If you see a team of young men and women riding around in the middle of the night wearing orange jumpsuits, don’t panic. They aren’t prison escapees. They are actually employees of Sweet Idea — Boston’s only bicycle-driven late night cookie delivery service.
Operating out of CropCircle Kitchen, a shared kitchen space in Jamaica Plain, Sweet Idea is the vision of founder John Piermarini who, since quitting his job at IBM, has grown the cookie delivery service into a full-fledged business.
The idea is simple: five cookies for $5, delivered on a bicycle between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Currently, the service is only available at Tufts and Northeastern universities, but the goal is to expand to Boston University by Oct. 1, and one other college by the end of the year.
As a former IBM employee, Piermarini, 24, uses his background in software engineering to help grow his business. For instance, he’s developing a cross-platform Web application that will help cut costs and time. The app is designed to help manage inventory, purchasing, and allows multiple customers to call a single phone number and automatically dispatch the order to the appropriate delivery person.
Piermarini is originally from Acton but went to college at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he studied computer science. It was there that he first realized his vision to deliver late night cookies off the back of his bike.
Back then, the cookie delivery company was called 2 Cookies 1 Buck, and for its short presence on the Rochester campus, the business had made a name for itself. Piermarini graduated from RIT to move to Boston where he worked at IBM as a software engineer. Still, after working there for a year, he couldn’t get the cookie business out of his head.
“I had already been doing work to see how feasible it would be to get started while I was working at IBM,” Piermarini says. “So I decided if I really wanted to do this I’ve got to quit and that’s what I’m going to do."
So he did, and in January 2011 Sweet Ideas officially opened.
Piermarini now works full-time for the business and has made enough money and cookies to hire not only more cyclists, but engineers to build bike modifications for the cyclists (the cookies, he says, are sometimes a form of payment).
“Right now, we’re working with two engineers from Tufts who are building up lights for the bikes and doing all this awesome, cool [stuff],” he says. “We just let their imagination run wild and if we think it’s something that can help promote the business then we’re just like ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ ”
One of the projects the engineers are working on is a cookie cooling system that can be affixed to the back of the cyclists' bikes. It's projects like these that inspired the name “Sweet Idea” in the first place — it's the embodiment of a sort of entrepreneurial spirit.
“One of the reasons why I called the business Sweet Idea is because we really believe in the ideas of young college kids,” he says. “Lots of kids out there, they don’t get an opportunity to explore what they’re interested in in college because they don’t get to apply some of these ideas. We want to help encourage people to do what they really love.”
For Piermarini, that “love” consists of baking cookies and delivering them to people in the middle of the night. And after a year of doing this, Sweet Idea doesn’t just help pay the bills — it pays the bills. Piermarini couldn't be more excited about it.
"I am absolutely certain it was the right choice," he says of his decision to break from IBM to start this business. "It’s been almost a year and a half since I left, and I’m so happy that I took the plunge. This could still end tomorrow and I would still say it’s the right choice."
This program aired on September 26, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.