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Hi, everyone,

I started cookie-ing two years ago using Julia’s tutorials (thanks Julia!) and now have a home-based business in the Atlanta area. I have an art and food service background but my day job is in academia. I am fortunate to have grown my business to the degree that I have to turn away many customer requests and book solid over a month in advance. I have been slowly raising my prices as my skills have improved and currently charge around $4.50 per cookie with characters and handpainted cookies going for much more. 

I am also working on growing my Instagram following and my question relates to that end. I’ve done a lot of reading (and reading between the lines) and am starting to wonder what the “real” business is. Most of the cookiers who are "famous" seem to do cookies that would take hours and hours each. I don’t think they’re pricing them at $30-60 each, so something’s gotta give, as they say. My theory is that once you master the "skills" of the decorating, the money is ACTUALLY being made off of other cookiers - not customers buying custom cookies. For example: selling video tutorials/live classes, selling custom stencils or cutters, getting paid to post on Instagram, doing SponCon, etc. It seems like those "famous" cookiers do not accept many custom orders, yet keep posting these inordinately detailed, eye-catching (read: like-getting) sets. 

This all feels a bit . . . off. It’s like a snake eating its tail, in a way - other cookiers starting out, desperate to be like the "famous" ones, pay to get the equipment, supplies, and skills, only to find that our icons don’t even sell cookies because “everyone knows there’s no money in it”. Am I way off here, or is the REAL cookie business not selling cookies, but becoming a brand that other cookiers want to be like? 

Thanks for your candid answers. In no way am I trying to take the wind out of anyone’s sails (or sales, lol). Just trying to figure out the ‘business’. 

Last edited by Julia M. Usher
Original Post

What they do is make one beautiful detailed show stopping cookie and The rest are simple.  One woman does just a swipe of gold on a flooded cookie for the simple cookies.  People don’t want to eat the detailed cookie so the simple cookies work out well.

To be candid, yes, I think more money is to be made in related product and service sales versus selling LABOR-INTENSIVE insanely detailed cookies. But that is not to say that decent money can't be made in more mass-produced, less time-intensive cookies. I think some people do pretty well that way. I personally prefer to challenge myself technically with elaborate cookies, and so have chosen to make my living in related products and services, not in selling elaborate cookies that would cost me more to make than I would get in return. Also, to be fair to those doing what I'm doing, the tools and products we make serve hobbyists (who decorate for the sheer joy of it) as well as mass-producers, so I disagree with any implication that we might be taking advantage of those just starting out (i.e., misleading anyone about their ability to make money selling cookies). Our products and services have helped to build many successful cookiers and businesses, who participate in the cookie world in many different ways.

Great question, BTW.

I also wanted to add that I would be deluding you all if I said "lots" of money is to be made in related products and services (I just said "more" could be made than in selling labor-intensive cookies). I don't think it's easy to make "lots" of money in cookies no matter what you do - especially now that more and more people are selling classes and products. (Though I suppose "lots" means different things to different people.)  I work like a dog, countless hours every week doing multiple things, that, when all cobbled together, earn me a decent amount, but not even close to what I earned in past business jobs. But, I get more joy out of what I do now, and there is a second higher-earning contributor to our household, so that's how my model works for me.

One more thought: I WOULD agree with your assessment that many "famous" cookiers don't sell their cookies. However, I would not agree with the suggestion that they did this with some mercenary intent to build a brand and make "big" bucks at the expense of beginner cookiers. Many started out not really selling much . . . SweetAmbs primarily started with YouTube videos; Callye of Sweet Sugarbelle focused much of her time on her blog (which got the attention of American Crafts who then partnered with her on products); Georganne Bell of Lilaloa was known most for her blog and has migrated into products too; etc. Honestly, I don't think any of them (I know I didn't) ever started out with a calculated decision that not selling cookies would make them more money. I think they just genuinely gravitated toward what they enjoyed doing (writing or teaching via video), did that thing extraordinarily well, and that success led them to other opportunities - i.e., bigger companies knocking on their doors (or emailing them ) about partnership opportunities. 

Last edited by Julia M. Usher

I know some cookie decorators who sell product, have classes and sell cookies.  I agree people gravitate towards what they enjoy.  I don’t like the stress of selling cookies or anything, so I just decorate for fun. 

Hello! 
As a very new cookier it did take me very little time to notice that most cookiers I enjoy learning from do not sell most cookies. However, I have noticed some still do! But I have noticed that many of the ones who mostly sell products and partner with other brands have come back to the basics due to Covid. I am very thankful for the cookiers who do sell tools and products because without them I spent money on products that were not very good. 

I have noticed a few say that they sell their detailed cookies (4.5”) starting at $5. I also have seen them do a lot of their marketing on larger cookies. 

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies!

I first want to apologize if my tone came off as accusatory- I certainly don't believe that anyone has ill intentions or is deliberately swindling anybody. I also will be the first to admit that I really enjoy the products I purchase from cookie-preneurs, although I have never paid for any tutorials personally, but I love love love me some 3D-printed cutters and fancy sprinkles! I really admire them for thinking about their businesses and pursuing their interests and am happy to support them. What I was more getting at is that there is generally not a candid (public) discussion of pricing and business models; in other words, nobody is coming out saying directly "By the way these would cost $40 each so don't think I'm selling them!"

My real annoyance here is mostly that customers see these elaborate cookies, and not knowing they were made as demonstrations/art pieces, think they can add a dozen in their set. When trying to mimic these styles, it of course is taking a long time, which is a frustrating realization midway through a set. It got me thinking about my business model, since I (like Julia) enjoy making the detailed and multi-layer cookies, but I can't see a profitable model in selling these cookies to customers. 

Your comments were all very helpful and again I am sorry again if I offended anyone! 

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies!

I first want to apologize if my tone came off as accusatory- I certainly don't believe that anyone has ill intentions or is deliberately swindling anybody. I also will be the first to admit that I really enjoy the products I purchase from cookie-preneurs, although I have never paid for any tutorials personally, but I love love love me some 3D-printed cutters and fancy sprinkles! I really admire them for thinking about their businesses and pursuing their interests and am happy to support them. What I was more getting at is that there is generally not a candid (public) discussion of pricing and business models; in other words, nobody is coming out saying directly "By the way these would cost $40 each so don't think I'm selling them!"

My real annoyance here is mostly that customers see these elaborate cookies, and not knowing they were made as demonstrations/art pieces, think they can add a dozen in their set. When trying to mimic these styles, it of course is taking a long time, which is a frustrating realization midway through a set. It got me thinking about my business model, since I (like Julia) enjoy making the detailed and multi-layer cookies, but I can't see a profitable model in selling these cookies to customers. 

Your comments were all very helpful and again I am sorry again if I offended anyone! 

No apology needed - I really appreciate the candid and good question. I also appreciate your frustration. I do believe it is very difficult to create a sustainable business model based on selling only art pieces (the "struggling artist" metaphor applies to cookies as well ). Some diversification is key - you can see that diversification in many successful brick-and-mortar cookie shops (they sell other things; not just cookies even). However, special art pieces CAN be sold for the right price, just more occasionally. Last year, I did a high-profile event for the owner of a major sports team. I was paid five-figures to run an interactive airbrushing station for the kids, to supply their cookie "blanks" and other decorating do-dads, and to make a 3-D tiered cookie cake centerpiece for the guest of honor. It was a great gig, but I am lucky to have one of those in a year.

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