I was wrong and I am genuinely sorry. I named our flavors with terms that originate from Black-American Culture - and using that language in our marketing - I was culturally appropriating. I apologize for the offensive use of the language/slang and will do my best to move forward with a brand that speaks generally to all millennials and Bay Area residents - not pulling from Black-American Culture.
The recognition of this wrong came after the San Francisco Chronicle's nod to our use of this language. The discussions resulting from the Chronicle article have been nothing short of eye opening and a huge learning experience for me - and perhaps for others following along on the interwebs, too.
We still hope to deliver a little happiness to this crazy world with our cookie dough, but we will work to right the wrongs we've done in marketing and keep a light-hearted, youthful vibe without stealing from a cultural that is not mine. I'll share transparently as continue to make changes, but right now I want to focus on the communities I hurt and make sure they understand how sorry I am. I'm dedicated to building a company that can give back to the communities I've upset instead of being seen as a white person just trying to profit off of another culture. Starting this company was never - and never will be - about making money and I should not have pulled so heavily from a culture that was not mine. I left a safe corporate job so I could make people happy. I want to keep doing that and being as respectful and inclusive as possible.
Again, no matter my intention, this conversation is important. It's difficult at times to remove ourselves from our own shoes and genuinely try to see something from another's point of view. In fact, it will be impossible for me to ever fully know what it's like to be a black person living in America. All I can do is work to gain a better understanding of their experiences - and equally important, an understanding of how my branding could be appropriating aspects of their culture.
One thing that helped me along in this discussion was someone online calling out that with DOUGHP, I (a white person) am choosing to indulge in only one aspect of Black American culture (music, language/slang, etc.) and not in other aspects to which they are subject to daily: racism, oppression, lack of opportunity, etc. It's awful and so unfair that they have to experience that other side and it's through that understanding I can respect that they would like me to not engage in any aspect of their culture through my DOUGHP brand.
As a result of this feedback, I’ve decided to pull back on some of the naming - flavors like The OG will now be called “The Original” and “This S’more Is Hella Lit” will now be “This S’more is Hella Awesome”. I will retain as much of the bay area & millennial vibe as I can, while getting rid of the more overtly hip hop and Black American Culture phrases. I respect everyone’s opinions and am continuing to seek out feedback from the community to understand how I can do better.
I’ve also pulled references to myself as a ‘doughp dealer’ and comments about getting ‘Hooked On Doughp’ — being now two years into recovery from my own addiction to alcohol, it was sort of nice to play on words and tout that I’m not addicted to this negative substance anymore and have traded it out for a serious sugar additciton. I wasn’t in anyway trying to marginalize addiction - an issue I have a deep, personal understanding of. Oddly enough, DOUGHP wasn’t even created as a pun for the drug initially. The play on DOUGHP as marijuana just fell into play and suited with the weed-loving culture we have here in the bay. But I see how it could be viewed as marginalizing the drug epidemic or making light of a drug addiction. It was a later adoption of the term 'dope' for my own marketing as DOUGHP really found it’s name as I have always said dope as in, “That’s dope!” and in a company name brainstorming session (going through endless ‘dough’ words) with a friend of mine actually said, “I just want it to be a really dope dessert shop, like a really laid back and chill place to hang out.” And before I could go on, she interrupted me and said “That’s it! Dope could have dough in it!” And the rest is history.
Before the article brought these issues to light, we had already done a handful of fundraising efforts (Raised $1500 for Hurricane Harvey and nearly $700 for a UCSF Children's Hospital family we met through DOUGHP). We also moved our cookie dough production to The Bread Project, a non-profit in Berkeley who employs low income individuals and teaches them skills for self sufficiency. I hope to continue providing opportunities and support for these communities through my work with DOUGHP. There’s no time too early to start giving back with a company and since the article I’ve taken an even stronger approach at where else I can lend a hand - looking into programs like The Hidden Genius Project and Youth Speaks to see where I can lend my time (mentoring, etc.), provide job opportunities (working for DOUGHP!), and provide funds where they’re needed most through fundraising. I hope DOUGHP can help underrepresented minorities both in our employment practices and also through various non-profit and philanthropic work.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks to those of you who raised your voices. You were heard.