From Microchips to Chocolate Chips: The Founder of Doughp's Sobriety Journey | Intel Technology
(electronic music) - [Narrator 1] You're watching InTechnology, a videocast where you can get smarter about cybersecurity, sustainability, and technology. - Hi, I'm Camille Morhardt, host of InTechnology Podcast, and I wanna give a brief intro to the conversation we're about to play because it's a little bit different than some of our other ones. I am very happy to let you know I have Kelsey Moreira on and she is CEO and founder of a company called Doughp that makes legit cookie dough. So you're correct, this has nothing to do with technology, her company, but I got to know her when she was working at Intel and we were putting out a product together. She's very well-versed in technology and has a strong background there. She's also phenomenal at business and has been recognized for that by Forbes making the 30 Under 30 list, and she's also been in Shark Tank a couple of times.
She was so good at business that I don't think I was the only one who was surprised when she quit her job at Intel and started her own company based on her passion of baking. But her company, Doughp, does more than just produce the cookie dough. It's also heavily invested in every way you can think of in supporting people who are going through addiction recovery. I'm very happy to have Kelsey on. She herself is in recovery, and so she tells a very candid story and provides very candid advice to companies about how they can embrace and support all of their employees. She is also just really fun and humorous and has a ton of energy.
I don't know where it all comes from. And on top of all of that, she's pregnant, and so you'll hear us reference her unborn baby daughter, Olivia. Please enjoy the episode.
- Thank you. Thanks for having me. It's great to see you again. - And Olivia.
(Camille laughs) - Yes, don't forget she's on stage. She's just slightly out of view, but she's there. - Is it her first podcast? (Camille laughs) - It's her first podcast today. This is a big deal. - Woo-hoo! (both laugh) - You did it. It's awesome. - Alright. Kelsey, for anybody who doesn't know, is a serious star, she quit her job in tech, which was very sad to me, but probably a good thing for the world because she went and started this amazing company.
But tell us a little bit about your journey to get there. - It's funny 'cause it really all starts with Intel back in the day. You know, getting this chance to go work at Intel. I was just 16 years old when I started. I was a high school intern working, you know, part-time through the school years and full-time every summer.
It was an amazing opportunity that turned into a 10 year career at Intel from just such a young age. So what was an awesome opportunity to learn from amazing leaders much like yourself getting to work in your group there towards the end of my time at Intel, it was also really hard on my mental health, and I was struggling from a pretty early age with seeing my achievements and, like, what I was doing in the world as my self-worth and a way that I could get some attention. My parents are going through a divorce when I was six years old, and I feel like I saw the joy I could bring to them when I was doing good, and those connections got really strong. And so when I would get even a B on a test in school, I was in hysterics, you know, I just could barely take it. So fast forward to any performance review that where there was even the most minute sense of feedback, and I was distraught, like I had failed, you know? So I was really, really hard on myself, and for me, when I first found alcohol, I was 14 years old the first time I drank, and I drank till I blacked out the very first time. And I had this, like, for the first time ever since, like, I was everybody else.
Like, I didn't have to be on, and I was just carefree and relaxed and the life of the party Kelsey that could just, yeah, pretend like I was like everybody else and didn't have all this weight on me. So it started a pretty unhealthy drinking career over the years. I was able to mask it with this amazing career, you know, growing at Intel, great grades.
You know, I was something like 21 credits my first semester in college, got straight A's, and I was, you know, blacking out probably, like, five nights a week and still working at Intel part-time. So I was really able to mask it and still have this kind of, like, party life Kelsey that was going on in my personal life, but be all-on at work all the time. And so no one really knew, you know, the struggles I was going through behind the scenes. But in 2015, I made the amazing decision to finally get sober. I was on a business trip with Intel in Barcelona and just had the last hurrah, if you will, the last night and woke up that morning like, "I never wanna feel like this again. I'm so tired of apologizing for things I barely remember doing, and I wanna make a change."
So I got sober, and that opened up, like, the whole world to me. Like, got me to figure out who I am and what I love to do, and that is eat and make desserts, in large part. So that's really where it all started and formed into, you know, where I am today with Doughp. - So who was the first person you called? - Yeah, I called my nana first.
