We’re all facing challenges right now that we never would have imagined just a short time ago. It's safe to say that each of us could use some support from our Cookie Connection family! So let’s get together in real time to chat and see how our fellow cookiers are doing. What challenges are we facing? How are we adapting our businesses? What solutions have we found? Let’s vent, share ideas, lend support, and encourage one another. We may feel alone, but we’re not! Please join chat host and Cookie Connection contributor Dotty Raleigh (aka Sugar Dot Cookies) and Cookie Connection founder Julia M Usher for this unprecedented and hopefully helpful event!
Background and Preparation: The chat will be text-based as always. But, this time, instead of you asking questions of a featured guest, Dotty will be asking everyone a series of questions. She would love for all of you to contribute to the discussion. To that end, she has provided the questions now so that you can give them some thought. If you’d like to prepare further, you could type up your answers in a Word document or in the notes on your mobile phone. Then, during the chat, you can simply copy and paste your prepared answers after each question is posted. This approach should leave you better able to focus on reading others’ responses instead of trying to type your answers quickly. Just one more note: Please number your answers to correspond to each question below.(Numbering will make it much easier for Julia to moderate the chat; that is, to know when and where to post your answers.)
Here are the questions that Dotty will be asking during the live chat:
What's your name, where do you live, how do you participate in cookies (i.e., as a hobbyist vs. professional; by selling cookies, teaching, and/or designing or selling cookie products?), and how long have you been involved that way in cookies?
In general, how are you handling the crisis and stay-at-home orders?
Are you still making cookies?
If so, are you making cookies in different ways or for different reasons or people?
If you are in business, what are the most challenging obstacles your business has faced because of the coronavirus pandemic?
How, if at all, have you adapted your business?
If you live in the United States and have a business, have you tried to take advantage of any of the Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and debt relief options that came about via the recently signed CARES Act? If not, why not? If so, what's been your experience so far?
Has there been any “silver lining” to the pandemic? What is the most positive thing to come out of it so far?
What lessons have you learned personally or professionally from this experience?
Do you have any words of encouragement for those of us who are feeling it all – anxiety, fear, helplessness?
Do you have your own questions to ask Dotty, Julia, or the group? That's fine too! The chat room is now open to receive advance questions that will get answered once the chat is live. Just enter them in the comment box at the bottom of this chat room and then hit the blue "Post" button. Again, neither question nor answer will reveal until the chat opens and Julia (the chat moderator) posts them into the main viewing area.
Dotty and Julia hope to "see" you on Saturday, April 18 at 10 am CT (central time) for the live chat! In the meantime, stay safe at home, and wear those masks when you go out!
Hi, all! Julia here! I just wanted to quickly introduce our wonderful chat host today, Dotty Raleigh of Sugar Dot Cookies. She's also the creator of our ongoing Sugar Dot Surveys feature. This month, in lieu of a formal written survey, she'll be running today's chat - because times like these call for even closer connections. Thank you, Dotty, for being our host today, and for all you do to keep Cookie Connection a vital and interesting place!
Welcome to everyone attending as well. Thank you for being here! I hope you all are staying safe and healthy, and that this chat offers a little comfort, hope, and/or guidance in these trying times. Its goal is simply to connect us more directly (while still social distancing!) so that we might lend support to one another on any personal or business issues that are especially challenging.
This chat will run differently than normal, in that Dotty will be asking questions of YOU, not the other way around. (I will also be lurking in the background, but primarily to moderate questions and answers - that is, to post the questions and answers into the chat in an orderly way). So, without further ado, I'll turn things over to Dotty to fill you in on the specifics of how this chat will work. Have fun, and please share! We'll all learn and grow the most that way!
Hi, all! Thank you for coming! I’m so glad you’re here! Many of us are feeling isolated and anxious. I hope that you will participate in the discussion so that you can be an encouragement to others. I hope that this time together will be an encouragement to YOU!
I will be asking a series of questions, numbered 1 to 10. To answer a question, scroll down to the “Post” box. Type in your answer (or paste it there if you have it already prepared). Put the number that corresponds to the question at the start of your answer so that we can easily match your answer to the question. Then hit the blue “Post” button to submit your answer.
For example, in response to question #1, my answer might be . . . “#1 – I’m Dotty Raleigh from Frederick, Maryland. I’m a full-time cookier . . .” Ok? Let’s get started with the first question.
#1. What's your name, where do you live, how do you participate in cookies (i.e., as a hobbyist vs. professional; by selling cookies, teaching, and/or designing or selling cookie products?), and how long have you been involved that way in cookies? (Easy peasy, right?!)
