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The Rise of The Cookiepreneur - and A Challenge!

I don’t know about you, but I have faced many challenges in my lifetime, the biggest of which knocked me down so hard I thought I would never survive. Oddly enough, it was through that challenge that I found my true calling and built a small cookie business that is successful beyond what I ever thought possible. 


I started my cookie business in 2008, from my home with 800 dollars. By my second year, I barely broke even. My business nearly quadrupled during my third year, bringing me from approximately seven to about 28 orders per week. And last year, I averaged about 47 orders per week.   


Admittedly, I am an optimist, but if you had told me ten years ago that I would be able to build a cookie business from my home, doing what I am absolutely passionate about and grossing six figures into my fifth year in business, I would have certainly told you, "You are NUTS!"


By no means did these results come without much hard work, many long hours, adding a candy line to my cookie business, and other sacrifices that we will get into in future blog posts. But it is my belief that similar results are possible for you as well, if this is what you wish to accomplish.  


2007 was an insane year for me, as for so many Americans, because of both the economy and a handful of personal challenges. I was in the midst of a devastating divorce; my mother, who was my best friend, had died after a bout with Alzheimer’s Disease; and I had just sold off my interests in a lucrative mortgage business I co-founded for much less than I felt I deserved. 


I was left with a huge mortgage and car payment, and a three-year-old son and 76-year-old father to care for. I was emotionally devastated, and things just continued to get worse until they hit critical mass in August 2008, when every stream of income that I depended on dried up.


I can’t remember exactly when the idea hit, but it was certainly at a moment when I was so low that I felt I could hardly breathe. I kept asking myself: How can I make money from home? What am I good at that people want? How can I use my creativity and skill set so that it benefits others and myself? 


Wacky Cookies- Fruit Cookies

  Cookie/Photo Credit: Aymee VanDyke


The immediate answer that popped up for me was: I will bake cookies! At that moment, I thought it would be a breeze because I have always felt comfortable in the kitchen. You see, my parents owned a catering business and a couple of restaurants when I was a child. My grandfather was a chef, so cooking and baking were natural choices for me.


What I did not realize at the time I got started were the challenges I would face as far as improving my decorating skills, building a client base, and finding a forum where my cookies would reach a wide audience.


 Wacky Cookies- Color Explosion

  Cookie/Photo Credit: Aymee VanDyke


Creative Destruction


During my first year of business school, I learned about the concept of creative destruction in capitalist society. Joseph Schumpeter, the Austrian American economist and political scientist, coined the term. Basically what it means is that, when certain sectors in an economy are destroyed, others will naturally grow as a result, and that is exactly what we are living at the current moment.


Since the economic crash of 2008, the number of cottage food businesses has grown in the United States, which has, in turn, given rise to the cookiepreneur. How many people do you know who are selling baked goods out of their homes and at farmers' markets?


When I sought estimated annual figures for the cottage food industry, I found it difficult to come up with a national number. This was not surprising to me considering the overall lack of state regulation and current number of businesses that are operating under the radar, so to speak.


However, due to the increasing number of states passing cottage food legislation, I would hazard an educated guess that we will begin to see good, solid figures on cottage food industry size in the near future.


(I thought it worth mentioning that, even though I do not have solid market figures, there is clearly a growing supply of cottage food businesses and products as reflected in the recent push for cottage food legislature to be passed in a number of states.)


Taking the Leap


I have spoken to so many women who have started their businesses out of a need to either survive financially or to contribute to their spouse’s income. I have also spoken to other ladies who started their business out of massive inspiration and the encouragement of loved ones.


Shannon Harman

One of these extraordinary ladies is Shannon Harman the owner of The Sweet Shop Cookie Company. Her mother was also her best friend, and her passing prompted Shannon to pursue her dreams of using her talent to build a successful cookie business.


Shannon is a force of nature, and her store can be found on Etsy. She has built an amazing business where she has consistent demand for 20 dozen-plus cookie orders per week. I recently asked her a bit about her business and how she got into it, and here is what she told me:



AVD: Shannon, how were you first introduced to baking/decorating cookies?


