While many college students balance a hectic schedule of work and school, few can imagine that workload included in creating their very own business.
Yet that’s exactly what Scott Davidson, 26, did during his sophomore year at James Madison University.
Starting in a small basement workspace in Harrisonburg, Va., Davidson created the now late-night staple Campus Cookies, which eventually expanded to Virginia Tech in 2010.
“It didn’t get very big until a year or two into Blacksburg,” Davidson said. “But the Hokie culture and community definitely took me in.”
The inspiration for the business came from a natural entrepreneurial spirit. While Davidson began at JMU as a computer information systems major, he ultimately transitioned to studying management.
“I did the lemonade stand thing as a kid,” Davidson said. “And I did some smaller types of attempts before this that didn’t end up panning out. I just felt like I had a lot of free time on my hands, and I was ready to do something. It grew, and I just kept throwing myself at it.”
While Davidson has considered going back to school to pursue his MBA, he’s currently devoting all his time to Campus Cookies and, particularly, its newest expansion in the Charlottesville area, which opened this past fall.
“I feel like I live on 81 because I’m always in transit,” Davidson said, explaining his residence in both locations. “I know that interstate like the back of my hand.”
With Davidson’s focus on creating a strong foundation at the new store, the Campus Cookies in Blacksburg has undergone some staff changes. Brooks Aker, a junior accounting and information systems major, has taken on the position of general manager.
“I started out as a delivery driver last spring,” Aker said. “I told Scott I was interested in being more involved, so he came to me and offered me the
However, Davidson still remains an active player in his business. He regularly attends team meetings, which happen three-to-four times a semester, at the different locations.
“I’m very protective,” Davidson said. “It’s my baby — triplets, actually.”
Breaking into the Charlottesville market has also created a new dynamic between the locations.
“One thing I’ve developed is called ‘Game Day,’” Davidson said. “It’s a competition between the three stores based on different performance variants, so they can see how well we’re doing on average delivery times and revenue. We play off the rivalry.”
When questioned about his favorite location, Davidson answered diplomatically, explaining that Campus Cookies is always neutral. However, he added that he loves tailgating with the Hokies.
Regardless of the campus, the business philosophy is about providing more than just a product.
“The whole thing for us is about creating an experience,” Davidson said. “It’s not just about the cookies — it’s about creating something much bigger.”
Aker agreed, noting that receiving positive feedback from the customers makes all the difference. He said the little things like a “You made my night” or a “Thank you” make his job rewarding.
“Even though it’s just a simple gift, it really does brighten people’s day,” Davidson said. “There are parents sending from afar. That’s emotion, and that’s important. You want to make sure you’re taking care of (the customers) the best you can.”
Campus Cookies continues the theme of positivity by getting involved and helping out around the various campuses.
“We generally donate around 5,000 cookies every semester,” Davidson said. “We like being a part of the community.”
The store will continue this trend and will be represented at Tech’s upcoming Relay for Life, with one special addition to the brand.
“We’re getting a cookie mascot made,” Davidson said. “It helps us be able to trigger people to see who we are.”
Several other important events are on the horizon for Campus Cookies as well, including exam week and Customer Appreciation Day, which is April 20.
In the store’s more distant future, serious work remains. Whether it’s securing business in Charlottesville or scouting out further expansions, Davidson and his staff continue to strive for growth.
“We’re definitely doing big things,” Davidson said. “There are areas I’m looking into and making moves on.”
While expanding outside the state is a possibility, Davidson acknowledges competition from similar chains makes a nationwide venture unlikely.
“I definitely think the market will be saturated in five years,” Davidson said. “It’s not like a Dominos or something, where we’re pulling revenue in all times of the year. We close for summer and spring break, so we really do have to make it busy and kill it every night.”
However, the real-life business experience is a part of what makes Campus Cookies desirable to some students looking for employment.
“I’ve absolutely loved working at Campus Cookies,” Aker said. “It’s been a good exposure to a real-world business and how everything works.”
Davidson attributes the store’s success to a dedication to detail.
“I definitely think the smallest things go the (distance), whether it’s just putting confectioners sugar on the brownies or drawing a smiley face on the box,” Davidson said.
While Campus Cookies now employs over 40 workers between the three branches, Davidson still retains some of the mentality from the days when it was a solo project.
“I’m the janitor; I go in there and clean the toilets,” Davidson said. “It’s the one thing people don’t like to do, and I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Despite the inevitable nights of long work ahead, Davidson remains positive and optimistic.
“I definitely think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “It’s all about making people happier.”