Todd Goldstein, founder of Whoa Dough, is a Cleveland based entrepreneur and foodie. After Goldstein and his two young sons were diagnosed with gluten intolerance Todd felt an increasing desire to create a gluten free treat the whole family could enjoy.
After a year and a half of research and development, Whoa Dough was launched, it was the perfect answer to anyone that would say healthy snacks always sacrifice taste and texture. This delicious treat proved to fill a hole in the market for all those cookie dough lovers, with real food allergies too, Whoa Dough provided a snack that was not only gluten free, but dairy free, soy free, egg free, and non-gmo. It is a real cookie dough bar that is meant to be eaten on the go and made with real ingredients.
Listen in to hear more of Todd's fantastic journey and find out even more about Whoa Dough.
Transcript of Episode 5:
You're listening to the nothing but good podcast, a show that believes you should know where your food comes from, or more specifically, who it comes from. Each week, we bring you new interviews with the makers and founders of the brands you love so you can see how they came to be and what makes them different. We focus on telling the stories of emerging brands and brands who are committed to using better for you ingredients. In the snacks they create every episode of the nothing but good podcast is brought to you by Oh goodie box, a snack box subscription service that sends healthier snacks directly to your home or office. So that you have the fuel you need to make your greatest impact each day. Order your first box at ohgoodiebox.com and use code PODCAST for 15% off your first order. That's ohgoodiebox.com and code PODCASTS for 15% off your first order. Now grab a snack and let's get to today's show.
Well, Todd, thank you so much for being on the show. For anyone listening or watching, would you mind introducing yourself and a little bit about what you do? And then we'll kind of dig in.
Sure, my name is Todd Goldstein, the founder of Whoa Dough. We make a line of gluten free plant based cookie dough bars that start at 140 calories.
That is so good. You think cookie dough and you think a lot more than 140 calories. So that's nice. And before we get into Whoa Dough? What were you doing before you created this delicious cookie dough bar.
So, I was a founder of a co-working space in Cleveland called Launch House where I started in 2008 as a place to bring entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers and investors together into one single space to help people get their start today. Actually, Whoa Dough is based out of launch house, which is about a 20,000 square foot space and Highland Heights, Ohio a suburb of Cleveland.
So do you still have a launch house for Whoa Dough?
Yeah, so our launch house still operates today, it's very much a space of just entrepreneurs, small growing businesses, as I said, you know, in a suburb outside of Cleveland, but it's really the center of entrepreneurship, that kind of activity in northeastern Ohio.
that is so cool. And what kind of led you to start the lunch house?
So I was originally from Cleveland, I moved away to go to college, and I came back. And when I came back, I recognized that a lot of my peers and other people were not staying in Cleveland, they were moving to other cities across the country that are more thriving like Austin, like Boston, like LA. And I really wanted to create a place that would draw people back to Cleveland. I felt that entrepreneurship was a really good way to do that and especially there's a low cost of living, great access to resources. and so in 2008, I started launch house as more of a mission driven organization. And it's kind of grown from just a mission to actually being a full fledged co working incubator space where whether you have an idea, or you have a small business, or even some fortune 1000 companies and fortune 500 companies use our remote workspace for their employees.
Gosh, that is so cool. I love that it all started with just a love for your hometown. That's so cool.
Yeah, it's just you know, I just want to find a way to make a difference and do my part to help bring people back or help people start their own business and make a difference. I'm not sure I ever thought launch house would still be here looking back on it, because it was really just me 25 years old, just trying to make a difference. And you know, over the years, we really figured out how to make an impact, but also found a way to be sustainable.
Gosh, I love that. And then where in that journey, you already have this successful incubator for people to come to and what kind of brought Whoa Dough to life? What made you think to even get into the food industry?
