bite Me Industries @bitemeindustries, an Instagram account where she creates one-minute tutorials of what she is cooking in her own kitchen. She films an actual dinner-in-the-making, edits the footage to a bite-sized portion and posts the segment with an ingredient list and instructions.
Her goal is to demystify a meal. Recipes include favorite salad dressings, mains, greens and grains salads, desserts (of course), and other recipes using all things seasonal.
Bite Me Industries started as a hobby and morphed quickly into a monthly cooking segment on KSL Studio 5, and a teaching gig at Orson Gygi.
A cookie to share with the community
Since RubySnap cookies are made fresh with no preservatives, at the end of each day unpurchased product is boxed and frozen for donation. Anyone can request cookies, but the company rule is that a donation must go toward a good cause. Recipients are places like the Ronald McDonald House, Primary Children’s Hospital, unhoused family shelters, nonprofit preschools and various adult rehab sites. Steggell was told that attendance at several of the rehab sites is higher on the days they deliver, as the cookies provide a sweet reason to show up.
And new this year at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum, kids can try their hand at working at a pretend RubySnap Bakery in a play kitchen complete with ovens, cookie sheets, and plastic cookies and frosting. RubySnap provided ideas and branding for the kitchen, and dollars toward the project. Annually, Steggell and RubySnap donate more than $165,000 to the community, a big bite for a small company. λ