So she was 21 years sober when she passed away. And, you know, like many people who struggle with addiction or even just mental health struggles and you've got people who, you know, are worried about you and are reaching out through the years, like, with concern, she was probably the leader, cheerleader for that group for me, you know, writing me letters over the years, like, wanting me to get on the right path. So I called her that morning and said, you know, a short version of what had happened and that I was done and I wanted to get sober, and she was like, "Well, you better get your wee butt to a AA meeting" in her Scottish accent that I won't try and mimic right now. But very kindly just said, yeah, that she wanted me to find a meeting, and, like, I'm here for you, I'm gonna support you. And I did. I found an English speaking AA meeting that morning in Barcelona, made it through that seven day conference in my first seven days of sobriety, which is crazy.
And yeah, and flew home after that to literally feeling like my life was ending. You know, I had lost a relationship of four years at the time, had blown up, you know, with that night and everything just felt like it was falling apart. But you know, brick by brick, you just pick yourself up and get going and take the next step forward.
- So my favorite question from my daughter was, like, when did you know you'd made it? - Oh, that's so sweet. You know, I think the answer is honestly, you'll never feel like you made it, is what I'm learning. It's like making it is the journey, like, making it is realizing that everything I've learned to date is making it, is, like, worth it. But there's no finite point where I've been like, "this is it," you know? Because when you have this personality where you wanna keep building, you wanna keep growing, you know, I had no idea when I first started that it would be as big as it is now. Like, I remember calling my dad when we hit a hundred thousand dollars in sales, and I was like, "oh my god, we've sold a hundred thousand dollars of cookie dough," and now we're past 13 million in lifetime sales.
I mean, you just, the scale just gets so much bigger. But when you're in those moments, it's just where you are and, like, the next hurdle, the next obstacle, the next point to hit is just, you know, that's all I'm looking, that's all I've been really looking at as I keep growing it. So I've never been like, "this is it, we made it." You know, Shark Tank was pretty cool, but I didn't feel like, you know, "alright, I made it," you know, rest on my laurels. Like, it's hard work.
Running a food business is no joke, and the obstacles and the learning and the challenges just keep presenting themselves. So yeah, still going. I'll let her know if I end up feeling like I've made it one day. (Kelsey laughs) - Did you ever have a moment where you were, like, having to decide on sort of your morals or your conscience or your ethics or your, you know, code or whatever it is as opposed to some other kind of bigger step or offer or... - Mm, yeah, I mean, I've had some less than enjoyable experiences fundraising, you know, where you have to be like, this is inappropriate, and, you know, this is not someone I wanna take funding from and be okay with walking away from, you know, what would've been an amazing, like, life-changing access to capital and, you know, know that your morals and standards are more important than that. So there's been a little bit of that.
I'd say, you know, in the business world, one thing we've really had to stick with is, like, the decision for us with Doughp 4 Hope and how important the mission was gonna be for the company. It's really easy for businesses to say things have gotten too hard. Like, you know, we haven't been profitable for the last three years. Like, we've gotta cut costs. Like, we need to cut the mission. And for me, it's just been like, absolutely not.
Like, no chance are we letting that go. Not even willing to entertain changing it. Like, the amount that we donate, 1% of all of our sales, you know, we've had talks of, like, should we go to a percent of profits, and those things come up. Other people kind of bring it up when we're getting advised on our financial situation, and it's like, nope. Like, we can talk about cutting anything else, but, like, I'm just not cutting what we're doing with the mission.
It's like, it's the whole why I can keep going through how hard and challenging this is. Like, it keeps me going. It's, yeah, you really have to have, like, a north star for why you're doing what you're doing, and I know we're helping so many people, and I just, there was no way that I'm gonna sacrifice on that, so... - Mm-hmm, so tell us a little bit more about Doughp 4 Hope. - Yeah, so 2017, I was, you know, newly into business, maybe six months in, and we were getting our first, I can't really call this one a storefront 'cause it was a kiosk, but it was, like, a physical space, and we would no longer have to pack for events out of my apartment. So I was very excited it was gonna be a real, like, 10 by 10 space that was, you know, for Doughp.