SH: I can remember as a young girl always baking with my mom and grandma. We were always baking cakes, pies, and cookies. Every meal ended with a yummy dessert.


AVD: When did it become obvious to you that decorating was a passion of yours?


SH: I always loved baking. I discovered after years of baking Christmas cookies that it just wasn’t enough. Cookies had to be for more than just Christmas. I was soon the cookie lady for every occasion. I have heard people say, “You just know when you are meant to do something." This is so true! I felt it in my heart that one day I would own my own bakery.


AVD: At what point did you decide that you would turn your passion into a business?


SH: My mom urged me to take the step towards my own cookie company. I kept saying, “I’ll do it one day." Three years ago my mom passed away and, in memory of her, I decided to give it a try. This was what she wanted for me. I am thankful because here I am today as the owner and lead decorator of The Sweet Shop Cookie Company.


AVD: Tell me a bit about your self confidence and your level of expertise at the time that you decided to do this professionally. What was the process? Were you incredibly confident or did you have concerns about your readiness to start the business?


SH: I am such a perfectionist. When you are baking for your family, you can say, “They are good enough." When you are baking for a customer, it’s different. I remember, when I first began, I would stress over every single cookie. They would take forever! To me, they were good, but never good enough. Over time, I did a lot of research. I created a lot of practice cookies (which my husband is thankful for). I am finally to the point where I am very confident with my product. Through trial and error, you learn what works. And when a customer raves over your product, you know you must be doing something right. 


AVD: What is your favorite part of running your own business?


SH: My favorite part is being my own boss and working my own hours. I have the freedom to take a few hours during the day to go to lunch or a movie with my husband. It’s nice to know I am not on a set schedule.


shannon black and white

  Cookie/Photo Credit: Shannon Harman


AVD: Which is your favorite part of the cookie business and why?


SH: I love to talk to people about cookies. I love that they come to me to create something special for their special occasions.


AVD: And your least favorite and why?


SH: Decorated cutout cookies take time. They are not something you whip together in minutes. Sometimes it gets overwhelming. I would be lying if I said I’ve never had to step back and regroup. I do this from time to time.


AVD: What has been your biggest challenge thus far?


SH: It doesn’t happen often, but cookies do get broken in the mail. It’s very frustrating when you put time and effort into creating something amazing and the mail shatters them. It’s so sad.


Shannon pinwheels

 Cookie/Photo Credit: Shannon Harman


AVD: And your greatest reward?


SH: Feedback from my wonderful customers. When I hear them say that the cookies were wonderful and they really added to the event, it makes all the hard work worth it!

AVD: What would be your best advice to women (or men) who want to start baking businesses at home by turning their hobby/passion into a business?


SH: Go for it! If you love baking, why not give it a try? I have grown so much over the past three years. I recently looked at cookies from when I first began. Boy, have I learned so much! Practice makes perfect! If owning your own cookie business has been your dream, only you can make your dream a reality. 


When I asked Shannon about her overall vision for her company, she responded, "My vision for my company is to create not only uniquely designed cookies but ones that are absolutely delicious. I want my customers to be wowed when they look at the cookies and double-wowed when they taste them."


She also went on to tell me that she is going to concentrate on expanding her client base in the next year. Her three- to five-year plans include having her own brick-and-mortar bakery where she will expand into drop cookies, cupcakes, and cakes.


So there you have it! Sounds to me like Shannon has a clear vision for what she wants. I wish her the best of luck with her lovely shop.


No matter what your inspiration or motivation, it’s a new day filled with opportunity for the aspiring cookiepreneur.


He Who Works Hard Gets Lucky


Now I don’t know who you are or where you live, but what I can tell you is that there is nothing you cannot accomplish with hard work and dedication. I have spent hours on Cookie Connection, and I have seen your work. I have to say, honestly, that I am in awe of your creativity and talent.


Unlike Shannon, I admittedly was not a perfectionist when I started and am still not the greatest cookie decorator who ever existed. In fact, when it comes to decorating, my designs are not spectacular compared to many of yours.


I have made a very calculated business decision not to sell very intricate cookies that take days to create. It was a difficult decision, but one of the trade-offs I made in order to make my business profitable - and I make no bones about sharing this information. After all, we are talking business here.     

