It’s once again Cookier Close-up time! Yay! I just love learning more about our fabulous Cookie Connection members! Today, we’re talking with a member who harks from one of the cities and countries where I’ve most frequently traveled to teach cookie decorating – Buenos Aires, Argentina! I absolutely love it there – it’s almost a home away from home at this point. I’m particularly fond of one of its signature sweets, which I’m hoping our featured artist will tell us more about. But we’ll come to sweets in due time . . . First, let me properly introduce this very special person. It’s none other than our May 2021 site artist, @Heather Bruce Sosa of Nanny’s Cookies. Heather also happens to be one of the brightest lights on Cookie Connection, always spreading her “sunshine” on other members with comments of support and positivity. So, let me start off by thanking Heather for being such a wonderful presence here in our community.
As you might recall from her earlier site artist intro in our forums, Heather’s first exposure to sugar art came via her mom, whom she grew up watching decorate incredible wedding cakes. As a tribute to her mother (called “Nanny” by her grandkids), Heather named her cookie business after her. Christmas cookies were also part of Heather’s family upbringing, but Heather herself really didn’t pursue them as either a hobby or a profession until about four years ago when she came across a well-known cookier’s videos on YouTube (hmmm . . . now who might that be? ). Shortly after, in 2018, she joined Cookie Connection, and the rest is history. Decorating cookies has become Heather’s passion. She loves the joy that cookies bring to family, friends, and customers, and that each order is an opportunity to grow and give her very best.
So with that brief intro behind us, let’s learn more about Heather!
JMU: Hi, Heather! Thank you again for being such a positive force here on Cookie Connection. Your comments always brighten my day!
I understand that you have five children and that you also support your husband’s work as chaplain for the PGALA (Professional Golf Association for Latin America). So my first question is: With such a busy family life, how do cookies fit into the picture? What sorts of things do you do to support your husband’s work, and how much time does that leave you for cookies each week?
HBS: Firstly, dear Julia, I would like to thank you for this unique opportunity. I am truly grateful and humbled. When I joined Cookie Connection, I had no idea I would be so blessed, and learn so much from each and every artist in the group. This community is such a rich, generous, sensitive, loving, encouraging, and enthusiastic place.
Now, let’s turn to your first question. Yes, I have five kids and five grandkids, but all away from home and spread out in the country. My husband has been the chaplain for PGALA for the last 13 years, and my part in his ministry is helping out with letter writing to the US and some translations. I’ve also been able to travel with him to a few of the tournaments in South America and several within Argentina – also to some abroad (several times to the US and also Scotland). This travel, of course, was all before COVID.
I have managed to squeeze cookies into my “free time” or have made time, like most of you!
JMU: Can you tell us more about Nanny’s Cookies? For example, how soon after you got into cookie decorating did you launch the business? Where do you operate (i.e., at home, in shared commercial space, or in your own commercial space)? And how do you operate? (i.e., do you do custom orders, or do you have a more standardized cookie offering?)
HBS: As you mentioned in your kind intro, cookies were a family tradition for Christmas, but ever so simple. One day a dear friend asked me if I could decorate some for her clients, and I guess this is how my business timidly started around 2017. By the following year, I had more clients. I work from my small kitchen and have only done custom cookies. Each order has been unique, challenging, and so rewarding in terms of what I have learned.
JMU: I love that you feel so rewarded by what you do – that’s the real measure of success, now isn’t it?! What’s your typical cookie-week look like? How much time do you spend cookie decorating or doing cookie-related activities? How many cookies do you decorate in a typical week, and for what types of occasions?
HBS: I’m doing less decorating now (more on why a bit later). But when I was more active . . . I only took orders for custom cookies and didn’t have a huge amount of clients, so my weeks were all different. Some were busier than others, but never maddening, except for Christmas. When weeks were easygoing, I took advantage [of the time] to practice new techniques, pipe flowers to store, and take courses with local artists.