A little cookie dough bar on Market Street in San Francisco. And the grand opening day was my two year sobriety anniversary, like, on the exact day. So on the Facebook event, I said if you say, "It's Doughp to be sober" at checkout, you'll get 20% off in honor of the founder's sober birthday. And I didn't expect to see much from this, but our DMs were just, like, filling up with people saying, you know, some that they were two weeks sober and wondering if I knew of any good meetings in the city. And another person was 13 years sober and telling me how he had never told anyone and it was really cool to see me sharing this publicly, and I just had such a light bulb moment then of, like, how alone I felt when I was going through it, and it took me a long time to say I'm ready to get sober.
'Cause I didn't wanna be different. I felt like I was gonna be the only one that had to deal with this, and why couldn't I just be like everybody else? And when you're newly sober, you know, and everyone else seems like they're drinking and everyone else seems like they have it together, this really reminded me that, like, I'm totally not alone. Like, there's a bunch of people out there who also feel like they're the only ones going through it, but we're all here, we're just quiet, and we've, you know, through a number of reasons in the past, this stigma that's surrounded it has made people want to stay quiet around it, that something was wrong with you if you needed to get sober, or you were, you know, a liability or a bad person.
And, you know, people would ask me, like, when I was early on, "if you're gonna fundraise, are you gonna tell investors that you're sober? You know, aren't you worried about what they'll think?" And I'm like, I can't wait to tell them I'm sober. Like, it's the coolest thing about me. It's like, hey, I saw something wasn't working in my life and I changed it, and look at all the great that's come from that. I mean, that's kick-ass. That's something you should be really proud to share.
And so Doughp 4 Hope was really how can I help break the stigma around mental health and addiction recovery and let people know it's okay to not be okay and really make an impact around it. So we do a bunch for our community, like, elevating the conversation, trying to make it easier to talk about, share real stories of real people going through it, helpful resources and all of that. We do, like, a Mental Health Monday text blast, for example. We just had another one this Monday that says, "Give us one high and one low from your last week." A real person's waiting to respond. And, you know, this is text to, we got something like 40,000 people in our text list, and we have hundreds and hundreds of messages and conversations that start from that with people who just didn't have anybody to ask them how they're doing, you know, and haven't really been able to stop and share what's been really hard on their minds.
But yeah, someone tweeted, like, "it's really cool to see Doughp, you know, cares about this, like, mental health could be so exhausting, and it's funny to see a cookie dough place doing it," and I'm always like, you know, "if not us, then who?" Like, it doesn't matter what we sell, we can try and make an impact. So the community is a big portion of it, and then inside the company is the next pillar for it. You know, really focused on not just being a business that's out there like, oh, we plant a tree for every blank, you know, or we do these things in outside world. I wanted to make sure that, like, it was also happening in the company. I wasn't just talking about how important mental health was, but I was letting my employees talk about theirs.
And so I made a really robust mental health policy early 2018 that rolled out, and I have a template of it on my website I share with other employers and founders just to get ideas going about how you could bring these conversations to light in the workplace. Doughp is a designated recovery-friendly workplace, which is a designation in something like 25 states now. They have a program here to help people understand how to build environments, let their employees bring their full selves to work across mental health, addiction, and suicide prevention as well. And then the last piece is donations. And honestly, I think Intel, a lot when I talk about this, that my time working for Intel showed me in many facets how a company can be totally for-profit, but gosh, look at all the good that they can do along the way.
I was the benefit of one of those Intel IASE trips, you know, got to go to the Philippines, and we were bringing technology to a school that had been devastated by a typhoon, and that was just such an incredible thing. Like, mind you, that was about a week after that Barcelona trip when I got sober. I'm not sure if you remember this, Camille, but it was a crazy whirlwind for me of, like, home for a week, and then that volunteer trip was coming.
- I didn't know you were going through the other side of it. I knew about the trips, but I never knew, like, the giant transformation that was happening in your life at that time. - Yeah, all overlapped, but kind of beautiful in a way that this trip was, like, take yourself out from all these things that, oh, it feels like the end of the world. And then you're seeing kids who are, like, just, like, almost in tears, excited seeing themselves on a webcam for the first time, you know, on a little tablet or something. So we decided to donate 1% of all of our sales company-wide to nonprofits that work in the space.