If you are wondering what it takes to build a cottage cookie business and make a profit, let me just say: you don’t have to be the most skilled or experienced decorator in the world, but you do need to have a consistently executed product formulated with great ingredients, a solid business formula, encyclopedic knowledge of your customer base, a good bit of determination, an impeccable work ethic, and nothing short of the psychological resiliency of a world class athlete. These things, along with good, practical advice, will surely help you navigate your way to success.


The Challenges


There are many challenges that you will face as a cookiepreneur. If your decorating skills are already there (mine were not), you are off to a great start. But as you will soon find out, it takes much more than just being a talented decorator and baker to turn a profit in this business. 


You will have to learn the nature of the business and to deal with the fact that no matter how prepared you are, you will be thrown curve balls. You need to have the emotional dexterity to handle, learn, and even grow from them.


Although the purpose of this blog is to encourage you to build your own business, some of you will inevitably find that the business of cookies is not for you, and perhaps you will just continue to do it as a hobby.


The Tools


What I hope to achieve though this blog is to provide you with the necessary tools so that you can create your own formula for success as a cookiepreneur.


I will take a two-pronged approach with this blog. The first will consist of the mechanics and the second will be mindset.


The mechanics part will include technical and practical information and advice on how to build a successful cottage sweets business, such as how to create a clear vision for the kind of a business (volume) you wish to generate, how to build a costing model for your products, basic business planning, licensing, food safety, branding, and more.


The second prong, which is mindset, is my strongest area of expertise and carries just as much weight as the mechanics, if not more. It's aimed at helping you achieve the attitude of a winning entrepreneur.


For many years, I have made it my business to study the habits and philosophies of the world’s most successful men and women. What I have learned from both my personal experience and the masters I've studied is that mindset most often determines whether a business succeeds or fails.


You can have the most impeccable business plan and abundant capital and human resources, but if you do not have the proper mindset to deal with the day-to-day challenges, along with the inevitable defeats, your business can eventually fail.


Being an entrepreneur means hard work, thick skin, patience, dedication to a quality product, flexibility, passion, and commitment. In short, success comes with a price tag, but the rewards are much more than the monetary remuneration. A great sense of pride and personal achievement comes from building a successful small business.   


In the coming months, I aim to provide you with a wealth of information, not only from my perspective, but from many other cookiepreneurs who own and operate successful cottage food businesses.


We will discuss what they are doing right, as well as the mistakes we have all made, so you can draw from those experiences and create your own recipe for success.


What’s Your Story?


I would love to hear your story. How did you get into the business of cookies? If you are an aspiring cookiepreneur, tell me what your inspiration/motivation is to do this. As Julia had mentioned in her introduction, I expect reader participation! After all, this blog is all about and for you.


My definition of success is being paid to use your gifts and do what you absolutely love. I look forward to our journey together and hearing your stories of success in cookiepreneurship.


Until next time, always remember: the ultimate key to success is persistence! Never give up, never! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Keep reading to learn more about Aymee and the challenge mentioned in this post's title.]




Aymee VanDyke, also known as Cookiepreneur, is a successful entrepreneur and business consultant whose main focus is to help women in the cottage food industry build profitable and rewarding businesses. She is the founder and owner of Cookiepreneur and The Wacky Cookie Company, a four-year-old cottage/commercial cookie business that has operated in the black for most of its existence. Aymee has an extensive background in personal development and attended the Norwegian School of Business in Oslo. Her articles have been published in BISSI, the magazine of the Norwegian School of Business, and Somos Magazine.


Photo credit: Aymee VanDyke


Note: This column, which has yet to be named, is a regular Cookie Connection blog feature that provides business planning, marketing, and other tips for starting a cottage cookie business and taking it to the next level. Its content expresses the views of the author and interviewees, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. 


[EDITOR'S NOTE: NOW FOR THE CHALLENGE! HELP US NAME AYMEE'S COLUMN by posting a pithy title, along with any other remarks you might have for Aymee, in the comments area below. Aymee and I will choose the winning title before her next article is posted in about a month. And that's not all: the winner will receive a free copy of Julia's cookie decorating DVD!] 


