Born from a yearning for home-grown comforts, Cookie DPT is a startup offering soft, gooey and incredibly indulgent cookies to Hong Kong.
For the next edition of our Startup Life series, we took a moment (with cookie in hand) to chat with Founder Wil Fang to follow his story which stems from a career in fashion and lifestyle.
The brand already has a cult following on Instagram with cookies selling like hot cakes across Hong Kong. And if you have yet to try them, then you can do so at numerous venues including The Upper House pop-up and Hong Kong’s newest food hall concept BaseHall, as well as directly through the Cookie DPT team on email or Instagram.
Name: Wil Fang
Profession: Founder of Cookie DPT
Industry: Food & Beverage
Start up since: 2017
I was born and raised in the US, so I’ve been spoiled with homemade baked goods fresh from the oven for most of my life. Whether it was after school, at a friends’ houses, or at any of the local bakeries or delis. After college, I moved to New York to start my fashion career with Ralph Lauren, and quickly realised New York had some of best dessert shops and famous bakeries in the world. So ever since I moved to Hong Kong (over 10 years ago now), I’ve found it almost impossible to find the same cookies, cakes and treats I grew up with.
After 10 years working for Ralph Lauren, which is what brought me to Hong Kong to begin with, I moved on and worked for Apple for 2 years; realising that fashion was still my true passion. I decided to leave corporate life and started a fashion/retail agency. As part of our startup, we built our own flagship multi-brand lifestyle and retail store in Taipei called Department (DPT) and with it, a quaint little café in the courtyard called Coffee DPT. We housed brands like Thom Browne, Margiela and Maison Kitsune, to name a few.
We organised activations and pop-ups with our favourite brands and developed relationships to help build their presence throughout Asia. Sadly our retail experiment was cut short as we split with our primary investors. Fortunately, during our year of operation Coffee DPT had established a great reputation for the cookies!
I had been developing the recipes for the better part of a decade as my search for the perfect cookie in Hong Kong kept falling short. I decided to start baking my own and experimenting with all the different variations using inspiration from my favourite childhood bakeries and the cookies I used to have regularly in New York.
Little did I know, years later it would become the feature item in my café. I decided to continue operating the café in Taipei completely on my own as I continued to consult in fashion. After months of bringing cookies back to Hong Kong from my Taipei trips for my friends, Cookie DPT was born. I’ve also converted Coffee DPT in Taipei to Cookie DPT as I continue to build the brand and work on expansion.
These days I’ve been working seven days a week, continuously trying to improve and grow Cookie DPT. As much as I love baking and cookies, I also love to cook. Hosting dinner parties and barbecues so my friends can try my latest savoury creations is one of my favourite things to do. I also try and find time to play basketball with my friends a few times a week.
Above all, I love to travel. Whether it’s for work or for fun; I find myself in Paris a few times a year for fashion weeks, New York and Los Angeles for various projects and to visit friends and family, and then of course all around Asia when I just need a little break from the Hong Kong hustle.
I really believe that my fashion and retail background is what has set Cookie DPT apart from traditional bakeries and other cookie companies. We’ve been able to collaborate and partner with all sorts of different industries and companies — relationships I likely wouldn’t have had without my connections in fashion.
Knowing what I know now, I would have had more confidence to focus my energy and workload on Cookie DPT from day one and put some of my fashion projects on hold in order to grow the brand. I didn’t start focusing my time and energy full time until October last year, and in the past six months I really feel like we’ve been able to make a bigger impact in the industry and market than our first 18 months in Hong Kong.
I’m a night owl, so the baking life didn’t quite fit into my schedule naturally.
But in the early morning, I am up bright and early in my commercial kitchen making cookie dough and baking for the day’s orders and pop-ups. Then in the afternoons I’ll have meetings for potential new pop-up locations and partnerships. Fortunately, I’ve been able to bring on pastry chefs to help me in the kitchen and I’m now able to focus most of my time and energy on developing new cookie flavours and new products (for example, cakes, pies, beverages, other baked goods, etc…), while curating all of our Instagram content. I have quite a small team, and we do everything in-house.
Ask for help. There’s no shame in admitting what you don’t know or don’t know how to do. I’ve made some amazing friends and built incredible relationships by reaching out to people who know more than me in just about anything and everything. It’s a humbling experience, but I think it’s an important part of the journey.
My family was in F&B, and I saw how hard my parents had to work every single day so I never thought I’d have a passion for it. I studied Mechanical Engineering and Business Management in college, so I guess I aspired to build and create things. I guess I never thought those things would involve cookies!
Finding the balance between continuing to grow and expand Cookie DPT while still maintaining that same home-made feel that everything I make has. Working closely with my kitchen team so that they share my vision and pride on everything that leaves our kitchen has ensured that we don’t lose focus on the simple things that have brought success to our little cookie company so far.
I want everything we make to have a familiarity and simplicity, I think that’s a big challenge. To continue to make fun and interesting creations without making things too complicated or curated.
I love the opportunities that Hong Kong affords any and all startups. With such a diverse community, there’s so much great culture and inspiration to draw from and also a lot of hungry mouths to feed. Because so many Hong Kongers are well travelled and have international backgrounds, it’s the perfect launch pad for new F&B concepts that aren’t traditionally found in Asia.
I don’t think success is a destination. I feel like I’ve been successful in different stages of my life and my career, but there’s always the next milestone and the next challenge. I take joy in the small accomplishments just as much as the bigger ones, but with each one comes more opportunities. So as long as I’m enjoying what I do every day and I’m making the people around me happy, I’d say it was a successful day.
One of my favourite sayings is “There’s always someone out there working harder for less.”
I hope that Cookie DPT becomes a household name in Hong Kong, synonymous with premium cookies and eventually other baked goods. And that it continues to develop into more than just a cookie company, but a lifestyle concept that incorporates all the various aspects of my career.
I have some new projects in the works that I’m not ready to mention just yet, but I’m really excited for them to launch by the end of 2020 and into early next year.