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InTechnology Podcast

From Microchips to Chocolate Chips: The Founder of Doughp’s Sobriety Journey (167)

In this slightly different-from-usual episode of InTechnology, Camille gets into addiction recovery and how companies can better support employees with Kelsey Moreira, Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Doughp: Legit Cookie Dough. The conversation covers Kelley’s journey to sobriety and the founding of Doughp, how Doughp is leading the way in supporting employees in their mental health, and the mission of the #Doughp4Hope initiative.

Note: There is explicit language in this episode.

To find the transcription of this podcast, scroll to the bottom of the page.

To find more episodes of InTechnology, visit our homepage. To read more about cybersecurity, sustainability, and technology topics, visit our blog.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guests and author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Intel Corporation.

Follow our hosts Tom Garrison @tommgarrison and Camille @morhardt.

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Kelsey’s Journey to Sobriety and Founding Doughp

Kelsey shares with Camille her history of alcohol addiction, which began as a young teenager and carried on until 2015. While she excelled at school and in her career, the addiction was taking a deep toll on her well-being. It was on a business trip for Intel in Barcelona when Kelsey decided once and for all it was time to get sober, going to an AA meeting that same day and starting her journey. She had always loved baking, but now she found a new comfort in it. Eventually, Kelsey was inspired to leave her job at Intel and found Doughp based on a safe egg substitute she discovered for cookie dough. Doughp quickly transformed from a small business run out of Kelsey’s apartment to a kiosk in San Francisco, then to two full storefronts in San Francisco and Las Vegas, before going completely e-commerce in the pandemic with an explosion of sales.

Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Support

Kelsey started the initiative #Doughp4Hope to help break the stigma around mental health and addiction recovery, and it’s a core element of what Doughp stands for. The initiative focuses on elevating conversations around mental health and addiction recovery, as well as donating 1% of all sales to nonprofits that work in the space, particularly the She Recovers Foundation. Mental health is also prioritized for Doughp employees. Kelsey created a robust mental health policy that is available as a template on the Doughp website that any company can use to support their employees’ mental health and well-being.

Kelsey Moreira, Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Doughp

Kelsey Moreira Doughp Doughp4Hope mental health

Kelsey founded Doughp: Legit Cookie Dough in 2017 and now serves as Chief Inspiration Officer. She appeared twice on ABC’s Shark Tank, once in 2019 and again in 2022, to present Doughp. In 2021, Doughp was named one of the Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America. Before her entrepreneurial endeavors, Kelsey was with Intel for 10 years, working in technical marketing and product management. In 2020, she made the Forbes 30 Under 30. Kelsey holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a certificate in International Business from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

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Camille Morhardt  0:28  Hi, I’m Camille Morhardt, host of InTechnology podcast. And I want to give a brief intro to the conversation we’re about to play, because it’s a little bit different than some of our other ones. I’m very happy to have had a conversation with Kelsey Moreira. I got to know her when she was working at Intel and she absolutely blew me away with how great she is at business and technology. And she subsequently has been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 and she’s been on Shark Tank a couple of times.

She was so good at business, that it surprised me and probably a lot of other people when she quit her job in technology, and pursued her passion by starting her own company based on baking called Doughp legit cookie dough. And it is spelled d-o-u-g-h-p. This company also focuses on helping people get through addiction recovery and help them succeed and it’s very supportive of its employees.

I’m very happy to have Kelsey on.  She herself is in recovery. And so she tells a very candid story and provides very candid advice to companies about how they can embrace and support all of their employees. She is also just really fun and humorous and has a ton of energy. I don’t know where it all comes from. And on top of all of that she’s pregnant and so you’ll hear us reference her unborn baby daughter, Olivia. Please enjoy the episode.

Camille Morhardt  1:58  Kelsey, for anybody who doesn’t know, is a serious star. She quit her job in tech, which was very sad to me, but probably a good thing for the world because she went and started this amazing company. But tell us a little bit about your journey to get there.