This from Tina for #1: Good morning , my name is Tina ,I live in Greece and although I have had had a limited number of royal Icing Workshops in the past 2 years I still consider myself more of a hobby cookier.
My name is Kimberly, I'm a professional, and I sell cookies as well as provide easy-to-follow sugar cookie tutorials on my YouTube channel. I've had my YouTube channel for a few years, but I've been decorating cookies for about five years, now.
Hi I am Manu, from Italy, living in Thailand at the moment. I am a hobbyst decorator. I found out about decorated cookies in 2014, but I have started only during Christmast 2015. One year later Julia offered me the opportunity to write monthly tutorials for Cookie Connection, and I have been doing that proudly ever since.
Again, it was: #1. What's your name, where do you live, how do you participate in cookies (i.e., as a hobbyist vs. professional; by selling cookies, teaching, and/or designing or selling cookie products?), and how long have you been involved that way in cookies? (Easy peasy, right?!)
#2 – I think I’m handing things rather well. Of course I’m worried about my kids and parents. I’m worried about how my business is going to fare. But overall, I’m doing pretty well! There are so many struggling profoundly, that I can’t complain.
FROM TINA who can't be here: #2: As a matter of fact my last workshop was canceled 2 days before the event and it was really disappointing. There is so much planning and preparing for a class it was heartbreaking for me to feel like I wasted so much time for nothing. I didn’t understand the severity of the situation then and Greece immediately shut down so I wasn’t even mentally prepared for anything like this.
#2: I'm not handling it altogether too well, to be frank. Personally, I am distracted and finding it hard to stay focused on creative work. All of my revenue has virtually disappeared overnight, so that can be anxiety-inducing.
#2 cont. for me: All of my classes have cancelled through August, and my stencil sales are down about 40%. It is very tough for small businesses to keep going in this environment. I am trying to stay focused on creative stuff (because I do feel better when I am creating) by writing myself to-do lists each day (smaller than usual though) and marching through them. I am currently producing for my next video shoot, hopefully on July 1.
#2. I suddenly have a 7 year old that I have to teach 2nd grade to while still trying to keep my business afloat. My last class was cancelled and so many orders were cancelled. It’s been very stressful making all these new adjustments. I know there are others much worse and I’ve been grateful to not know anyone personally that has gotten sick. Definitely in a creative rut as I switched to offering cookie decorating kits Which require no creativity.
#2: It is quite hard to be away from my family and my kids who live at the other end of the world. But technology helps a lot.
From the cookies point of view, it is not easy to stay home, it is hard to find ideas and being creative. But it is all about getting started.
Hi ...Teri Lewis with tweets cookie connection. Unfortunately, Covid 19 has really affected my teaching workshops here in Colorado...cancelling at the last minute has been tough! Fortunately, the sales of the tweets pens has remained steady, but, I'm really concerned about when the possibility of doing live teaching workshops will be OK? With a compromised imune system and lung diseases...I am afraid to go out into large crowds.
#2 Hi all! Thousands of dollars in cookie orders cancelled, but I started making cookie decorating kits for my neighborhood and sold more than 30! I never would have stepped out of my comfort zone to do it otherwise!
Teri - I hear you. My first classes have rescheduled to August. I am hoping that will be safe, as we are expected to peak here in Missouri in about two weeks. But, in the absence of any real, pervasive testing, it is hard to know and plan . . .
#2 Follow-up: Next I'm doing paint-your-own cookie kits with paint pallets and brushes (new to me as well) and then I'll do decorate-your-own kits using packs of Foodoodler markers, which I am working on buying wholesale. I am so fortunate to live in a very big and very supportive neighborhood. I don't feel comfortable straying too far from home these days.
I also have been feeling unmotivated and less productive...I stopped doing any custom orders a few months ago and am working on creating online tutorials, but I'm not that computer savvy, so it's been challenging for me.
Absolutely! I’ve been doing it 12 cookies, 3 bags of icing with 2oz in each bag, 1 bag of sprinkles for $25. No contact pickup where I place in the trunk of the car. I’ve sold over 300 in the past 3 weeks.
For Cookie Kits, I do 8 cookies in a a bag with 3 piping bags of icing, 3 containers of sprinkles, some decorative bags and twist ties so people can "package their creations like a pro", some wooden utensils, and simple instructions. I package them in a windowed pie box with some sizzle in the bottom. $25 each.
