I will give my limited opinion - though I am still very new to everything, but perhaps understand some of the pricing problems as here I have 25% tax to add on to each cookie and similarly minimum wage here far exceeds what I am actually earning for my time. (I haven't had to give my cats away just yet)
I completely see the problem, as far as mass producing goes - I'm really not any more enlightened than you are, I am sure the process can be streamlined and certainly as far as baking the cookies goes, that could be made much quicker in a commercial kitchen. I am not sure as to how the icing process could be made much faster. The thing I tend to do is try to do designs I can finish fairly quickly, which I know you wouldn't like to do. I like wet on wet very much, simply because I often don't need to let them dry for a long time before I can finish them, I would love to spend longer on each cookie but I need to think of the time I am spending and what income I am making. I also charge according to how many colours I am mixing as I find that very time consuming - again maybe that's an area that could be made faster if doing a design range in bulk.
I believe yes you can make money but it would take some serious time to set up a system that worked so that you could offer a slightly improved price. Also, it might be worth seeing if there are any similar products and what people are prepared to pay for them. A cookie costing 11-18 euros is a luxury item so it's a question of whether you can also sell them in large quantities as well as mass produce them, which is no doubt something that you have thought about lots. I know of a lady in Norway with a store and 2 extra staff members who sells her cookies at around 9-10 euros each, how many orders she gets I can't say though. Mine in contrast cost 3-4 euros a cookie but of course I don't have the same overheads, staff costs etc to consider.
I make a great deal more money on cupcakes than I do on cookies, and I think it could be really difficult to get to a point where I am making a decent hourly wage making cookies. It's good for me as I am at home quite a bit and only teach quite part time and have a couple of language classes, so it fits in. I'm in talks about a job doing marketing for another company at the moment and that would be full time meaning I would stop teaching and either stop doing cookies altogether and do it for a hobby or take extremely few orders. All the work I have done setting up weighs pretty heavy on me but, the decent salary and the possibilities of taking holidays and not working every weekend is extremely tempting. So it is something I am seriously considering.
Not sure I have helped at all hahaha, sorry, but maybe it gives you a little insight hearing from someone else who only recently started up. It takes time and the financial rewards are not guaranteed. Of course there are lots of people making a huge success doing cookies, and I would love to be the person to say - yes, follow your dreams, go for it. But, you definitely need to feed your cats and yourself, so I guess I am sitting on the fence a little.
Oh my word - I have written loads, I will shut up now
I really hope you can find the information you need, so you can make a really good informed choice about the future. I think you are a very sensible lady, so I am sure your decision whatever it is, will be the right one.
I follow you totally. Cakes and cupcakes gibe a lot more profit, as people are willing to pay more for them in comparison to the time you need to make them. I don't exclude myself - I would surely not pay my own estimated price for a cookie *lol*
If this was just about making some extra cash in my free time, I would not give much thought about what I make per hour. But if my boss is going to take the risk, and has me on the payroll, this whole thing needs to be profitable. And if people are willing to pay about 3-4 € per cookie, this will mean something like one color with wet-on-wet polka dots, and not more.
I could actually compare my cookies to the ones of a newly opened cookie shop in Hamburg. I don't want to praise myself, but those cookies were not in the same league as mine. They are sold for the above mentioned prices and I think that is very fair. My cookies are much more detailed, elaborate and cleaner. So if I were selling them, they would need to be 3-4 times the price. Which proved that my calculations were right.
I need some Scheichs or rich Russians, they might be willing to cough up that kind of money
After much thinking I truly fear that I will have to tell my boss that we just can't realize it. He is under the impression that it must be possible to get machines to do the actual piping, so that I will only have to do the design, programm a computer and off you go... and he wouldn't truly believe me when I told him it might not be working that way. On the other hand he is pretty clever, maybe he will come up with a solution.
Whatever, as much as I love cookies, I will not move into a nice cardboard box under a bridge just to be able to sell them.