Insomnia Cookies is taking college campuses by storm — one warm, gooey cookie at a time. And all at the oddest of hours.
Created in 2003 out of a college dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania, the late-night bakery specializes in cookies that feed the cravings of an increasing number of coeds.
The end result is a start-up that now has more than 70 locations across 21 U.S. states, with long lines that sometimes rival more established eateries. The company has created a sensation — and earned the gratitude of legions of college students — on campuses such as the University of North Carolina, Syracuse University, and UPenn, of course.
Currently, Insomnia is looking to expand to 12 more locations, including near the University of Virginia and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"I wouldn't even consider them [Insomnia Cookies] a start-up anymore," CNBC contributor, deal maker and entrepreneur Carol Roth said. "This is a bona fide business. They've been around for 12 years."
Many Insomnia Cookies locations are strategically positioned near colleges and universities. That's no accident.
Founded by Seth Berkowitz, the motivating idea behind Insomnia Cookies was to fill a college student's desire for a late-night delivery service with "sweet" offerings. The company that began as a student's business model has grown into something much larger.
"If you can get traction on a college campus, you have access to thousands of somewhat captive customers that are easier to reach because they are confined to certain geography and connection points," Roth said. In fact, Insomnia's college business model has been pioneered by some of the biggest names in their sector, she said.
"We've seen a lot of companies use colleges as a starting ground, whether it be Facebook, Tinder or Insomnia Cookies, to gain traction," Roth added.