So we’re standing there and Jerita Howard, the proprietress of this kitchen, slides a baking tray out from the cooling rack and with a spatula she deftly removes a cookie and offers it to her visitor. And there it is—all red velvet and white chocolate, almost too hot to eat but not quite. Soft and chewy and oh-so-delicious.
This is the bakery of One Smart Cookie—maybe better thought of as onesmartcookie.com, because it’s more online store than retail shop. The public doesn’t come here at all, in fact. Jerita Howard’s creations depart from here in delivery vehicles and, even more often, in express shipment packaging.
“When I started this business five years ago I wanted to target college students,” Howard said. “The idea was that parents could get cookies delivered to their kids.”
But she found there was no reliable way of contacting those parents with her message. So she turned to targeting businesses. And that’s when things took off.
“I contacted businesses about ‘client appreciation gifts.’ Today, 75 percent of my business comes from corporate clients.”
Most of the goods stay in Texas, but Howard does ship all over the world. Her main product is a gourmet cookie gift package: either two dozen cookies or two dozen brownies, or some combination of each. Her recipe is one handed down from her great-grandmother.
“This business has been very rewarding,” Howard said. But the No. 1 thing is, I did not spend a lot of money to start it. I didn’t get any kind of loan. Just started with used equipment and worked myself day and night researching how I wanted my website to look. As my business grew, I would add another oven. Maybe a new mixer. One thing you need, too, is to use only the finest ingredients. I never scrimp there. Only real butter. The finest chocolates. The finest vanilla.”
College students and foreign (Bhudanese) refugees are the main labor pool for Howard, who likes the college students as seasonal hires for their creative flair and the refugees for their good-heartedness and their grasp. (“You tell them once and they get it. They’re like sponges.”) It was a year ago that she started assisting refugees at her church, Southern Hills Church of Christ. The stories she heard from them about refugee camps were heart-wrenching. When she gave jobs to some of the individuals, she found them to be “a godsend”—smart and conscientious.
Howard herself is, in the words of her longtime friends, a unique individual. Dr. Virginia Connally says that “everyone considers Jerita their best friend. She is
intelligent, decisive, resourceful, untiring, optimistic, caring, beautiful, and humble.” Rhonda Dolt, who has mentored Howard, calls her “bold and spiritual, with a confidence that is attractive.” She laughs. “And she has lots of chutzpah!” And Deonna Galbraith, a friend of 20 years, says she has known Howard through ups and downs, and that her friend “has always retained her sweet spirit.”
Sweet spirit, yes, and now another kind of sweetness as well.
“Jerita uses her cooking to spread her sweet spirit around,” Dolt added.