JMU: What was your biggest challenge in launching your cookie business, and how have you overcome it (or how are you working to overcome it)?
HBS: I guess I was my biggest challenge! Overcoming the sense of inadequacy and fear of not being up to standard took some time, but support from my family and dear friends and nice comments from my customers were so encouraging. Now, as I look back, I can’t believe clients paid for what I did.
JMU: And for the flip side of the previous question: what has been the easiest thing for you about starting your business, and why?
HBS: I strongly believe that this [cookie decorating] is a God-given talent, and love the idea of making people happy with it.
JMU: You launched your business just a few short years after really diving into cookie decorating, which is impressive to me. I was more risk-averse when starting my bakery; it took me a year of culinary school and a couple of years working the line in restaurants to even start thinking about going out on my own. So how did you know when you and your skills were ready for launching a cookie business? What did you do to prepare for launching that business (i.e., take business or cookie decorating classes, train in a bakery, other?)
HBS: Yes, everything went quite fast. I was 57 when I began taking my first steps in cookie decorating, and I knew I had to seize the moment, work hard, and give the best of me. But where do I start? I knew nobody here who taught, so I went to YouTube and found you, Julia. You were my trampoline, I can assure you. I can’t thank you enough!
JMU: Aww, I’m so thrilled to hear I was a springboard for your creativity. Comments like yours lead me to believe that all of the hours and dollars invested in YouTube are paying off! (If I just did it for the ad revenue, I’d be in the poor house! ) What advice would you give to others who want to start selling cookies? Or, alternatively, what advice, if any, would you like to have had before starting to sell yours?
HSB: Go for it! Practice, practice, practice. You will have failures, and that is okay; we must also learn from mistakes. Try again . . . and again. We will always feel that our cookies are not good enough. Pursue excellence, not perfection. Repeat the sequence.
JMU: Excellent advice. Even I – an old-timer in this business - would be better off if I heeded more of it! I see from your Cookie Connection portfolio that you do a lot of lovely floral cookies, using a wide range of techniques. But what would YOU say is your dominant style, if any, and how did it come to be? And what is your preferred type of cookie to decorate, if any, and why?
HBS: One of the cookiers who I look up to is @Teri Pringle Wood. I was captivated by her style and art. She is an inspiration to me in many ways, not only for her stunning creations. Flowers have been quite meaningful to me all of my life, and I love the theme. I also love feminine touches and pastel colors, so wedding and girlie-girlie cookies are my favorite.
JMU: Do you have a cookie Achilles’ heel – meaning a technique that you just can’t seem to master? If so, what is it? And what, if any, strategies do you have for conquering that technique?
HBS: I would like to take the opportunity to thank Cookie Connection for the amazing challenges. We all learn so much from them and appreciate the long hours of hard work you put into them. I haven’t been able to take part in most of them, but I still learn so much with each entry, and the explanations and the videos related to each technique. I can’t identify an Achilles’ heel yet, but basically because I haven’t tried many techniques either.
JMU: Thanks again for the shout-out. I’ll be sure to pass it onto @Sweet Prodigy, who does most of our challenge work from month to month. Now, let’s talk more about your personal cookie journey and experiences in Argentina. What moment, if any, has been your highest point (or greatest accomplishment) in your cookie decorating history, and why?
HBS: As I mentioned, flowers are my delight, and Petals by You is so inspiring. So, I decided to give her art a try. Playing with wafer paper and fondant to create them was amazing to me. The highlight was that I presented them for a Cookie Connection challenge last year (see photo below) and got a prize!
JMU: I remember how I loved your flower cookie for that challenge! Now, for the converse of the previous question: What’s been your most trying or challenging moment in your cookie decorating history, and how did you get past it?
HBS: I remember that my Freddie Mercury order (pictured below) was the first one to make me think out of the box and pushed my limits way out. They took time, energy, creativity, patience, and more, but I was so happy with the results.