Kelsey Moreira  2:13  Yeah, so it’s funny because it really all starts with Intel back in the day, you know, getting this chance to go work at Intel, I was just 16 years old. When I started, I was a high school intern working part time through the school years and full time every summer. That turned into a 10 year career at Intel from just such a young age. So what was an awesome opportunity to learn from amazing leaders much like yourself, getting to work in your group there towards the end of my time at Intel, it was also really hard on my mental health. And I was struggling from a pretty early age with seeing my achievements and like what I was doing in the world as my self worth and a way that I could get some attention. My parents are going through a divorce when I was six years old. And I feel like I saw the joy I could bring to them when I was doing good. And those connections got really strong. And so when I would get even a B on a test in school, I was in hysterics, you know, I just could barely take it. So fast forward to any performance review that were there was even the most minute sense of feedback. And I was distraught like I had failed, you know. So I was really, really hard on myself and I was 14 years old the first time I drank. And I drank till I blacked out the very first time and I had this like, for the first time ever since like I was everybody else, like I didn’t have to be on and I was just carefree and relaxed and the life of the party, Kelsey. So it started a pretty unhealthy drinking career. Over the years, I was able to mask it with great grades. You know, I was something like 21 credits, my first semester in college, got straight A’s, and I was blacking out probably like five nights a week and still working at Intel part time. So no one really knew the struggles I was going through behind the scenes. But in 2015, I made the amazing decision to finally get sober, was on a business trip with Intel in Barcelona for a conference that was happening there. And I just had the last hurrah, if you will, the last night and woke up that morning. Like I never want to feel like this again, I’m so tired of apologizing for things I barely remember doing and I want to make a change. So I got sober. And that opened up the whole world to me, got me to figure out who I am and what I love to do. And that is eat and make desserts in large part. So that’s really where it all started and formed into where I am today without.

Camille Morhardt  4:26  So who was the first person you called?

Kelsey Moreira  4:29  I called my Nana first. So she was 21 years sober when she passed away. And, you know, like many people who struggle with addiction, or even just mental health struggles and you’ve got people who are worried about you and are reaching out through the years with concern, she was probably the leader cheerleader for that group for me, you know, writing me letters over the years, like wanting me to get on the right path. So I called her that morning and said, a short version of what had happened and that I was done and I wanted it’s over and she was like, Well, you better get your Wii, but to a MIDI in her Scottish accent that I won’t try and mimic right now. But very kindly just said that she wanted me to find a meeting and like I’m here for you. I’m going to support you and, and I did I found an English speaking a meeting that morning in Barcelona. Wow, made it through that seven day conference and my first seven days of sobriety, which is crazy. And wow. Yeah. And flew home after that to literally feeling like my life was ending, you know, I had lost a relationship of four years at the time. Everything just felt like it was falling apart. But brick by brick, you just pick yourself up and get going and take the next step forward.

Camille Morhardt  5:33 Who did you first bake with?

Kelsey Moreira  5:37 Gosh, first bake with? Probably my mom. She had this point it for Doughp, because one of the things she would do with me after the divorce, like when I’d be going back to her house, she had this cookbook called The Great Cookie Cookbook and it was like 100 cookie recipes. And so she’d be like, you can pick any recipe in here and we’ll make it together, you know, this next week or whatever. So, lots of baking with her. But then tons of baking with my Nana over the years, you know, when I was first when I was young, and then after getting sober, like I have some really great memories she passed when I was one year sober. So just after I’d had a year, so she got to see monster baby bakery when I was doing the baked goods, bringing stuff into the office at Intel. And enough folks like you saying, hey, you know, could you make something for my kid’s birthday? I had a business pre Doughp, you know, to do this at home bakery. So she got to see that which was really awesome.

Camille Morhardt  6:27 Do you still bake?

