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Monday, June 29, 2015

Commercial Kitchen that I use for my Business

 My Commercial Kitchen Space


I decorated my first "real" sugar cookie Christmas 2011. I was so proud of these and had so much fun!


 I was instantly hooked and had to make more.  My second set of cookies......


 And my third set.....


I couldn't stop!  I read every tutorial online that I could find.  I ran experiments to try to improve my decorating skills.  (Obviously I needed it! Sugarbelle can only do so much.)  I made cookies for every holiday and occasion.  I asked my neighbor if I could make cookies for her daughter's bridal shower.  I brought cookies to the accountant's office that prepared our taxes quickly.  I brought cookies to the the optometrist's office that took such great care of my younger son for so long.  I looked for any excuse to decorate cookies and share them!

Close to a year after my first cookies, I decided to start Sugar Dot Cookies.

In Maryland, we need to work out of a commercial kitchen to have a legal food business. That can be a huge problem!  Many commercial kitchens will rent space - at $20 to $30 per hour.  I wouldn't be making that much so how could I pay it?  I couldn't.

I started calling around - every place I could think of.  I hit gold when I found Gayla.  She was getting ready to open up a bakery, Maggie's Bake Shop, just five minutes from my house.  She was going to let me use the kitchen when the bakery was closed!  I would pay her in cookies, not money!  She would sell those cookies in the bakery.  I could start my business.  I couldn't have asked for a better set up!

Sugar Dot Cookies began in January of 2013.  It was just part time then.

In June of 2014, Gayla decided to close the retail store.  She planned to keep the space to continue with her custom orders (delicious cakes, donuts, kinklings, pies, streudals, everything!)  and to prep food for her concessions business.  She asked if I would like to share the space with her.  Heck yeah!  I started paying monthly rent and moved right in.  I was going full-time.

Just after my sign went up.....

I was to use the store front part of the bakery to decorate my cookies (on the right side in the photo above).  The kitchen area is on the left side in the photo.  You can see photos of what the inside looked like in the beginning here.


Gayla got another renter at the same time.  Meghan, from Sweet & Savory, moved in too.  Meghan makes amazing buttercream wedding cakes!

The three of us were to share the space - each with our own separate business.   We wouldn't have walk-in hours.  It would be used for making our custom baked goods and for pick ups by appointment.

One year later and the three of us are going strong!  I am so fortunate with the set up that I have!  I love having Gayla and Meghan there to keep me company.  We work really well together, helping one another when we can.  Trying to keep out of each other's way. Lending each other supplies.  Covering pick ups when we have a conflict.

I. Am. Blessed.

Here's my space today......


I'll be speaking at Cookie Con about creative ways to find a commercial kitchen.  I've got lots of ideas after speaking to other cookiers about their kitchen situations.  Will I see you there?

Please answer my poll on the left sidebar. I'm curious!

Question for you:
Do you use a commercial kitchen for your business?  Are you looking for a commercial kitchen?  Let me know in the comments.

Read more.......
Posts on "Cookies as Business".
Posts on " Poking Around the Kitchen".
Posts on "Commercial Kitchen"

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunglasses and Hearts Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing - Sunglasses and Hearts


These little cuties were made for a teachers' retreat.  Mini hearts and small sunglasses.  I decided to bling out the sunglasses with sanding sugar.  Pretty fun, eh?

They were packaged together in favor bags to be given to the teachers.  I hope they enjoyed them!

Cookies are available for order through my website.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cookie Decorating as a Business - 101

So you want to turn cookie decorating into a business?  How to start?  Where to begin?


There's a lot to be done before starting your cookie decorating business.  (All of this applies to any food based business actually - cakes, cupcakes, cake pops....)

Let me ask you some questions.  I'll provide my own answers in more detail in future post

Take the time to practice.  Are you actually READY to take orders?  Bake and decorate for friends and family for a while.  Experiment with dough and icing recipes.  Experiment with icing consistencies and different techniques.  Scour the web for decorating tutorials.  Please don't be one of those people that say, "Help. I've just taken a cookie order.  Can you share your recipe with me?"

Do your homework.  What are the health department laws in your area?  Do you need to work out of a commercial kitchen?  Are there Cottage Food laws?  Can you sell online?  Can you ship?  Do you need liability insurance? Do you need ingredient labels?  What do you need to open a bank account?  Do you need to collect sales tax?  Do you need a business license?  Find out the answers to these questions first....Before taking any orders.

Develop your policies.  How will you take payment?  Will you take deposits?  Can they pay when they pick up?  (No!)  Can someone order just 6 cookies?  Can someone order 24 cookies - with 18 different designs and 16 colors?  Will you ship? Will you be selling by the dozen or will you be selling by individual design?  Your policies will change, as your business grows and different situations arise.  For now, you need a starting point.

Figure out pricing.  Come up with general prices for minis, smalls, medium simply decorated, medium highly decorated, etc.   Don't forget to figure in ALL of your  costs....ingredients, rent, insurance, licensing, utilities, supplies, etc.  AND an hourly wage for you!  All of it needs to be figured in if the goal is to make a profit. Later, you can fine tune this.  You can raise prices later, but don't start too low!



Build an online presence.  How will you showcase your work?  Where can potential customers read your policies?  How can they contact you?  First things, first.  Once you have your main site, later you can add facebook, twitter, instagram, a blog, etc.  Those sites will help drive traffic to you.