#3 CONTINUED FOR ME: I am also making cookies for my next video shoot, slated for July. I need about 8-12 weeks to prep for each shoot . . . so far I am on track. This work gives me a sense of purpose.
#3 FROM TINA: TINA AT SUGAR WISHES9:30 AM
At first I thought this is great I’ll do all those projects I never got around to and my first 3 weeks I was cleaning my workshop space, making cookies and keeping up with all my social interactions. Then it settled in that this isn’t going to end anytime soon and I totally lost my mojo and my energy. Having my husband home 24/7 was also new to me. 🙄
Lou Lou: Make lots of phone calls to see if you can rent from them! I pay a monthly rent to a bakery. I'm allowed to be there any time I'd like and as much as I'd like. I have my own area in the kitchen and I teach classes/have parties in the front.
#3 I'm now starting to get orders for Nurse's Week, that's a new one but so many people like it as a way to say thanks. A woman in my neighborhood has contacts at the local hospital and has been encouraging everyone to drop off pre-packaged (even homebaked allowed) treats, she makes regular trips there to drop them off.
We have a cookier group in CO called the Denver Baker Babes and we also will be making several dozen cookies each to donate for nurses week...which certainly helps with a sense of purpose and contribution for me!
#3 Ingredients are hard to find now! If you have trouble doing so, contact a local baker who is still open, or a caterer. They often get flour in 50-lb bags and might be willing to sell you some. Same for eggs, butter, sugar; if you can't get it delivered through your local grocery store.
Regarding Tina's remark, I can relate to feeling guilt. I tend to feel guilty whenever I am not working (strange, but I have always been wired that way). So this time is rough for a Type A control freak with an obsessive-compulsive work disorder (speaking of me, LOL)!
#4 Many community/neighborhood Facebook pages have really relaxed their usually strict rules about businesses posting what they have for sale, which is a great way to reach people. If you aren't sure, check out their page and see if any other businesses have been posting, then jump right in. It's a direct line to a lot of people who now have more time than ever to be on FB and want to know what's going on in their neighborhood.
Cookie decorating takes up a lot of time, but the cookie kits are kind of mindless to put together, you know? Not a whole lot of creativity. They look cool, though. And they make people really, really, happy.
Unfortunately, what I am finding is that all of my events want to reschedule for the same time. It's unlikely that I will be able to do Cookie Expo if it moves to November, because a number of other events already have.
I've shipped a few kits within the province. They ship well, as long as you bubble wrap them. You gotta keep in mind, though, that shipping is a little hectic right now. I shipped something a few hours away that should have taken a day or two. Took a week.
#5 – The most challenging obstacle has been the sudden and complete cancellation of all scheduled parties/classes and no new ones going onto the calendar. Thankfully the private classes that I had scheduled are on hold to hopefully be rescheduled. No refunds sent as of yet.
#5. Having to find other sources for ingredients. An unprecedented number of cancellations. Refunding thousands overnight. Having to switch gears really quickly and come up with new ideas to provide income
#5 - My experience is similar to Dotty's. I've only had one class refund, but there are opportunity costs. I have to shove the same number of events into less time to see the same amount of revenue, and that's just not going to be possible. Also retail sales have been very hard hit. But, for me, the biggest thing is just not being able to plan - or knowing how to plan - with so much uncertainty.
# Getting ingredients. But also, fearing that I will meet with some disapproval for not shutting my business down; this kept me from doing anything for weeks! Luckily everyone so far has been thrilled that I'm still open.
Lou Lou - It depends on when they reschedule. I gave them my availability, but their rescheduling has more to do with when the venue has availability. If it's in November as they suggested to me a while ago, I can't do it. I am already doing rescheduled events up until Thanksgiving day . . . so there isn't enough time in that month to take on another event. We'll see.
Almost all of my orders generally revolve around big events, parties, and gatherings. Since all of these things have cancelled, so have these cookie orders. Many stores have closed down, so I cannot carry my cookies in the stores that I typically sell at, wholesale. And the Summer Farmers Market has also cancelled, so I will no longer be a vendor there.
#7. If you live in the United States and have a business, have you tried to take advantage of any of the Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and debt relief options that came about via the recently signed CARES Act? If not, why not? If so, what's been your experience so far?
No. But here in Canada, we have the CERB (Canadian Emergency Care Benefit) which provides us $2000 a month (taxable, so we'll have to pay about $400 of that back each month, come tax time next April 2021) if it absolutely comes down to that. I'm hoping I can keep going, but we will see what happens in the coming months...