Images (7)
  • Fruit Cookies: Cookies and Photo by Aymee VanDyke, The Wacky Cookie Company
  • Color Explosion: Cookies and Photo by Aymee VanDyke, The Wacky Cookie Company
  • Shannon Harman of The Sweet Shop Cookie Company: Photo Courtesy of Shannon Harman
  • Black and White Cookies: Cookies and Photo by Shannon Harman, The Sweet Shop Cookie Company
  • Pinwheels: Cookies and Photo by Shannon Harman, The Sweet Shop Cookie Company
  • Aymee VanDyke aka The Cookiepreneur: Photo Courtesy of Aymee VanDyke
  • The Cookiepreneur Logo: Courtesy of Aymee VanDyke

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Comments (50)

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So,so awesome, I have had my little cookie business for just over two years and have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to actually make money! I am starting to get more and more into it and am really excited about learning more from you - thanks so much for this!

Title-- Making Cookie "Dough"


I am very excited about this new strand to the blog. My husband was on deployment when I first began making "cookies for sale."  He is preparing to deploy again in October so I have decided to use the time more wisely-instead of  pacing the floors until his return, to use this precious time to build a client base and follow these steps you are suggesting! Thanks all for sharing your experiences! Maybe I really CAN do this!

This blog post brought me to this site for the first time and I am very excited to see what is to come of it! I recently (two months ago) got the keys to my new store front bakery!Expansion from a home based business has been crazy! I've run the business from my home for the last three years.  I have scaled cookie orders back to one week each month as they require so much time. Although I have a larger focus on cakes than I do cookies, I still feel as though I can learn a lot from this blog. My biggest struggle is time management skills. I built my business while completing my small business degree. I'm very excited to learn and hopefully share my experiences!

I am in the autumn of my life. An unexpected and very costly divorce left me nearly destitute.I am living off of a very small pension and haven't been able to find a job. I always baked a lot and did many crafts all of my life, so I decided that the solution would be to do what I love best and that was always baking cookies, thinking up new recipes for my family and friends, although these weren't decorated, I only discovered, in the past few months, how cookies can be canvases for works of art and that hit me like " why didn't I think of doing this a long time ago " and also only discovered this amazing website a few weeks ago when I came across a link for Julia's cookies. I never had a business, so I need all the help I can get, I know it will take time to build. I don't know if this sort of business will be successful in my area, I don't know if people would be willing to pay this much for cookies instead of the usual cakes, I'm not sure if I should incorporate at this stage without knowing if I will have any customers, my son in law has a restaurant where I could leave business cards, and there is a hospital at 5 minute walking distance from my house where I could make some " free" sample cookies and bring them to the delivery ward for new Moms in hopes that they will order cookies for christenings and so on. What would you suggest a business card should state on it? will you suggest we make a little pamphlet too? I have no idea where to start and I know I am not the only one so I am really happy that you started this blog

Thank you for your blog. I have been selling cookies here and there for a few years while also teaching. We've moved to different states 8 times in 15 years with my husband's job. This is the first year in 22 years that I won't be teaching. Now I can focus on my cookie business. It is awesome to hear how others are doing this with great success. My challenge is constantly finding ways to get my name out into the community since I move so often. I've always introduced my cookies at my school functions. Now I don't have that connection. I do plan on treating several of the teachers at nearby schools to some "Back to School" cookies with my business card in September. I would love to hear how others get their name out in their communities.
Didi Romero
4 the Love of Cookies

In reading your back story, I felt it could have said 'INSERT NAME HERE', and it would be me!   Boy, could I give you a story too!  I bet most of us could, and they'd all sound remotely similar.

Thank you for sharing.  Every so often (almost daily) I get this pang of anxiety ~ and think ~ what am I doing?!  But I get new orders, and start baking and I'm settled in 'my world' again (for the moment).  It certainly helps reading other peoples ventures.  

I look forward to reading more, and the comments from other 'cookiers'!

Possible Title: "How to Bake Up a Cookie Business"


WOW!  What timing!  I am in the process of setting up "shop".  Alabama is trying to get a cottage food law passed, but we didn't make it last year.  We're trying again, but I'm not waiting.  I've worked out an agreement with our church to use the huge, mostly unused, commercial kitchen there in order to launch my own bakery business.  Now that I have that...I have to get to work.  Can't wait to read the next blog entry.




