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Local man an award finalist

Johnathon-Bush-and-Not-Just-Cookies

University of Toledo student Johnathon Bush hopes to expand his line of cookies and cookie dough into more Toledo area stores through his participation in the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur Award.

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On Friday, Toledoan Johnathon Bush gets to visit the New York Stock Exchange.

As a University of Toledo freshman finance student, that’s a huge opportunity for him, but Mr. Bush is going there with bigger dreams.

He is to be at the stock exchange as one of 30 finalists for the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur Award, an international competition for full-time college students who own and run a business.

At age 13, Mr. Bush parlayed a knack for baking into Not Just Cookies LLC, a cookie and cookie dough firm, the products of which are sold by a handful of Toledo area retailers.

The contest winner gets $150,000 in cash and services and a one-year mentorship by Mike DeLazzer, founder of video rental firm Redbox Inc. Mr. Bush, 18, made the finals by winning a regional contest in St. Louis.

“Winning the competition in New York would be a big benefit for my company. It would allow me to do more things faster and help get me into more stores,” Mr. Bush said Monday between classes, baking, and packing for his trip. “Right now, I still sort of do everything.”

He juggles his time carefully to attend classes and fill customer orders by baking cookies at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen, at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation in Bowling Green.

He usually goes there twice weekly and hires family and friends to help him bake or package eight types of cookies and two kinds of brownies. He is also the delivery man.

Mr. Bush could use more help because Not Just Cookies is growing, he said. From 2009-2010 his business grew 296 percent.

He declined to provide sales figures, but said last year he sold 25,000 cookies and this year is on pace for 70,000. He also sells cookie dough to schools and groups for fund-raising drives.

Not Just Cookies’ products are sold locally at two Monnette’s Markets, in Walt Churchill’s Markets, and at Churchill’s Super Market. But Mr. Bush said he is in talks to have his cookies sold in Whole Foods in Ann Arbor and at The Andersons’ stores. Cookies also are sold online.

The young entrepreneur is negotiating to hire a commercial bakery that would use his recipes to make his cookies, allowing him to expand and double business by year’s end.

“Eventually, I want to have a company that becomes a national brand, but my next goal is to get them into a national chain,” Mr. Bush said.

“The St. Louis competition was big, but I know the New York one is going to be a lot bigger,” he said. “But even if you don’t win, just the fact of being there and doing the networking is another positive of the competition. I am really excited about this.”

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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