I've also been using the extra time to start work on a new product line with a partner in India (thus, my reference to India before). It's been interesting to watch the pandemic and how it's revealing itself there; the impact it's had on that business.
I have tried to apply for the PPP loan ...unfortunately the online application is not available right now because my bank has reached their cap on money for the program. I will try again on Monday with the latest updates through unemployment for gig workers and sole proprietors.
COOKIE HELPER - It is not, but it is related. I, unfortunately, have not come upon a system that I like better than the one I previously released, so, until I do, I will not be releasing another airbrush system.
I started at a new job in September to add additional income as my daughter will be going to college shortly. As the baker at that store, and assistant with cooking classes I was super busy, and put my own JenniBakes 4u on the back burner. Store is now closed, due to covid restrictions, and I cant do my JenniBakes4u as my licenced kitchen is in another state, just over the state line, and we are under a stay at home order. So Ive applied for unemployment, hopefully that will come through. I have been doing alot of planning of cookie sets for the future, and also participating in a few online cookie/cake collaborations just to keep my name out there.
#8 – I have been daily amazed at how people step up in times of need! I love seeing all the ways people are helping each other out – mostly helping our healthcare workers. I see cookie cutter makers using their 3-D printers to make parts for medical masks. I see local women here making thousands of facemasks for nurses. Also, I am AMAZED at the ingenuity of people! They are inventing and re-inventing items that can help others. For example, First we were seeing tutorial on how to make facemasks with elastic. Then we hear back that the elastic on the masks can be painful on our nurses’ ears. What do we do? Adapt! Then you see tutorials on how to make masks with ties, instead of elastic, then on making headbands with buttons so the elastic can go around those instead of nurses’ ears! Then we see someone come up with using a short piece of ribbon with buttons or crotched straps to wrap around the back of a nurse’s head to hold the elastic. Then we see 3-D printed strips to hold the elastics. Hard to explain, but my point is that it’s amazing to see how we do indeed adapt and invent and help.
#8: I am proud of my stencil partner who pivoted right away to selling face masks . . . partly out of necessity though. They have about 20-30 employees, and with regular sales down quite a lot, they needed to pivot in order to save those jobs.
Also you can team up with a local restaurant; thinking of doing that with an upscale Mexican restaurant near me for Cinco de Mayo. They now even come to neighborhoods with a mobile margarita truck; they are really inspirational as far as new ideas to generate income.
#8: If I may . . . I am trying to spread the word about my stencil partner Confection Couture Stencils’ (aka Stencil Ease’s) efforts to help health care workers on the frontlines. As I mentioned, they have converted many of their stencil manufacturing lines over to produce face shields – both kits that you can assemble and already-assembled shields that you can distribute to your local hospitals and nursing homes. Hospitals and other health care facilities can also directly purchase from them, so if you have procurement or other contacts at local health care facilities who might be interested, please email me and I will forward those contacts to my partner. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
More info about my partner’s shields can be found here: https://www.stencilease.com/collections/face-shields
#8. My silver lining has been that I’ve had the opportunity to step back and strategize on how to move forward instead of always just being go go go. And I’ve gotten to share a lot of how I run my business with my young daughter and teach her a lot. I’ve had a chance to connect with a lot of other cookiers which is something I never did before. And to see how everyone is contributing in there own way has brought happy tears more than once
Absolutely!!! Zoom and FaceTime have allowed me to connect and feel encouraged, a sense of hope and laughing with my family, neighbors, and all my cookie friend around the globe! I feel like it has helped with tips on how to be a virtual teacher...
The silver lining is the people, for sure. I'm a small baker. I buy my ingredients at the grocery store like anyone else. I can't buy commercially because I can't meet the buying minimums. So, I've seen the empty shelves - no flour, no eggs, no yeast, etc. That sucks for a baker. I normally buy my butter by the case when it comes on sale. But our grocery stores have been putting limits on it - 2 lbs. Or 4 lbs at the very, very most. That doesn't get me very far at all. I've had some meanies when it comes to impatience - as much as I've tried to say that I've been limited on ingredients, that I'm working below capacity, some people have gotten mad that I couldn't get them a DIY Cookie Kit on a certain day. But like I said, the silver lining is still the people. I told my FB friends that I was low on butter, that the grocery stores were enforcing limits, and I was asking people if they could maybe grab me a few pounds if they were out shopping and that I could e-transfer them. Before I knew it, I was getting front porch butter. A few pounds here, a few pounds there. And then butter wasn't a problem anymore. So that definitely made me smile. I was able to make more Cookie Kits again because of these friends. Some of them didn't even want me to e-transfer them. They just "wanted me to be still be around when this whole thing was over" and wanted to help in a little way, and that they'd be happy with a treat when this whole thing was through. Another customer bought some Cookie Kits but didn't actually want them, just wanted to pay for them and make sure they went to someone who could use a treat. That was nice. Once in a blue moon I might get a tip on an order. The other day I got a really big tip on an order. I thought it was a mistake, and when I asked about it, they told me I deserved it, and that definitely made my day. And the pictures people have sent me of their kids enjoying the cookie kits.
