Home 3d Printing Nothing cookie-cutter about McGill student’s Cookiestruct startup

Nothing cookie-cutter about McGill student’s Cookiestruct startup

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Jiayuan Wang’s Cookiestruct creates 3D-printed cookie cutters, and customers can submit a photo of whatever design they want.

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Jiayuan Wang prepares peanut butter treats for Dex, his corgi, in the shape of dog bones. He rolls out a dough made with beef broth, whole-wheat flour, oats and peanut butter, and cuts out the bone shapes with a cookie cutter personalized with Dex’s name.

Wang, who will graduate from McGill University in December with a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in technological entrepreneurship, is the founder and CEO of Cookiestruct, a startup that creates 3D-printed custom cookie cutters.

The project started in the summer of 2019, supported by the McGill Engine, an innovation and entrepreneurship centre within the engineering faculty. But the idea came to him months earlier, as he was baking Christmas cookies.

Wang, who was born and raised in Shanghai, attended a private high school in Virginia for three years, the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, and lived with a host family that included three siblings. He stayed in touch with them after moving to Montreal in 2017 to attend McGill and drove 14 hours to Virginia to spend Christmas of 2018 with them.

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“One night they wanted to bake Christmas cookies and decorate them,” recalled Wang, now 22. “But there were no moulds — and they said it was boring.”

Jiayuan Wang launched Cookiestruct in 2019. The company now has six printers working simultaneously and supports two part-time employees and two artists.
Jiayuan Wang launched Cookiestruct in 2019. The company now has six printers working simultaneously and supports two part-time employees and two artists. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

He became interested in custom cookie cutters, did some research online and applied to the McGill Engine incubator. “I was very interested in 3D printers, a low-cost way of doing something custom, and in technology in general.”

He spent the summer of 2019 printing models of cookie cutters with a 3D printer and building a website; the site had a soft launch that September, by which time he was posting about Cookiestruct on social media. That December, Felix Montgrain left a corporate job to become its chief marketing officer.

The website features a range of cookie cutters, including ones themed around holidays, sports and pets, and designs that can be personalized, like the dog bone shape. As well, customers can submit a photo of whatever design they want for a cookie cutter — from an image of a family member to a company logo.

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A custom cookie cutter personalized for Dex, McGill engineering student Jiayuan Wang’s corgi.
A custom cookie cutter personalized for Dex, McGill engineering student Jiayuan Wang’s corgi. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

“We have two local artists who trace the image as a line image,” Wang said. Once the artists have created the designs, the cookie cutters are made by the 3D printer of PLA plastic, a material made from a renewable resource such as cornstarch. The company now has six printers working simultaneously and supports two part-time employees and two artists. The hope is for Montgrain to come on full-time later this year.

Wang believes his entrepreneurial spirit comes from his father, who started a graphic design firm in Shanghai and later, with contacts from working in the state-owned railway industry, started a company selling machinery to the railroad. “And he was able to make enough money that it enabled me to come abroad,” he said.

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Moving to the U.S. from China was admittedly “a huge culture shock.”

There was the language barrier, for one. “I was struggling — academically and socially,” he recalled. “I spoke really, really slowly, like a robot — so slowly that people walked away from me. And I had a really thick Chinese accent.

“I would practise English in the shower.”

Seven years later, Wang’s English is pretty much flawless.

With a business plan submitted last year, he obtained a Certificat de sélection du Québec as part of a provincial immigration program sponsored by an entrepreneurship centre of the applicant’s university. The certificate means he has officially been selected for immigration by the province and, with it, he has applied federally for permanent residence in Canada.

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“Canada is really friendly and I like how diverse it is culturally and how much more open-minded than the U.S., it seems — especially in terms of immigration.”

Jiayuan Wang prepares a Mother’s Day gift box. Proceeds benefit the Alliance des maisons d’hébergement de 2e étape pour femmes et enfants victimes de violence conjugale.
Jiayuan Wang prepares a Mother’s Day gift box. Proceeds benefit the Alliance des maisons d’hébergement de 2e étape pour femmes et enfants victimes de violence conjugale. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

Wang and Montgrain feel strongly about supporting social causes close to their hearts. Early in the pandemic, Cookiestruct ran a “ça va bien aller” campaign, donating 50 per cent of profits from sales of rainbow-shaped cookie cutters to the Breakfast Club of Canada, which helps children living with food insecurity.

In the wake of a spike in femicides (at least 10 Quebec women have been killed by their male partners in 2021), Cookiestruct has partnered with local businesses to give all profits from sales of a Mother’s Day gift box to the Alliance des maisons d’hébergement de 2e étape pour femmes et enfants victimes de violence conjugale, a grouping of 26 facilities offering safe transition housing and other services to ensure the safety of women who have left abusive relationships.

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The gift box, which includes a mug, two aromatic candles, a Mother’s Day-themed cookie cutter, a heart-shaped mould and a greeting card, costs $42.95. To ensure on-time arrival for Mother’s Day for packages sent by Canada Post, the ordering deadline is Monday, May 3. There are also three pickup points — in downtown Montreal, Candiac and Joliette — and expedited shipping is available. The gift box can be ordered at cookiestruct.com/moms.

sschwartz@postmedia.com

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