Freshmen find philanthropy in cookies

Cookies might not the most health-conscious product to donate to underprivileged children, but according to the founders of Kuki Squared you can’t beat the enthusiasm that the distinctive square treats inspire in their young recipients.

Sweet cause  · Founders Barak Federman (left) and Alexander Evans-Pfeiffer (right) promote Kuki Squared with Disney star Damien Haas (center). - Courtesy of Lena Evans

Sweet cause · Founders Barak Federman (left) and Alexander Evans-Pfeiffer (right) promote Kuki Squared with Disney star Damien Haas (center). – Courtesy of Lena Evans

“We get these photos from the kids who have received our cookies and there’s just the biggest smiles on their faces,” said Kuki Squared Co-Founder Barak Federman.

Kuki Squared is a startup company created by two USC freshmen, which donates a cookie to a child in need for every product sold.

“Kuki” is Swahili for cookie. But the business, run by Lambda Chi fraternity brothers Federman and Alexander Evans-Pfeiffer does not limit its donations to one geographic location. So far, the cookies have been donated everywhere from Africa to China to the San Diego Rescue Mission.

“We’re working globally right now — anyone that takes donations, we’re not limited to one place,” Federman said. “A lot of the places we choose are run by friends and family or we are put in contact with them by friends and family.”

The concept behind Kuki Squared evolved late last semester when the pair started discussing different ways to get more involved in the community.

“Alex and I were in Doheny studying for one of our finals,” Federman said. “We were just finishing up pledging for Lamba Chi so we had a lot more free time. We wanted to figure out what we could do with that time.”

They decided that they wanted to start a business, but they also agreed that they wanted to do something philanthropic.

“With him being a business major [and] me having a past business history, we wanted to use our time sufficiently and have an aspect of helping the community out,” Evans-Pfeiffer said.

Incorporating philanthropy into the business was especially important to Evans-Pfeiffer, who said he grew up in a household where giving back was heavily emphasized.

“I’d see my mom staying up working all day planning these charity events to raise money,” Evans-Pfeiffer said. “I didn’t understand what it was about as a child, all this effort, but then I started volunteering at all these events and it really made sense to me then.”

Taking inspiration from brands such as TOMS Shoes, which popularized the buy-a-product-donate-a-product approach, the duo decided to incorporate that model for their business. Still, they needed a product to sell.

After brainstorming ideas, Evans-Pfeiffer spoke with his mother about their idea. She mentioned that Cupcakes Squared, a San Diego-based bakery known for its square cupcakes, was starting an all-natural square cookie line. The pair thought about it: Square cookies? There was something unique about the idea. They contacted the owner, Robin Wisotsky, to see if she’d be interested in selling her products to them wholesale.

Wisotsky agreed and suddenly, Kuki Squared was in business. Currently, the company sells the square cookies in six flavors: Almond Apricot, Black and White, Chocolate Coconut Almond, Peanut Chocolate, Cranberry White Chocolate and Pistachio Cherry.

“My favorite thing about our cookies are how moist they are,” Federman said. “You take a bite and it just falls off into your mouth.”

Evans-Pfeiffer and Federman have utilized their contacts and the USC community in order to get the name Kuki Squared out in the public.

“We knew we could use our connections to get us going off the ground,” Evans-Pfeiffer said. “Lambda Chi has been really influential; we’ve sold on The Row and did really well. We’ve also been speaking to our economics professor [Mohammad] Safarzadah about optimal prices.”

Kuki Squared has also received celebrity endorsements, including friend and fellow USC freshman Patrick Shriver and his mother Maria Shriver, who tweeted about the company to spread the word about their business.

“Right now we’ve had tons of publicity,” Federman said. “At the Oscars they have a gifting suite that they set up. … Actors came and took pictures and tweeted about it to get our name out there.”

Though the business has taken up a lot of their free time, Evans-Pfeiffer and Federman said the experience has been completely worth it.

“We used to spend our time hanging out, going to the gym,” Federman said. “Now we spend it working on our company. It’s a great use of our free time. We really can see the direct outcome of putting our time into our company, and that’s really fulfilling.”

Evans-Pfeiffer and Federman have yet to visit the children who have received their cookies around the world, but they are working to try and visit them in person.

“Right now we’re talking about going to Lesotho,” Federman said.

For now, they’re happy spreading the word about their cookies and furthering their company along.

“As corny as it sounds,” Federman said,“for Alex and I, we just want to do everything we can to help.”