AGE: 31. OCCUPATION: Co-Founder, Collective Thirty One; Founder and CEO, Miracle Milkookies
TOOLS OF THE TRADE: Marketing Savvy, Entrepreneurial Friends, Chocolate Chip Cookies
I first met Whitney Williams Rowell a little more than a year ago. We were sitting outside Royal Blue Grocery in Highland Park Village, and she was about to launch her business, Miracle Milkookies. Just a year before, she had logged into the back end of her long-stagnant personal blog and found one of her posts had generated hundreds of thousands of views.
The post was her own recipe for lactation cookies — a baked treat Rowell had never heard of until a friend delivered some to her after the birth of her first baby. After doing some research, Rowell adapted her own oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe to include flaxseed and brewer’s yeast — ingredients that aid in milk production and supply for new mothers — and shared it on her blog.
Seeing the viral response to her post, Rowell realized there was a demand for pre-made cookies for busy new moms who didn’t have time to bake. Barely had she launched her website before the influx of orders became too much to handle out of her home. She found a commercial kitchen partner and exceeded their 86-dozen-batch minimum the first week.
Growing just as rapidly was Miracle Milkookies’ community on social media, which Rowell — a mother of two — has cultivated as a place for open conversation about motherhood, women’s health, and more.
“I realized there are so many moms who want to be part of something, because they feel so isolated and lonely,” she says.
Suddenly the owner of a booming business, Rowell turned to a wide network of friends — many of them entrepreneurs themselves — for advice on everything from accounting and payroll to packaging. Much like the moms Rowell was serving, she realized that she and her friends were taking on a lot by building their own businesses but weren’t always accustomed to asking for help or support.
In 2018, she and photographer Natalie Yates founded Collective Thirty One, an invitation-only network for local female entrepreneurs, with an impressive roster of members that includes Mi Golondrina founder and CEO Cristina Lynch, event planner Sara Fay Egan, Live Love Pop founder Lauren Brundage Mariel, and Dondolo founder Catalina Gonzalez. The collective hosts speakers and networking events for members as well as an annual holiday market.
Rowell plans to add a new class of 31 members each year and is also working on a physical clubhouse where the group can hold events, arrange meetings, and grab coffee. The space will also host programming for the Miracle Milkookies community, including mama meet-ups and information sessions with lactation specialists.
“It’s a space where it’s okay to talk about these things and support one another,” she says. “Just like that friend who dropped off the cookies for me.”