OMAHA — A typical day for Creighton University student-athlete Eli Vedral goes something like this: Class. Cross country practice. Study.
And this: Bake cookies. Deliver cookies to customers. Think about new cookie recipes.
Vedral, who will be a senior this fall, is making a splash with Kookaburra Cookies, the business he launched a couple of years ago with a little capital, some big ideas and his brother’s Kitchen Aid mixer.
It was born during the pandemic when Vedral was doggedly looking for work.
“I couldn’t find anything, so I thought ‘I’m going to start something myself,’” he said.
What he came up with is way more than just a job. He plans to make it his career once he graduates from Creighton.
He got a cottage kitchen permit and came up with a special recipe that sets him apart from other bakers: “Strumble cookies,” combining crumble and streusel toppings. He trademarked his new word.
People are also reading…
Then he decided to eschew traditional flavors such as chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and snickerdoodle.
“Every family has its favorite cookie recipes,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m never going to beat your grandma’s cookies, so I’m not competing with your heartstrings.”
He came up with coffee cake cookies, red velvet cookies with cream cheese Strumble, and a cookies-and-cream version, among others.
He used his graphic arts major to design a kookaburra bird logo, light blue boxes and clear plastic bags to individually wrap each cookie.
He conjured up a clever slogan: “Are you ready to Strumble?” It’s on each box.
He bakes by himself in the spacious kitchen at his family’s Wahoo home. He has been living on campus but plans to move home to buy more time to juggle work, school and life in general.
Vedral said he started baking at an early age.
“When I was in grade school, my parents had a one-snack rule after school,” he said. “I figured out if I made cookies, I could get around that rule and eat as much as I wanted.”
That included the dough. He still indulges.
“Sometimes it’s the best part,” he said.
His cookie creations were inspired in part when he spent a semester in Australia through the Creighton Global Scholars program. That experience changed the way he thought about food, he said, because he was introduced to strange culinary combinations such as sushi burgers and banana-and-chile ice cream.
It made him wonder how to combine streusel and cookies, “two of my favorite things,” he said.
On a recent morning, he was baking a seasonal lemon shortbread Strumble cookie — with lots of real butter — and gave observers samples.
One taster said it was way better than a popular Utah-based chain cookie that has been selling out since it came to Omaha a couple of months ago.
Vedral’s aunt, Stephanie Jarrett of Lincoln, said the comment didn’t surprise her.
“(That’s) not the first person who has said that,” she said.
The budding entrepreneur said Jarrett — who founded Bulu, a subscription box fulfillment business — has been his mentor. She said he’s way beyond where many startup business owners are at this point.
“His business savvy has been growing every month. If he has a batch of cookies that are not up to his standard, he crushes them and makes cookie balls,” she said. “He monetizes them and turns them into an entirely different product. That’s an example of his ingenuity.”
Jarrett said he’s been joining groups of fellow entrepreneurs to increase his knowledge.
“He has always been a very impressive kid,” she said.
Vedral said his family takes his kitchen takeovers in stride. His mom, he said, uses it as an excuse to go out to dinner. He is one of five kids, including former Nebraska quarterback Noah Vedral, who now plays at Rutgers. Two of his siblings are still in high school.
None of his family members help him bake, though they can be coerced to do dishes in a pinch. It takes 24 hours to make a batch of cookies, including the time the dough spends in the fridge.
He said he couldn’t estimate how many dozen cookies he has sold so far. His orders are steadily increasing — Jarrett, who has gotten financial briefings from her nephew, said he’s making money and is starting to receive large corporate orders.
That will necessitate a new commercial mixer, which was supposed to arrive soon. It also will eventually lead to at least one brick-and-mortar store in Omaha or Lincoln after he graduates, he said.
For now, the cookies are available to order online at kookaburracookies.com and he will either deliver or customers can pick them up in Wahoo. They’re $3.50 apiece, $20 for a half-dozen and $36 for a dozen.