Kelsey Moreira  6:29 I do cakes and everything. I’m like the resident birthday cake maker here. So when someone’s having a birthday, or we’re having a party, like I love to love to make the layer cake still, I haven’t gone as detailed as those panda cupcakes I made way back for for your child’s birthday back in the day. But yeah, I still bake bake cookies. So it’s funny because you start a company because you love to do something. And then very quickly, you’re running a company not baking cookies anymore. I won’t say very quickly, I was still sweating it out in the commercial kitchen for probably the first like, year and a half or so. And then we moved to co packers and it’s just scaled up from there. Yeah, not doing that my kitchen. But I tried to make a point of keeping it as a personal hobby and still a big part of my, who I am and what I love to do that I got to discover in sobriety, this little community that I live in with all these older people. Just tell you this one quick. These old ladies think it’s so funny when they start you started hearing about Doughp. And you know, it’s big news like wow, this shark tank thing is like they’re here. And they’re like, so you’re making all that cookie dough in your kitchen like they are producing. Here in Texas, I’d like No, no, not just, I could make you some but we’re not doing it all here. So they can’t understand how you could run a company from not where you’re producing it.

Camille Morhardt  7:51 Where do you make it?

Kelsey Moreira  7:53Yeah, it’s all produced and fulfilled out of Las Vegas. So when we transitioned from having storefronts, so I had San Francisco’s Pier 39 And then we opened up on the Las Vegas Strip. The Shark Tank episode in 2019 came out just after opening that store on the Strip. You know, fast forward a year later, the pandemic hits and our ecommerce business was like skyrocketing. We went from like 30 boxes a month in November of 19 to 3000 a week in April of 2020. So our whole business model just like flipped on its head you know our storefronts were shuttered with the quarantine we decided to shut down the San Francisco store and by October of 2020 Shut down the biggest store so what I spent most of the the second half of 2020 doing was getting our supply chain established with is my husband had joined the company at that time. And you know getting everything set up to have manufacturing and fulfillment in Vegas, they’re with us and slowly but surely as like you know, wheels started turning and things were moving we were just like working from our home office everyday going why are we still in Vegas actually need to be here when we’re using you know these great partners that we’ve we’ve gotten set up so we were able to move here to be close to my papa in Texas.

Camille Morhardt  9:05  But you’re still you’re traveling what’s like a day in the life or a week in the life for you? What does it look like now?

Kelsey Moreira  9:11  You know the best thing about it compared to Intel life right of like going from corporate to what I do now is I literally can’t tell you like week in the life of Kelsey because it’s always different depending on where I’m going or what I’m doing. I mean, the public speaking has been such a great component to pick up not only is it great for Doughp, and you’re, you know, getting more people to see the name, but getting to share my story and inspire people you know, to make a change in their life, whatever it is, I feel so fulfilled. So that’s been really fun to pick up. So a sprinkling of public speaking events. You know, we’ve split the business operations like management between isn’t i i handle more of the sales and marketing. I run the product development as well. So all the dreaming of like, what do we want to do next? What’s the roadmap for us for new product innovation? I make product briefs still all this time later, like I used to it until they’re a little more fun. There’s more exclamation points and a little more wild but what I what I used to do, but it’s still lots of Product Marketing just I went from processor chip To chocolate chips. So, yeah, little shift.

Camille Morhardt  10:15 When I went to go get some Doughp to try it before chatting with you. I went to a local grocery store. My kids both tried it and absolutely love it. And so they had some questions for you. And I really liked their questions. Oh, that’s awesome. So my favorite question from my daughter was when did you know you’d made it?

Kelsey Moreira  10:33 Oh, that’s so sweet. You know? I think the answer is honestly, you’ll never feel like you made it is what I’m learning. Making it is the journey like making it as realizing that everything I’ve learned today is worth it. But there’s no finite point where I’ve been like, this is it you know, because when you have this personality where you want to keep building you want to keep growing. You know, I had no idea when I first started that it would be as big as it is now like I remember calling my dad when we hit $100,000 in sales. And I was like oh my god, we just sold $100,000 of cookie dough. And now we’re past 13 million and Lifetime sales. I mean, you just, the scale just gets so much bigger. But when you’re in those moments, it’s just where you are. And like the next hurdle, the next obstacle, the next point to hit is just, that’s all I’ve been really looking at as I keep growing it. So I’ve never been like, this is it, we made it, you know, Shark Tank was pretty cool, but I didn’t feel like, alright, I made it rest on my laurels. Like it’s hard work. Running a food business is no joke, and the obstacles and the learning and the challenges just keep presenting themselves. So yeah, still going, I’ll let her know if I end up feeling like I’ve made it one day.