JMU: Let’s turn to cookie decorating in Argentina, and any trends you see with that. In your opinion, is cookie decorating as popular in Argentina as it is now in the US? Is interest in it growing or waning, and what market or other factors lead you to say this?
HBS: Cookie decorating is a business that is growing in Argentina. Cookies in general aren’t as popular as in the US, though . . . I guess that’s because pastries here are more influenced by Italian and French cuisine than by that of the English or Danish. But, as I say, cookie decorating is slowly finding a space in the market.
JMU: I believe so too, just judging from the relatively large number of times I’ve been invited to teach cookie decorating there. Do Argentines have any special cookie traditions, recipes, or ingredients that you think Cookie Connection members should know about? If so, please describe them. (I know of at least one, and it is delish! )
HSB: Argentina is ALL about dulce de leche! (Your caramel is similar to it.) It is used as a filling for cakes, on toast, and as a topping, an ice cream flavor (heaven on Earth), and a filling between two soft cookies that are then dipped in chocolate to become what’s called an “alfajor”. It’s used in and on anything and everything you can think of. It is soft, gooey, sweet, and creamy. It is absolutely delicious!
JMU: Bingo – alfajores are the delight that I had in mind! I guess I did a good job of advertising my love of them to my Argentinean hosts, because there hasn’t been one who didn’t keep me well stocked with them during my visits.
What’s your favorite part of belonging to the online cookie community, and why? And I’m not talking just about Cookie Connection; I’m talking about “community” in the broadest sense of how you experience it everywhere online.
HBS: I can’t thank Cookie Connection enough for the impact it has made on my life. I learn so much from you all, and not only related to cookies. There are so many cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds in this community, each unique and respected. I have found some amazing and loving friends who encourage and listen, and have supported me, especially these last months. I am so grateful to God and how I am blessed through you all.
JMU: Ooh, I am beyond thrilled to hear this. I feel the same way about all of you! Last, my usual parting question! Where would you like to see yourself in the cookie decorating world three years from now? Do you see yourself doing more or less of anything, or taking on any new cookie-related activities, such as teaching, creating or selling products, or something else? Why would you like to go in this direction?
HBS: Well, this question is a difficult one for me to answer right now, and I would like to explain why. Last December, our third son, who is single and living 1,000 miles away from Buenos Aires where we lived, was taken into the hospital due to serious complications related to diabetes he has suffered with for the last 19 years. My husband and I drove up to be with him, not really knowing how long we would stay. We are still here. Mark is recovering, but still has a long way ahead of him. So, we have decided to move here, purchase land, and build a home. In the meantime, we are at a temporary home where our belongings arrived three weeks ago. Our lives have flipped over, and we are starting from scratch. I haven’t been able to bake a cookie since Christmas, and I’m looking forward to my first batch, which will be in appreciation of the medical staff that has been incredibly loving and caring throughout these long, uncertain, and difficult months. Then, I would like to start all over and establish my business here. And lastly, I am so grateful to all who have been so generous in teaching me, so it would make me very happy if I could teach others.
JMU: Oh my – what a trying time and huge life transition you have made, all fueled by love. Thanks for being so open and honest with us. I sincerely hope that your son returns to full health soon and that you are able to successfully reestablish your business there. I am certain your positivity will speed Mark’s healing and open doors for you as well. All my love and best wishes, and special thanks for taking this interview at this rough time.❤️ I close with one of my favorite recent photos of yours. The cookies depart from your signature florals, but delight just as much!
Cookie and photo credits: Heather Bruce Sosa
Cookier Close-ups is the place on Cookie Connection where we celebrate the change-makers of the cookie decorating world. Whether forging new enterprises, inventing novel decorating techniques, or consistently charming us with their cookie decorating prowess, each of our featured thought leaders has redefined in his/her distinctive way how we interact, create, or otherwise do business here in cookie space!
If there are other cookiers you'd really like to get to know, please post requests in this forum. We'll do our best to round them up for an upcoming Cookier Close-up! Thanks!