Vedral looks forward to the day he doesn’t have to juggle academics, track (he runs the steeplechase, among other things) and operating a business. He’s also thrilled he’s found his calling.
“These are my life’s work,” he said of his Strumble cookies. “I put my heart and soul into them.”
Several residential projects in or near downtown, including the 250-foot-tall Lied Place Residences, will open to residents this year.
Delta Nelson’s entire life has been rooted in the auto industry, so it only made sense when she decided to open The Mechanix Garage in Lincoln.
Downtown Lincoln’s population is expected to reach 10,000 in 2025 — a 730% increase since 2010.
The history, culture and DNA of the Cornhusker state are woven throughout the Scarlet, which is scheduled to open this spring.
Robin Eschliman’s annual review of restaurants in Lincoln found more dining options opened in 2021 than shut down.
Over $2 billion worth of inventory was sold online through HiBid in 2021, and there are typically anywhere from 700,000 to 1 million items listed on the site at any given time.
Assurity’s Jack Douglas moved with his wife from South Carolina in 2020, the height of the pandemic.
What started as an ambitious vision in 2015 has nearly come to fruition for Speedway Properties and Nelnet, which partnered together and bought more than a dozen properties in the once-blighted area in the 2010s.
Union Bank & Trust executive vice president Doris Robertson attributes the bank’s recent success in part to the innovations the company made during the early days of the pandemic.
Before Boxcar BBQ officially served its first slab of ribs to a paying customer in October, the staff experimented with hundreds of pounds of meat and dozens of tweaks to their recipes.
Even when the work is hard and frustrating, Jayne Ellenwood says it fills her bucket to be a part of Bryan’s response to the community.
The golf club that opened in 2001 has gone private and among its new features will be a 250-foot-long lazy river, an adults-only pool with a swim-up bar and a six-lane competition lap pool.
“I wrote thank-you cards to anyone that spent money with us. … I wrote hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cards,” owner Laurie Frasier said, even if someone only spent a few dollars.
With the South Beltway set to open next year, some developers worry the city isn’t thinking aggressively enough about spurring growth in an area still largely unserved by sewer and other infrastructure.
Jason Ball returns home to lead the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce with determination to “keep the ball rolling” for Lincoln as the city develops and grows.
CHI Health plans to open a new clinic at 40th Street and Yankee Hill Road, while Bryan Health will wrap up a multiyear expansion and renovation at its East Campus hospital.
Each of the eight Schulz Poultry barns holds 45,000 birds, which arrive at just a couple hours old and spend the next 42-44 days in the barns before going to Fremont for processing.
Jada Picket Pin said she enjoys serving first-time visitors to the Green Gateau, as well as regulars who return for the excellent food and quality service.
Christina Melgoza has seen big changes in Lincoln during her eight years as director of lot sales at Kreuger Development. She spoke to the Journal Star about Lincoln’s growth, the housing market and more.
Since CompanyCam’s inception, more than 400 million photos have been stored and 15 million projects created largely by contractors looking to better document their work.
Monolith led a record year for investment in Lincoln-based companies, which collectively raised nearly $300 million in venture capital in 2021.
Many employees moved to remote work during COVID-19, a trend that’s likely to stick around, experts say. But other pandemic effects, such as labor shortages and pay increases, are likely to be short-term changes.
A fundraising campaign brought in more than $10.3 million for the 7 acres of land near the airport and the 60,000-square-foot new office building and warehouse, almost doubling the Food Bank’s current space.
Jay Foreman, Erick Strickland and Vershan Jackson have shows on the The Ticket, which also has programs featuring 22 current Nebraska athletes.
The Journal Star invited businesses and other offices celebrating an anniversary divisible by five this year to share their history with readers.
The Journal Star invited readers to share honors that businesses or employees received as best of state, region or nation. Also included is a recap of the major awards presented by business organizations locally.
In June, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce resumed ribbon-cutting events to mark new businesses, businesses with new owners, relocated and renovated businesses, business anniversaries and ground-breaking ceremonies.