#8 - Also, getting "reacquainted" with mu husband has been great! Today, we're going out to his/our farm to forage for morels. I haven't been to the farm in over a year, since I have been too busy with cookies.
#9 FROM TINA IN GREECE: I’ve learned that my husband needs to find hobbies when he retires. 🤣 I also realize that when you take away someone’s purpose it can get very personally challenging to stay motivated! At least for me. I have always been a doer but lately I feel like Netflix has taken over my life. I do nothing but cook , clean and watch TV. It’s the first time in all my life I am so listless. Remember, though, we have been under quarantine since early March.
#9 – Being home with my husband has shown me that I was working too much and was feeling too much stress due to the ridiculous number of things on my to-do list. I was in a hurry 24/7 to whittle down that list. Through no choice of my own – my to-do list was wiped clean. Of course I’ve re-populated it with new items. I guess that’s just my nature! But now I take my time more with it. There aren’t many real deadlines so the pressure is less. I’m learning how to cut back. I do love being home!
#9: I am also learning a little more patience. I am so used to buying/getting just what I need when I want it. But, with the supply chain so disrupted, I've internalized how inextricably connected we all are, and that there's a lot of stuff/systems that I have just taken for granted.
#9. I’ve learned that with anything in life you need to be prepared for the unexpected. You have to be able to change plans when you need to. You have to still keep going. Always. You have to find ways to make yourself happy and have to always find your purpose, even if it’s an entire new purpose
#10 – “This too shall pass.” I want you to know that this won’t last forever. Let that knowledge help you get through it now. Stay in the now. What can you do now? (I do love to give advice. Lol) **Text someone to see how they’re doing.
**Do something fun at home to take your mind off your worries. (revisit an old hobby, read a book, watch a movie, bake, play a board game)
**Stop watching the news constantly! Get a daily update then move on.
**Is there something productive you now have time to work on? (update or create a website or social media accounts, clean a closet, learn how to film a cookie video, make/donate something) **Take a shower. Fix your hair. Put on some makeup. You’ll feel better and your family will appreciate it!
**Count your blessings. Recount your blessings. Look for blessings. Be a blessing.
#10 - Talk to others. You are not alone. Try to find a new purpose, but, if all you feel like doing is watching Netflix or eating snacks, don't let guilt overcome you. It's okay to pamper yourself in times of uncertainty and anxiety.
A lot of us are in the same boat right now, and I take comfort in that. We're in this together, and we'll get out together. Support your community - jump in where you can, and ask for help where you need it.
My husband and I have really explored the cookie business idea. He searches you tube for decorating ideas and techniques, found cookie cutters, and we are doing this very well. We are on our way to make a business.
#2 I'm staying home and working on designs. I'm making a few cookies for family but haven't had any orders come in for a month. I'm sure that I'm not alone in this. My concern is whether or not my small business will return once our Governor gives the go ahead to return to "normal". Such strange times. It's hard to predict.
Ditto to Dotty and Julia! I have a lot of blessings coming in June and July...a new grandson and my daughter is getting married...we have had to figure out new creative ways to share in the blessed events and it's been challenging but exciting at the same time! We are planning drive by car parades, toilet paper party favors, so many out of the box festivities ...it will all be crazy fun memories to share in the future! Births and Weddings from a distance!
Lou Lou: I've enjoyed it too. I really wish we had video-chatting ability on this site. It would have come in handy, but typing out my thoughts has also been freeing - maybe more so than just saying them, because they will sit here in posterity. :
No questions. Just a lot of gratitude for getting to be apart of this conversation. Thank you so much for doing this. It’s really great to be able to connect to the cookie community specifically during all of this.
Absolutely! Thank you Julia for his wonderful forum to connect and thank you Dotty and everyone for making me feel like I'm not alone in all the questions and non-productive feelings...we are all in this together and will see all the silver linnings...just have to look for them!!! XOXO
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