The last two years we've been partnered with the She Recovers Foundation. They're for women or those who identify with women's communities that are in or seeking recovery, and across lots of things, they have this phrase that, like, we're all in recovery from something. So life challenges, mental health, substance use disorder, whatever your thing is, they've got a community for it, and we've donated more than a hundred thousand dollars to date through Doughp 4 Hope, so... - That's very cool. So just on a personal note, is sobriety something that's, like, a daily struggle for you, or is it not a struggle? Is it, how would you characterize it? - You know, in the phase that I'm in in my life now, I live in a very small town in east Texas. I'm, like, three minutes away from my grandpa.
It's basically a retirement community. I'd say my median friend age is, like, 75. (Kelsey laughs) So my daily pressures to drink, like, I used to face when I was, you know, living in Portland when I originally got sober, or living, you know, in San Francisco for a time, mid-twenties, newly sober. Those were different. And it certainly was, like, really everyday reminders that I go a different path, and I wouldn't say there's a day that it doesn't come up.
You know, you go out to dinner, you go to a friend's house or anything and they're having beers and I just don't. I have a mocktail or some fun, you know, non-alcoholic drinks. So it's always on my mind.
And the scariest thing is, like, when you think you've beat it, you know, you meet people, I've met people who have, you know, 30 years of sobriety, and then one day, they're just like, you know, I think it's been long enough, I think it's fine and go back to it and, you know, as many stories go, like, it wasn't fine. You know, you still are the alcoholic inside, and I've just been able to, like, get much better with mental health, coping mechanisms and, you know, I call it, like, my mental health recipe card. What are the things I need to be doing to keep myself feeling good and feeling grounded and, yeah, it's just been that next first drink will never be worth it.
I just can't get there. - Whew, what amazing, amazing, amazing story. Like, really. Okay, who did you first bake with? - Gosh, first bake with, probably my mom. My mom is a, she's a really great cook but also loved to bake, and she had, this is poignant for Doughp because one of the things she would do with me after the divorce, like, when I'd be going back to her house, she had this cookbook called, like, "The Great Cookie Cookbook," and it was, like, a hundred cookie recipes, and so she'd be like, you can pick any recipe in here and we'll make it together, you know, this next week or whatever. So lots of baking with her, but then tons of baking with my nana over the years.
You know, when I was, first when I was young and then after getting sober, like, I have some really great memories. She passed when I was one year sober. So just after I'd hit a year. So she got to see Monster Baby Bakery when I was doing the baked goods, bringing stuff into the office at Intel, and enough folks like you saying, hey, you know, could you make something for my kids' birthday? I had a business pre-Doughp, you know, to do this at-home bakery.
So she got to see that, which was really awesome. - Mm-hmm, and so whose recipe is Ride or Die? That's your original recipe, right? - Yeah, the classic, so Ride or Die and the base recipe for that is what I've used for every flavor I've made since, you know, being able to adjust for what I wanna create. It really was, like, an on accident creation. So when I was moved down to San Francisco, it was maybe six to eight months sober or so, I got a new job inside of Intel to go down to the Santa Clara office, and like many people who transplant to the Bay Area, I tried being a vegan. I thought, like, you needed to do that to get, you know, initiated into the city. So in my attempt to be a vegan, which I totally failed at, if you just ate some Doughp, you know, there's butter in it, I did find a really great substitute for raw eggs, and so I was using this flax seed substitute, but starting to bake with butter again.
And so my cookie recipe that I'd been making, you know, probably for the last year or so since getting sober, at that time, I'd kind of stuck with this one chocolate chip cookie recipe. It was now safe to eat raw and able to be baked. So I was, like, saving a bowl of it to snack on through the week in my fridge and baking a few cookies when I wanted it, and yeah, that's when the light bulb went off. And amazingly, we have not changed the recipe in all these years. The only thing was, like, reducing the salt a little bit.
When you scale up a recipe to these large sizes, you often have to make quite a few changes. But the only thing we did was reduce the salt a little from my homemade version of it. And that's it.
It's the same Ride or Die for all these years, which is awesome. - Do you still bake? - I do, cakes and everything. I'm, like, the resident birthday cake maker around here.