Bookkeeping.  How will you keep track of your income and expenses?  The more organized you are from the beginning, the easier it will be at tax time!

Get the word out.  How will you do that?  Social media?  Farmer's markets?  Local coffee shops?  Continue to make cookies for family and friends?  Advertise?

These are just SOME of the questions you need to ask yourself.  It's a start!

More Cookies as Business posts coming soon!

Are you thinking of starting a food based business?  Do you already have one?  Please let me know about it in the comments.

Oh, and be sure to answer the poll on the left sidebar.  What's your cookie status?

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Dear Diary,
One year ago, June 2014, I started decorating cookies full time at the bakery.



I wasn't sure that I'd make it to one year.  Could I make enough money to pay the rent, the insurance, furnish my area of the bakery, buy supplies, etc and still make a decent profit?  A decent hourly wage?  Would I destroy my back and piping hand with the long hours decorating?  Could I balance home and work?

Well after one year, I'm pretty pleased with the answers to those questions. There's definitely room for improvement, but I'm doing ok.

In this first full-time year, I've decorated thousands of cookies, hosted many cookie decorating parties, taught several one-on-one classes, did a few demos for groups and businesses, and had a blast.  I've met some wonderful people, enjoyed the support of so many, and taken a small part in some very special occasions.

Gayla, Meghan, and I have worked well together at the bakery.  (You'll be meeting them here soon.)  I've loved having them as my partners.


Besides reflecting on the past, this anniversary has me thinking toward the future.  What would I like to do in my second year in business?

Of course continue taking cookie orders and all of the rest.

I would like to.....teach more.  I'd like to teach other cookie decorators.  I'd like to help them with the business side of cookies.  I realize that this blog could be a great platform - one that I've sorely neglected.  This blog started out as a diary for me to record my cookie experiments - to document what worked and what didn't.  After going full time, it became a place to quickly post photos of my recent work with a link to my website.

I'd like for this blog to become something more.  A place for me to teach some of the things I've learned at the bakery.  Business things mostly.  Decorating Things.  Baking Things.  I'd like to share more about what's happening.  Not post and run so frequently.

This means that I'll be speaking to a different audience.  For the past year I've focused on potential buyers.  Most of what I do online targets them. Getting them to my website to order cookies - through facebook and this blog mostly.  I've done pretty well accomplishing that.  I receive many order inquiries daily.  My cookie calendar is filling up earlier than ever.

I've been working under the impression that I can't do two things at once - make/sell cookies full time and teach fellow cookie decorators.  I would be dividing my efforts.  I needed to focus on my business to succeed.  Can my business now also include teaching to the cookie decorating community?

Well it will in September 2015!  I'll be teaching a class at Cookie Con in Salt Lake City.
http://cookiecon.com/
Will that be it for me?  Teach my class and be done?  No!  I don't want that.  That's where this blog comes in.

I'd like to start focusing on them also - my fellow cookie decorators.  I've got some things to share with them.  I receive lots of questions privately.  I'd like to answer those questions publicly.  Reach more of them.

You'll see segments like:
Poking Around the Kitchen -  I'll take photos of my work space, in drawers and on shelves.  No cleaning up first.  You'll see what it's really like.
Interviews - with people running cookie businesses.
Business Lessons - Things I've learned that might help you with starting or running a cookie business.
Tutorials - on how to do things efficiently and keep yourself organized.

I'm hoping that my customers - past, present, future - will enjoy these behind the scenes posts.  They may not ever consider decorating or selling cookies, but hey, who doesn't like to poke around in someone's kitchen and see what's going on?  I'm hoping that they'll like seeing how their cookies are made and what goes into the business side of things.

I'll still post my recent cookies also.  That won't stop.

Can I do it?  Can I take the photos, edit them, write up the posts, get more involved in social media?  All while keeping my business going/growing AND the laundry done?  I don't know. We shall see!

To those that have been my customers, that follow me on facebook (and leave lovely comments)....Thank you!!

If you're just discovering Sugar Dot Cookies, please follow my blog.  Follow along on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.  I hope you'll find some interesting things in the year to come!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sheep Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing - Sheep / Lambs


These cookies were made for a baby shower - pink and blue lambs.  So sweet!



Cookies are available for order through my website.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Washington, DC Sugar Cookies

Wedding Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing - Washington, DC monuments and Cherry Blossoms


This spring has been the season for my DC cookies!  So many DC weddings in the last two months!


The Capitol, White House, and Cherry Blossom Trees.


This set included the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.


These were put into individual favor bags to be included in a welcome box for hotel guests.

And this set included the Jefferson Memorial and pandas.

I've made pandas for many weddings.  I've also made them for many kids' birthday parties.  I've put little pink bows on their heads for little girl parties.  Never before have I made them with bow ties for a wedding!  I am in love with these little guys.  It was at my customer's suggestion to add the black bow ties.  She wanted to give a dozen of these to the groom.  I hope to make more tuxedo pandas!

Cookies are available for order through my website.
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Monday, June 15, 2015

Roses and Hearts Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing - Roses and Hearts


These mini cookies were made for a bridal shower, to match the invitation.

Wet on wet roses with tiny bees.

Hearts with roses.


Cookies are available for order through my website.

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