Sure. So as a kid, my family owned a restaurant. And from the age of five, I used to go down there and help and I'd work with the baker and I would eat as much baked goods or raw baked goods as I possibly could. I was always super sick as a kid. I remember every time I would eat, I'd be sick. And then in 2011, I got diagnosed with severe gluten intolerance. And so at Launch House, not only are we a co-working incubator space, we also made investments in small early stage companies. So at the time, we started looking at better for you food products, and it really kind of changed it now that I have this new diagnosis having to go gluten free myself, always being a junk food eater changed the way I started eating myself and started looking at different companies in the food space. Between 2011 and by 2018 we were involved in investing and even involved in the food space at a higher level. But then 2015 and 2017, two of my three boys were born and they both have severe gluten intolerances and so I was really looking around the marketplace and recognize that there are a lot of candy bars out there. There are a lot of protein bars. You know, everyone loves cookie dough, but it really was not an option for the 50 million people out there that suffer from some sort of allergy but I did a lot of research. I recognize that if you want cookie dough and even if there for the healthy cookie dough, it's out there you need a spoon in a cup. That's not really the best way to eat cookie dough on the go. So we decided that we were going to make a plant based cookie dough bar that was really gluten free allergen friendly and can be eaten on the go.
I love that so much as someone who has recently gotten into gluten free. I haven't been tested, but just during my self diagnosis, I'm pretty sure that I'm also gluten free and have a gluten intolerance. You grew up eating the sweets, your whole life eating these baked goods your whole life. What was the moment when you realize that you needed to be tested? How did you, for anyone listening, what was that turning point where you thought “wait, something's wrong”?
So I was out for dinner with my really close friend, Dennis. And we had just had two loaves of bread. The next day, he asked “Oh, you want to go out tonight?” I was like, I'm so sick, I cannot go out. And his wife had just been diagnosed with gluten intolerance as well. And he's like, you really should go gluten free. And I was like, Oh, I don't know, think 2011 Right? Celiac gluten allergy was very much on the fringe. Yeah. And so, literally, he said that to me. And I said, you know, something, I've got nothing to lose my whole life I would eat, I would indulge, I'd be sick. And again, I gotten so used to it that I was like, Okay, it's just part of my life. But then once I stopped eating gluten, stop putting that in my body. I just felt so much better. Every time I would eat I went from always having stomach ache to feeling perfectly fine. And so once you kind of have that transition in your life, sure, you have to give up some of the things you love. But at the same time, your body, your mind, everything feels so much better. And really for me that was the turning point.
I love it. I do think it's fair to mention that it's a trade off. But the trade off is worth it that you actually get more energy, a clearer head, you just feel better. I don't know I feel so much better. For your kids, how did you find out that they had gluten intolerance? Did you guys actually do a test? Or did you kind of do the self diagnosis like, Oh, hey, we gave them bread and they're not feeling well.
So for my son Henry, we actually had him tested and he was diagnosed right away. And then my son Grayson, and it was just kind of once you know, myself, my son Henry than my son, Grayson, and we're like, okay, great so we're just gonna go gluten free because I suspect he's gonna have the same issue. And then my son Robbie, who's now a little over one, we're just assuming he has a gluten intolerance as well. So we just kind of decided, you know, something, we're, kind of already there. You know, as they get older with Grayson and Robbie, we may try introducing some gluten back to see what happens. But we're pretty certain that all three of them have gluten intolerances.
That makes sense. If you and two out of three, I'm gonna put the money on the third.
I do feel terrible, because I do know it's my fault. Right. It’ll hurt you know, it is known that it can be hereditary and so is probably my fault. Right? Not that it’s truly my fault it’s my gene pool.
Oh, don't carry that load. Well, gosh you created them a delicious treat that they can enjoy one day. So with Whoa Dough what's the response been? You had this idea to put cookie dough into a bar form that anyone could enjoy? How did the market respond to that?