So when someone's having a birthday or we're having a party, like, I love to make the layer cake still. I haven't gone as detailed as those panda cupcakes I made way back for your child's birthday back in the day. But yeah, I still bake, I bake cookies, so I, it's funny 'cause you start a company because you love to do something, and then very quickly, you're running a company not baking cookies anymore. I won't say very quickly, I was still sweating it out in the commercial kitchen for probably the first, like, year and a half or so, and then we moved to co-packers, and it's just, you know, scaled up from there with the production. So yeah, not doing it in my kitchen, but I try to make a point of keeping it as a, you know, personal hobby and still a big part of my, you know, who I am and what I love to do, that I got to discover in sobriety this little community that I live in with all these older people.
I'll just tell you this one quick, these old ladies think it's so funny when they start, you started hearing about Doughp, and, you know, it's big news, like, wow, this Shark Tank thing is, like, they're here in Hideaway, and they're like, "So you're making all that cookie dough in your kitchen?" Like, they think I'm producing all of the cookie dough here in Hideaway, Texas. I'm like, no, no, not anymore. Just, I could make you some, but no, we're not doing it all here. So they can't understand how you could run a company (Kelsey laughs) from not where you're producing it. (Kelsey laughs) - So where do you make it? - Yeah, it's all produced and fulfilled out of Las Vegas.
So when we transitioned from having storefronts, so I had San Francisco's Pier 39, and then we opened up on the Las Vegas strip, the Shark Tank episode in 2019 came out just after opening that store on the strip. You know, fast forward a year later, the pandemic hits and our e-commerce business was, like, skyrocketing. We went from, like, 30 boxes a month in November of '19 to 3000 a week in April of 2020. So our whole business model just, like, flipped on its head. You know, our storefronts were shuttered with the quarantine. We decided to shut down the San Francisco store, and by October of 2020, shut down the Vegas store.
So what I, you know, spent most of the second half of 2020 doing was getting our supply chain established with, Is, my husband had joined the company at that time, and, you know, getting everything set up to have manufacturing and fulfillment in Vegas there with us. And slowly but surely as like, you know, wheels started churning and things were moving, we were just, like, working from our home office every day going, "why are we still in Vegas?" You know, like, we don't actually need to be here when we're using, you know, these great partners that we've gotten set up. So we were able to move here to be close to my papa in Texas, and, yeah, let all the manufacturing and fulfillment live there.
Is goes back to visit the facilities probably, like, once a quarter now. - But you are still, I mean, like, you pointed out before, Olivia's been all over the place. You're traveling. What's, like, a day in the life or a week in the life for you? What does it look like now? - You know, the best thing about it compared to Intel life, right, of, like, going from corporate to what I do now is I literally can't tell you a, like, week in the life of Kelsey 'cause it's always different, like, depending on where I'm going or what I'm doing. I mean, the public speaking has been such a great component to pick up. Not only is it great for Doughp and you're, you know, getting more people to see the name, but getting to share my story and inspire people, you know, to make a change in their life.
Whatever it is, I feel so fulfilled. So that's been really fun to pick up. So a sprinkling of public speaking events. I'm going just to Dallas, not too far, but for a panel next week to speak. So there's a little bit of that that's been sprinkled in, sampling events for different companies. So lots of the travel's been with Costco.
They have us on a road show tour this summer, you know, going out four days straight, all the hours that Costco's open, telling people why this is life-changing cookie dough and you need to buy it and come and try it immediately. So it's high energy, very fun. I had to skip out on these final two because I am just too pregnant to make it happen. It was a lot for me. But yeah, you know, we've split the business operation, like, management between Is and I.
I handle more of the sales and marketing. So day-to-day office stuff for me is, you know, managing the marketing team, being the closer, you know, getting on when we can get a call with, you know, a new potential client, whether it's in food service or in retail. It's that kind of magic spark of being the inspiration. I run the product development as well. So all the dreaming of, like, what do we wanna do next? What's the roadmap for us for new product innovation? I make product briefs still all this time later, like I used to at Intel.
They're a little more fun. There's more exclamation points (Kelsey laughs) and a little more wild than what I used to do. But yeah, it's still lots of product marketing.
Just, I went from processor chips to chocolate chips, so... - You have always struck me as a very confident person. You've always been very competent, but you kind of, like, have a way of shining.
