By Bárbara d’Oro
When Javeed Ahmed, 29, lost his job due to COVID-19 in April, he never thought that two months later he would be considering leaving it for good to sell chocolate chip cookies. Previously, he worked as a district store manager for a sales and marketing company but had been unable to work since the beginning of the pandemic in Ottawa.
Ahmed had been known for his baking skills among his friends, and it was because of a recipe that did not work out that his cookie business started. One day, a friend sent him photos of some cookies she made, and they were “horrendous,” says Ahmed. “She sent me the tray; it was flat. It looked like a map of the earth. That is how thin they were.”
Ahmed, who has a food page on Instagram, felt for his friend and decided to make batches of cookies for her and a few other friends around the city. “It was the beginning of Ramadan. We abstain from drinking water, eating food, and stuff like that, for religious reasons, and it is just nice after fasting all day to have a sweet.”
He drove to his friends’ houses to drop off treats. One of them posted a photo of the cookies on social media and tagged Ahmed’s food blog. The photo was a hit. People started asking where they could get those cookies.
“I did not think. Within 10 minutes I created a page, I designed the logo, I had one photo of a cookie that I had in my camera roll.” That photo was the first one Ahmed posted on the Jav’s Cookie CO. Instagram page, and that was how he got his first seven orders. He delivered them the next day and people started tagging Jav’s Cookie CO. on their photos. “Every time I would deliver, they would re-share, they would re-post, and I am like: This is something.”
Ahmed went from 10 orders a day to 60 orders in a matter of days. He is now making 700 to 800 cookies a day. “I bake from 1 in the morning to 5am, every single day, just because of the way that you bake cookies,” says Ahmed.
He sells 12 cookies in a box for $20, with delivery included. He has also launched a limited-edition peanut-butter chip cookie. “I never thought in a million years, at this age, that I would be doing something like this. I feel like there was nobody in the cookie game, so that is where I came in.”
But Ahmed’s baking skills might not be a coincidence. “It has always been in my blood, I guess. My mother is an amazing cook. My sister also owns a baking company in Ajax.”
He started working in retail when he was 13, studied biochemistry for two years in university, then switched to finance, but ended up pursuing a job in sales. Now, he might just have found the perfect combination.
“It is just a better fit for me because I like interacting with people, I like the challenge of selling, I like the money part of it, I like all of it. I honestly don’t think I will be looking back to my previous job.”
Cookie for a cause
Although Ahmed’s business is new, it did not take too long for him to want to give back. Inspired by a small bakery, he decided to donate all his profits from one day of work to help people in Yemen.
“I thought: You know what? I have been blessed with everybody just supporting me this much, what is one day? I can give away 100 per cent of my sales and it will help people that are starving in Yemen, because it is one of the biggest humanitarian crises ever,” says Ahmed.
He used the Jav’s Cookie CO. Instagram to promote “Fundraising for Yemen Day” and in one day he raised $1,100. “I had to physically stop taking orders. I stayed up 10 hours baking that night and then another eight hours delivering the next day. It was brutal, but totally worth it,” says Ahmed.
The best cookies in Canada?
Up to this point Ahmed has done everything himself: shopping, baking, marketing, and delivery. It takes about eight to nine hours to deliver all his orders.
For the near future, he is dreaming big. He wants to have a commercial kitchen set up in every major city in Canada, keeping the delivery system.
“People in different cities are already messaging me. People in Toronto: Hey man, come on, you don’t have cookies in Toronto? When are you coming to me?” says Ahmed. He has even received a message from someone in Chicago, asking if he will franchise the company. “I don’t want to expand too quickly, that is not a good thing, I don’t feel. I think it will crash and burn.”
But why are those cookies so good? He will not say.
“I can’t tell you that. I can tell you there is a lot of love that goes in them, a lot of passion. Honestly, it took me a while to come up with this recipe. I have had other cookie renditions before, but there was a lot of trial and error into this specific cookie. I cannot tell you what the secret is, but there is a special ingredient in there.”
When asked about the business’s success, he says that nothing would be possible without the support of Ottawa’s community.
“I could not do this without the support of my friends, family, the foodie community. Without asking I will post something, and they will re-share it to their page, instantly,” says Ahmed. “I will do my best to bring the best customer service, the best cookies, the best business. I want to make this the best cookie in the country.”
You can learn more about Jav’s Cookie CO. on Instagram.
Bárbara d’Oro is a journalist and vlogger originally from Brazil. She has freelanced for BBC Brazil, CBC and Globo international. You can see more of Bárbara’s work on her YouTube channel.