Small Business Feature: MJ’s Custom Cookies
A new Small Business Feature for all of you! Talking with the wonderful MJ from MJ’s Custom Cookies this time. I’ve been working with her to renew her logo and create a coloful website and I can say she is definitely a smart cookie :) Enjoy!
What do you sell and how long have you been around?
I make custom cookies for all sorts of occasions, such as: birthdays, baby and wedding showers, anniversaries, corporate events, logo and photo cookies, to name a few. I have been around for about a year and a half.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I am actually not a trained baker, but have been baking as a hobby for years. Through experimentation, I happened to find the perfect combination of cookie and decorating that both looks and tastes good. I do have a business background, so the business aspect of my hobby was not a difficult challenge.
How has the business evolved over time?
As I state on my website, what started as a hobby and making cookie favors for my son’s baptism, turned into making cookies as favors for friends and family. Within a couple of months of having a co-worker try my cookies, I was being hired by my firm and our different brands to make cookies for several corporate events, among having friends-of-friends try my cookies and asking if I could make them cookies for their own events. Not even three months after making my son’s cookies, I had to start posting photos where people could easily see my work and contact me.
What is your biggest success right now?
I would say my biggest success right now is my website and marketing. Though I don’t have as much time as I would like to dedicate to that area of my business, I think I’m doing a pretty good job, particularly with my online presence. Someone once Google’d me [MJ’s Custom Cookies] and said I came up everywhere. I’d say that’s a great success. In terms of my cookies; my Frozen cookies really put me on the map. I’ve even had other bakeries copy my design, so that’s a real accomplishment.
How do you market your business?
I joke around that the only reason you find me online is because I hashtag the heck out of everything I post! In all seriousness, I take how I post and market my product seriously, so whenever I create a blog post, a tweet, Instagram or Facebook post, I am always sure I am tagging and commenting appropriately. I always ask myself, “if I wanted to find this online, how would I search for it? What words would I use?” and then I turn it into a hashtag.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced during this time?
My biggest challenge so far is time! I also work a full-time corporate job, so the only time I get to tend to my cookie business is my spare time. Add in an entrepreneur of a husband and a toddler, and you’ll see that my time is very, very precious. I do, however, take advantage of any spare time I get; whether that is on the bus while commuting, during my lunch break, or after I help put my son to sleep. Every spare moment is an opportunity for me to put something back into my business.
Where do you see your business in a year?
We would like to see my business sustaining throughout the year. In about a year – 3 years time, we would like to see this become my full-time gig. In about 5 years (or even less), we would like to see MJ’s Custom Cookies in a brick-and-mortar store. We have several ideas and options we would like to pursue along the way, and since we run two other businesses, we have learned to keep an open-mind and to allow ourselves to pursue the unexpected.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
I wish someone would have told me before I started that I should have started this 3 years ago LOL. Three years ago I took a break from my previous career on Wall Street to pursue a more fulfilling career. Had I known then that I had a talent with such a high demand I would have dropped everything and dove head-first into this business. I also wish someone would have told me that the demand for custom cookies was through the roof… I honestly had no idea!
What advice would you give people who want to set up their own business?
My advice to anyone who wants to set-up their own business is simple: at least like what you are doing or trying to sell. It’s extremely evident to any client or potential customer if you are actually enjoying what you do. Also, be prepared to sacrifice. Whether it’s your time, certain financial freedom, or simply products… you have to be willing to make sacrifices or else the business will never succeed. Remember, everyone else gets paid first–including the business–before you do. If you think you’re going to be making lots of money and become highly profitable right away, then owning your own business is not for you. Be prepared to put back into the business for quite some time before you see the business giving back to you. And last, have a vision. Always have a vision of what you want and where you want to be. If you cannot envision your business’s future, how can you expect anyone else to, or get where you want to be?