You have, bring a lot of energy and light and, you know, is that just innate? Have you ever, like, not felt confident and then it's a show you put on? Or is this just a natural, like, how you move through life? - I guess I would say it's like a self-fulfilling way of being, like, it propels itself. So the more, like, excited and energetic you are, like, the more pleasant interactions with other people are, you know, you're able to, like, exude something that helps other people feel more relaxed or comfortable or to laugh. Like, even when I meet someone who's quite grumpy or, like, you're on a customer service line or something with someone who's really just not having the best day, it's like, I really love, like, trying to see how I can help them laugh or, like, have a, you know, shake up from the monotony that, like, they've been going through.
So that's been a big part of it, I think, yeah, I have been kind of, like, this personality of, like, bright, bubbly confidence since I was little. Like, in the neighborhood, they used to say, like, Kelsey's gonna be the first female president. It was, like, the joke when I was growing up, like, you know, eight, nine years old. Like, I just was always a very curious kid, you know, asking lots of questions, like, wanting to learn and know and be a part of all the adult conversations. I was never afraid to talk to a stranger. I have very outgoing parents too, so I think I learned a lot of those ways of being from them that, you know, you don't have to be serious all the time.
They're fun and funny people. So yeah, I think that kind of, like, helped paved the way for me to know that it's okay to be like this and the confidence blend with vulnerability that, like, you know, has come so full circle into what I do with Doughp. That has also been so rewarding.
Like, the more vulnerable you can be, it lets someone else let their guard down and share something that maybe they wouldn't have otherwise. So, you know, when I'm sharing about my recovery journey on a call with a retail buyer who, you know, probably never has these kind of conversations with vendors, he is sharing about how his daughter, you know, just got sober two years ago, or is, you know, examples from investors who are saying, you know, their daughter or aunt or sister, whoever, you name it, you know, is struggling, and this kind of, this kind of barrier breaking of, like, we're all going through it. Like, we're all just humans. Yes, we all have these little roles and we're showing up to do these things, and, you know, you're an investor.
I'm trying, we're trying to work together, get this money, we're all human, and, like, if 1 in 12 Americans are in active recovery, chances are pretty high that, like, I'm talking to somebody who either is in recovery or has someone who's struggling too. So that's really helped me to feel even more confident in, like, owning my story, like, owning my decisions, owning who I am and knowing that, like, if I'm just myself, I'll attract the right people and, you know, have people around me who like who I am, then there was no, like, facade or mask to keep up. It's just, it just gets to be me, so...
- What's your number one sort of thought about motherhood? It's right around the corner. (Camille laughs) - I'm scared shitless. (Kelsey laughs) Yeah, no, it's right around the corner.
But this last year as we started to get a little bit more stabilized and, you know, we made it through the pandemic, we started to grow the retail channel. Like, things were feeling a little more secure, and this, like, biological clock just started ticking of saying, like, you need to be a mom, you've gotta do this. So I'm really excited. It's so fun. It's interesting to see how this little thing, big decision, but little thing can so drastically change how you view what's important in the world. You know, there's just no question of, like, we're gonna make this work and figuring out how to, you know, make my workload and what we need to do with Doughp work so that I can still, you know, care and spend time for and bond with our child. So yeah, I'm very excited is all I can say about it.
We'll see what happens. It's gonna be the wildest adventure yet, but I think I've got some good training with stress levels at Doughp, you know, overwhelm and running the company with my husband too. I think it's a lot more than some parents have when they first go into parenthood. We've certainly, yeah, been through some challenges together and learned how to communicate well, so I'm excited. - That's really, really cool. Congratulations, actually, on everything.
- Thank you. Thank you. Business baby and the real baby. - Yeah, yeah, and sobriety and all the rest of it coming into yourself and, like, growing up into such an amazing human. You've always been an amazing human, and, like, it's just really cool to see how cool you are and everything that you're doing to help other people.
So thank you, Kelsey Moreira, CEO and founder of Doughp: Legit Cookie Dough and so much more, Doughp 4 Hope. Thanks for joining today on the podcast. (upbeat music) - [Narrator 1] Never miss an episode of InTechnology by following us here on YouTube or wherever you get your audio podcasts. - [Narrator 2] The views and opinions expressed are those of the guests and author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Intel Corporation.