So we officially launched in November of 2020. And it's been a really strong acceptance in the market. We sell both on Amazon and on our website, and we're in about 500 retail locations nationwide and so they're very, very well received because who doesn't love cookie dough? And then for the people that are out there, they can't have cookie dough. They're like, Oh my God now here's a treat that I can actually enjoy and I can enjoy all of the flavors that is with Whoa Dough, we have six flavors. So think about all your favorite cookie dough indulgent flavors, chocolate chip brownie batter, sprinkles, sugar, peanut butter, chocolate chip and peanut butter. If you're a sugar cookie person, we have a product for you. If you're a peanut butter person, or if you just want your traditional chocolate chip or brownie batter which are my two personal favorites we offer that. These have been very well received specially the gluten free plant based market but really just for anyone who wants a better for you on the go indulgent treat what was kind of like your go to.
I love it and I love that you mentioned the different flavors to when you think of well when I think of cookie dough, I just immediately think of chocolate chip like that was my favorite cookie dough. It's still my favorite cookie dough. So I love that there's a bar for everyone. And when you came back from college, you started this incubator and then you started Whoa Dough. So what's it like kind of managing the two worlds? It kind of sounds like you're a little bit of a serial entrepreneur. So how's it going? You have these three boys at home like how do you manage all of the things you know?
Launch House is more of an established organization and through launch house kind of afforded me the opportunity to be involved with other ventures as well. So while Whoa Dough is the first food company I've started from the ground up I had the opportunity involved with other foods, especially plant based businesses. And you know, it's been really exciting. I mean, for me to actually take an idea that I created and then actually get it to the market and really have an impact not only on my family's life, but other people's, that's really what's most rewarding, knowing that I'm giving this treat to someone who typically beforehand could not have it. You know, being a small brand. There's lots of challenges that happen every single day where, you know, launch house, we've been around for a long time, we're an established brand, established here in northeastern Ohio. And, you know, it's kind of, I know what I'm getting into every day, we're Woah Dough. Every day is different. So there's good and bad to that. But I really do like the challenge of it. And I feel very confident about the impact we're making. I look forward to not only just having our cookie dough bars, but we have a lot of future products in store in our pipeline.
So exciting. Well, gosh, Todd, I think those are all of the questions I had for you. But was there anything else about Whoa Dough that you wanted listeners to know, they should all be getting Whoa Dough in their January box and we'll send them all to your Instagram and your website so that they can reorder but anything about the brand, the mission that you want them to know, before I let you go?
No, I mean, I think it's really just you know, we're appreciative of you putting our bars in the box. We're appreciative of everyone who purchases the boxes, you know, really, if you'd like Whoa Dough, please go to social media, please tell your friends, please tell your family. You know, it's really about making a difference in people's lives. And we believe that's what Whoa Dough is for the people who can't have your typical cookie dough. So we just want people to snack happy.
I love it. I will say my cousin has celiac disease. And when I got this, the first sample of Whoa Dough, I was like, Oh, you gotta try this. And she was so excited. She loves it. She's like, where did you find this? So anyway, it really is. It really is just fun to see her get to experience something that she hadn't really gotten to enjoy in the past.
Yeah, no, that's, super exciting. I just love hearing that story. Yeah, I think the toughest thing at Whoa Dough is how to find those people. Right? So being a really small brand, having a very small budget. How do you find all the people out there that have gluten allergies or need to be plant based or candied egg or soy or dairy? And so I think it's, you know, this, the connections with you and others, allows us that opportunity to get our product in so many people's hands. And we're just confident that once people try it, they'll love it.
Yeah, what's not to love it so good. Thank you for listening to this episode of The Nothing But Good podcast. We hope you enjoyed today's show. And if you did, we'd be so grateful if you could leave a review and share this episode with your friends. Before you go. Make sure you're subscribed so that you are always the first to know when a new episode is released. And don't forget to follow @ohgoodiebox on Instagram, so you can get an even deeper look into how we decide which products get placed in our snack boxes. Last but not least, visit ohgoodiebox.com and make sure you use promo code PODCAST for 15% off your first box. Links to everything are in today's show notes. Until next time, happy snacking.