Camille Morhardt  11:47  Did you ever have a moment where you were like having to decide on sort of your morals or your conscience or your ethics or your code? Or whatever it is, as opposed to some other kind of bigger step or offer? Or…

Kelsey Moreira  12:02  Yeah, I mean, I’ve had some, some less than enjoyable experiences, fundraising, you know, where you have to be like, this is inappropriate. And this is not someone I want to take funding from, and be okay with walking away from what would have been an amazing like life changing access to capital and know that your morals and standards are more important than that. I’d say, you know, in the business world, one thing we’ve really had to stick with is like the decision for us with Doughp 4 Hope and how important the mission was going to be for the company. It’s really easy for businesses to say, things have gotten too hard. We haven’t been profitable for the last three years, like we’ve got to cut costs, like we need to cut the mission. And for me, it’s just been like, Absolutely not no chance, are we letting that go? Not even willing to entertain changing it, like the amount that we donate 1% of all of our sales? We’ve had talks of like, should we go to a percent of profits and those things cut up other people kind of bring it up when we’re getting advised on our financial situation? And it’s like, no, like, we can talk about cutting anything else. But like, I’m just not cutting what we’re doing with the mission. It’s the whole why I can keep going. Yeah, you really have to have like a Northstar for why you’re doing what you’re doing. And I know we’re helping so many people, and I just, there was no way that I’m gonna sacrifice on that.

Camille Morhardt  13:18  So tell us a little bit more about Doughp 4 Hope.

Kelsey Moreira  13:21  Yeah, so 2017 I was newly into business maybe six months in and we were getting our first I can’t really call this one a storefront cuz it was a kiosk, but it was like a physical space, and we would no longer have to pack for events out of my apartment, I was very excited. It was gonna be a real like 10×10 space. That was a little cookie dough bar on Market Street in San Francisco. And the Grand Opening Day was my two year sobriety anniversary. So on the Facebook event, I said, “if you say it’s Doughp to be sober at checkout, you’ll get 20% off in honor of the founders sober birthday.” And I didn’t expect to see much from this. But our DMS were just like filling up with people saying, you know, some that they were two weeks sober and wondering if I knew of any good meetings in the city. And another person was 13 years sober and telling me how he had never told anyone. And it was really cool to see me sharing this publicly. And I just had such a lightbulb moment then of like, how alone I felt when I was going through it.

And it took me a long time to say I’m ready to get sober because I didn’t want to be different. I felt like I was gonna be the only one that had to deal with this. And why couldn’t I just be like everybody else. And when you’re newly sober, you know, and everyone else seems like they’re drinking and everyone else seems like they have it together. This really reminded me that like, I’m totally not alone. There’s a bunch of people out there who also feel like they’re the only ones going through it. But we’re all here, we’re just quiet through a number of reasons. In the past this stigma that surrounded it has made people want to stay quiet around it that something was wrong with you. If you needed to get sober or you were a liability or bad person. And people would ask me like, when I was early on, “if you’re going to fundraise, are you going to tell investors that you’re sober? You know, aren’t you worried about what they’ll think?” And I’m like, “I can’t wait to tell them the coolest thing about me it’s like, Hey, I saw something wasn’t working in my life and I changed it and look at all the great that’s come from that I mean, that’s kick ass.” That’s something you should be really proud to share.

And so Doughp 4 Hope was really how can I help break the stigma around mental health and addiction recovery and let people know it’s okay to not be okay. And really make an impact around it. So we do a bunch of our community like elevating the conversation trying to make it easier to talk about share real stories of real people going through it helpful resources and all of that we do like a mental health Monday text blasts for example, we just had another one this Monday that says “Give us one high and one low from your last week.” A real person’s waiting to respond and you know this is text to get something like 40,000 people in our text list and hundreds and hundreds of messages and conversations that start from that with people who just didn’t have anybody to ask them how they’re doing you know and haven’t really been able to stop and share what’s what’s been really hard on their minds. Someone tweeted like “it’s really cool to see Doughp cares about this.”  Like mental health can be so exhausting and it’s funny to see it cookie dough place doing and I’m always like, if not us then who like it doesn’t matter what we sell. We can try and make an impact. So the community is a big portion of it.

