Max Surnow is a 22-year-old businessman who has watched many of his peers leave Michigan in pursuit of employment. Instead, he decided to take a risk and invest his own savings to start a company in Birmingham.
"My family is here, plain and simple," Surnow said. "And, it's a way of giving back to the community I love so much. I'm putting my foot down and I'm staying here."
Surnow, a Groves High School graduate, began Cooper Street Cookies in December, 2010. His products are now sold in over two dozen large retailers, eateries and local markets, including Papa Joe's, Plum Market, Macy's, Market Square, and Whole Foods.
"I hit the pavement and knocked on doors," he said. "People love buying local and that helps a lot. To walk into a store and see all your hard work sitting on the shelf is so exciting."
While Surnow owns the business, his close-knit family has played an essential role in the success of his endeavor. The original recipe for the kosher, all-natural, lactose and nut-free cookies originated from his mother, Elaine Surnow.
"My mom is my partner," he said. "We are a super team." Surnow's father, Jeff, is also an entrepreneur, and has lent his extensive business knowledge to the company while his brother, an accountant, has assisted with some financial expertise.
"My sister helps with brand awareness," he said. "Working with family makes it fun."
As a child, Surnow was an overachiever with high energy and even higher aspirations.
"I've never been one to sit around and relax," he said. "Being an entrepreneur runs in my family. I grew up knowing I had to be creative and make my own way in this world."
As a Groves High School student, Surnow played baseball and said he gleaned many life lessons from his experience on the team.
"I learned a lot about teamwork," he said. "Everyone has their role. No one can do everything. It taught me to stick with my strengths and let everyone else stick with theirs."
Surnow's fortitude is paying off as Cooper Street grows, but he has little time for leisure. "My social life has dwindled because I work so much," he said. "I do all my own deliveries and demos. I watch money closely and spend as strategically as possible. Every dollar we've made has gone right back into the company."
Surnow, a recent college graduate, earned his degree in finance from Michigan State University, and said he is surprised by the direction his career has taken.
"I didn't know anything about the food business," he said. "I just learned as I went. It started as a hobby with my mom and it blossomed into something I never imagined." ...continued on page 2