Entrepreneur Profile: Pamela Derr

Pam Derr - Chips & Doodles

Chips & Doodles

Pamela Derr started small-batch bakery Chips & Doodles after years building a reputation – the cookies she made for her husband’s customers always won rave reviews. As her children grew, it evolved into bringing a piece of home to college students, many whom were away from home for the first time. Today, her company was recently named the new cake service provider for the University of Notre Dame.

“My goal was to kind of start small while my kids were still in school and then grow once we became empty nesters,” said Pam. “And that’s kind of where we’re at now.”

The name stems from the first two items Pam made – Chocolate Chip and Snickerdoodle cookies. Since moving from a home base to a commercial kitchen, she’s since expanded her offers to include a variety of sweet treats, including brownies, cakes and even ice cream sandwiches, in partnership with South Bend Challah Company. Her baked goods can be ordered online and found in a variety of local shops.

As her son started school at the University of Notre Dame, Pam found a new market for her cookies.

“People were looking for baked goods on the parent page,” she said. “I put out there that I had a local business. I was a class of 2026 mom and I’ve been baking a lot for birthdays, for students that are away from home for the first time. Their parents want to do something special.”

Pam adds a balloon with a card from the family and delivers the gift to the student. She will ask the recipient if she can take a photo to send back home. So far, she has never had a student say no.

“I feel so blessed that my son is 20 minutes away,” she said. “I have done cookies for families that live in Puerto Rico, as well as California and Hawaii. It’s just such a blessing that I’m able to pass that on to the families. It’s so much more than just using real butter and real vanilla. I’m trying to give that fresh-made from scratch, baked just for you personal touch that you know that the parents are not able to give right now.”

Chips & Doodle’s new partnership with the University of Notre Dame will allow her to continue to serve students and families, but on a larger scale. The cake service is run out of the Student Activities Office, and will support student activities on campus, while employing undergraduates.

One of Pam’s featured items is printed cookies. Using edible ink, the printer places the image directly on the cookie.

“I make a sugar cookie and put royal icing on it and then it prints directly on the cookie,” she said. “There’s a few other bakers in this area that do it, but it’s a little bit different than what other people offer. I’ve printed a photo my son took of the Golden Dome, and it is as clear as if you printed it on paper.”

A life-long resident of South Bend, Pam’s first kitchen experience was watching her mother baking at home. The first year Pam made cookies for her husband’s customers, she hand-decorated cutout cookies, all while staying at home with her toddler.

“I did snowmen with the brooms and the hats and all that,” Pam said. “And I was like, ‘I’m never doing that again!’”

This led to her perfecting her chocolate chip and snickerdoodle recipes, allowing her to focus on the cookie and not the decoration. By the time she opened the bakery, Pam was making one hundred dozen cookies for her husband each year.

Pam has participated in both the Saint Mary’s College SPARK Business Accelerator and the HustleSBE program.

“I learned a lot, kind of fine tuning it in person,” she said. “Having that face-to-face time to bounce questions off of each other and hear other people in the room talking about things, learning from all of that and feeling that common ground.”

She has found one of her biggest struggles as an entrepreneur is persistence and having confidence in herself and her business.

“One time, I was told ‘You’re a professional baker,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t think that,’” she said. “But I have made hundreds of thousands of cookies. I guess that does play into it, but I’ve always had a struggle with that and believing that people really like my product, but here we’re going on six years, and I’ve gained somewhat of a following.

For more information on Chips & Doodles, visit www.chipsanddoodles.com.