Particularly paid attention to the firm decision to not commit to the 'highly' decorated cookies. I have been pondering this and I want to start raising money for my grandson's health costs. I think this is a great philosophy - have great tasting cookies that look good. I can do that! It will actually be part of my philosophy! Thanks for the inspiration. My blog name suggesting would be: The Three "C's" - or Cookiers Comment Constructively! (sad, I know, but sort of a play on Tres Leches! <sigh>

So glad to read each and every one of your comments. I am so excited about this journey  with all of you.  I agree with Gigi's Fresh Baked  that many of us have gone through challenges that have brought us here. That's the great part though, uncovering your gifts through the defeats and making the best out of them. Give a baker  lemons, and watch her turn around and give you the most  amazing Lemon Cookies you have ever tasted  . Keep the stories coming and don't forget to vote for a name.. you may actually be the one to win Julia's Decorating DVD .

Of course you can do it  !  Thanks for sharing. Originally Posted by BearClanCookies:

Title-- Making Cookie "Dough"


I am very excited about this new strand to the blog. My husband was on deployment when I first began making "cookies for sale."  He is preparing to deploy again in October so I have decided to use the time more wisely-instead of  pacing the floors until his return, to use this precious time to build a client base and follow these steps you are suggesting! Thanks all for sharing your experiences! Maybe I really CAN do this!


Thank you so much for sharing with us! I am starting out small, as I still have a full time job that for the time being, need to keep. But, as I get closer to retirement from full time work I hope to build a cookie/cake business enough to supplement my retirement income. I can not even believe I am talking about this because I just don't feel old enough, but I am getting there fast! Your determination through devastating times is such an inspiration! You have given very useful advice and I will be reading this several times to absorb all I can. This website has been a gift from God in my eyes. I do not yet have the quality of cookie that I feel I should, but I am trying to just grow my talent and experience. I have such good feedback from friends and customers, that it gives me the confidence to continue, even though I do not truly produce the quality I feel I should. I am receiving help from special ladies on this site all over the world and it is so exciting to have a family of cookiers willing to share advice, techniques and support.

Thanks, Jamie. Your very kind words really touched me . . . I'm so glad this site resonates with you. Each day the talent and generosity of those here amazes me.


Aymee is a prime example; she put her heart and soul into this piece, and I know she will continue to do so.

My Title would be " Good Enough". Why because like Aymee said cookie for family are always good enough, But cookies for sales Have to be better. So get baking and decorating and make them better. This is about the beginning, so where is a better place to start but with family.  Keep up the good work Aymee !!!  

Title: Cookies, a business opportunity.

Thanks for this post, I've read it twice and would love to do a business that I love so much, the cakes, but in Spain things are not so easy because there are too riquisitos to open a store or something, not allowed do at home for sale and I cut the wings, but I see that there may be a way out, thanks to this post. Thank you!

What an excellent idea, and inspiring first blog post! Thank you SO much!


For a name, Dough (nuts) to Dollars immediately came to mind, tapping into our passion for rolling out the dough, then wanting to turn it into something profitable.


Of it we want to really think positive, "Rolling In The Dough"!


Whatever the name, I look forward to future posts!


Thank you again!!

I thought the name of the column WAS The Rise of The Cookiepreneur. That title got me to click on the post and pretty much sums up what most of us are interested in. But maybe there's a reason that doesn't work or that title belongs to someone else?

Hi, Patty! Not many of us here speak Italian and the site translator only converts from English to other languages. You might want to translate your posts using Google Translate ( so that more people can read them. It's super easy to use and reasonably accurate. Here's what it came up with for your recent post; it's a wonderful story and I didn't want people to miss it:


My name is Partizia, I have 60 years old, I never thought that at this point in my life where so many made ​​merry now happily retired, I would find myself without a job and no pension, my company has failed and the state I moved the retirement date.

My passion is cooking, we go crazy for Italian pasta at home, made with a rolling pin, I found myself with lots of time availabl