And then inside the company is the next pillar for it, you know, really focused on not just being a business that’s out there, like, oh, we plant a tree for every blank, you know, or we do these things in the outside world. I wanted to make sure that like, it was also happening in the company, I wasn’t just talking about how important mental health was, but I was letting my employees talk about theirs. And so I made a really robust mental health policy early 2018 that rolled out and I have a template of it on my website to share with other employers and founders just to get ideas going about how you could bring these conversations to light in the workplace. Doughp is a designated Recovery-Friendly Workplace, which is a designation in something like 25 states now. They have a program here to help people understand how to build environments, let their employees bring their full selves to work across mental health, addiction and suicide prevention as well. And then the last piece is donations. And honestly, I think until a lot when I talk about this, that my time working for Intel showed me in many facets how a company can be totally for profit, but gosh, look at all the good that they can do along the way. I was the benefit of one of those Intel ISD trips, you know, got to go to the Philippines and we were bringing technology to a school that had been devastated by a typhoon. And that was just such an incredible thing. Mind you, that was about a week after that Barcelona trip when I got sober. I’m not sure if you remember this, Camille, but it was a crazy whirlwind for me of like, home for a week. And then that volunteer trip was coming.

Camille Morhardt  17:33  But I didn’t know you were going through the other side of it. I knew about the trips, but I never knew that the giant transformation that was happening in your life at that time.

Kelsey Moreira  17:42  Yeah, all overlapped, but kind of beautiful in a way that this trip was like, take yourself out from all these things that oh, it feels like the end of the world. And then you’re seeing kids who are like, almost in tears excited seeing themselves on a webcam for the first time, you know what, a little tablet or something. So was just a really nice example. So we decided to donate 1% of all of our sales company wide to nonprofits that work in the space. The last two years we’ve been partnered with the She Recovers Foundation there for women or those who identify with women’s communities that are in are seeking recovery. And across lots of things. They have this phrase that like we’re all in recovery from something. So life challenges mental health, substance use disorder, whatever your thing is, they’ve got a community for it. And we’ve donated more than $100,000 to date through Doughp 4 Hope.

Camille Morhardt  18:30  It’s very cool. So just a personal note, is sobriety something that’s like a daily struggle for you or is it not a struggle? Is it how would you characterize it?

Kelsey Moreira  18:40  you know, in the phase that I’m in, in my life, now, I live in a very small town in East Texas, I’m like three minutes away from my grandpa, it’s basically a retirement community, I’d say my median friend age is like 75. So my daily pressures to drink like I used to face when I was living in Portland, when I originally got sober or living, you know, in San Francisco for a time, mid 20s. newly sober, those were different. And it certainly was really everyday reminders that I go a different path. And I wouldn’t say there’s a day that it doesn’t come up, you know, you go out to dinner, or you go to a friend’s house or anything, and they’re having beers, and I just don’t have a cocktail or some fun, non alcoholic drink. It’s always on my mind. And the scariest thing is like when you think you’ve beat it. I’ve met people who have, you know, 30 years of sobriety. And then one day, they’re just like, you know, I think it’s been long enough, I think it’s fine and go back to it. And as many stories go, like, that wasn’t fine. You still are the alcoholic inside.

And I’ve just been able to get much better with mental health coping mechanisms. And, you know, I call it my mental health recipe card, what are the things I need to be doing to keep myself feeling good and feeling grounded, and yeah, it’s just been that next first drink will never be worth it, it just can’t get there. So I just remind myself of that, I have a list two lists. One is I had listed down when I first got sober, all of the oh my gosh, nights or events or things that I had done while drinking that. Each time I had said I’m going to get it together, I’m going to figure this out. And I of course didn’t. So I have something like 37 of these things on this list. Not to shame myself or like make myself feel bad. But as a reminder of what that path continued to lead me down. Even after attempts to stop drinking for a period of time, I had four months sober at 21 You know, to do a reset, and I thought now I’ll be fine. I’ll know how to drink and you know, plenty of events that followed from there once I started to drink again. So I keep that as a reminder of you know, Insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result and just don’t want to go back down that path.

And my other list is all the things that I’m so grateful for that I have only because of this choice to get sober. This baby girl Olivia on her first podcast, my husband, all these things like it’s so incredible that he’s only known this version of me. He doesn’t have any of this emotional baggage and turmoil from the drinking Kelsey you know and my past so It’s just a beautiful thing to be who I am and where I am today the business that I have the people, the lives we’ve changed and people we’ve touched with the business and the mission. It’s yeah, it’s awesome. So every day, it’s just worth it to keep going on the sobriety train.

Camille Morhardt  21:26  Oof, what an amazing, amazing, amazing story. Like, really?

Kelsey Moreira  21:30  Thank you.

Camille Morhardt  21:32  You have always struck me as a very confident person, you’re, you’ve always been very competent, you kind of like have a way of shining, you have bring a lot of energy and light. And, you know, is that just innate? Have you ever not felt confident?

Kelsey Moreira  21:47  You know, I guess I would say, it’s like a self-fulfilling way of being like, it propels itself. So the more excited and energetic you are, the more pleasant interactions with other people are, I have very outgoing parents, too. So I think I learned a lot of those ways of being from them that, you know, you don’t have to be serious all the time. They’re fun and funny people. So yeah, I think that kind of like helped pave the way for me to know that it’s okay to be like this, and the confidence blend with vulnerability that like, you know, has come so full circle into what I do with Doughp, that has also been so rewarding, like, the more vulnerable you can be, it lets someone else let their guard down and share something that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise.

So, you know, when I’m sharing about my recovery journey on a call with a retail buyer, who probably never has these kinds of conversations with vendors, he is sharing about how his daughter, you know, just got sober two years ago or examples from investors who are saying, you know, their daughter or aunt or sister whoever you name it, is struggling and this kind of barrier breaking of like, we’re all going through it like we’re all just humans, yes, we all have these little roles. And we’re showing up to do these things. And, you know, you’re an investor, I’m trying to, we’re trying to work together, get this money, we’re all human. And if one in 12, Americans are inactive recovery, chances are pretty high that like, I’m talking to somebody who either is in recovery, or has someone who’s struggling too. So that’s really helped me to feel even more confident in like, owning my story, like owning my decisions, owning who I am. And knowing that if I’m just myself, I’ll attract the right people and have people around me who like who I am, then there was no like facade or mass to keep up. It’s just, it just gets to be me.

Camille Morhardt  23:32  What’s your number one thought about motherhood? It’s right around the corner.

Kelsey Moreira  23:39  I’m scared shitless. But yeah, I mean, this last year, as we started to get a little bit more stabilized. And, you know, we made it through the pandemic, we started to grow the retail channel, like things were feeling a little more secure. And this biological clock just started ticking of saying, You need to be a mom, you’ve got to do this. So I’m really excited. It’s so fun. It’s interesting to see how this little thing, big decision, but little thing can so drastically change how you view what’s important in the world. You know, there’s just no question of like, we’re going to make this work and figuring out how to make my workload and what we need to do with Doughp work so that I can still care and spend time for and bond with our child.

So yeah, I’m very excited as all I can say about it, we’ll see what happens. It’s gonna be the wildest adventure yet, but I think I’ve got some good training with stress levels that Doughp, you know, overwhelm and running the company with my husband, too. It’s a I think it’s a lot more than some parents have when they first go into into parenthood. We’ve certainly, yeah, been through some challenges together and learn how to communicate well. So I’m excited.

Camille Morhardt  24:47  It’s really really cool. Congratulations, actually on everything.

Kelsey Moreira  24:52  Thank you, business baby and the real baby.

Camille Morhardt  43:56  Yeah, and sobriety and all the rest of it coming into yourself and like growing up into such an amazing human, you’ve always been an amazing human and like, it’s just really cool to see how, how cool you are and everything that you’re doing to help other people. So thank you Kelsey. Moreira, CEO and founder of Doughp legit cookie dough and so much more—Doughp 4 Hope. Thanks for joining today on the podcast.

Kelsey Moreira  25:20 Thanks for having me.

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