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Can A Product Be Too Good? with Janna Paterno

Janna Paterno lives in Charleston, WV and used to sell custom decorated cookies with her cottage food business, Sweet Janna Lea.

She shut down her business in 2021 after only running it for two years.

It’s no secret that most new businesses in any realm struggle to get off the ground. Usually cottage food entrepreneurs have challenges finding customers, or they produce a product that doesn’t meet the needs of their target market.

But it’s the exact opposite with Janna. She always had more customers than she could handle, and that’s because her cookies are literally some of the best you will ever see.

A lot of new entrepreneurs believe that if they have a great product, then they’ll have a successful business. But of course, there’s a lot more to it than that!

There are a lot of lessons in this episode. You’ll learn why a cottage food business wasn’t the right fit for Janna, the importance of finding balance in your business, and what someone should know when trying to make and sell custom decorated cookies.

Living Off The Land with Beatrice Lattimore

It all started with a vision of living off the land.

Back in 2016, Beatrice Lattimore moved her family into the countryside to rediscover their roots and start a farm.

What began as five mostly-empty acres in Deland, FL is now a fully-functioning farm with animals, produce, and a cottage food business called Beatz Sweets.

Beatrice uses Florida’s cottage food law to sell value-added products at farmers markets, events, and — most importantly — from the farm itself.

In this episode, she shares what it has taken to make their vision a reality.

Facing Adversity, Embracing Success with Jennie Gibson

Jennie Gibson lives in Jacksonville, FL and sells custom-decorated cake pops with her cottage food business, The Cake Pop Shop.

Jennie already shared some advice on Episode 50, but in this episode, she shares her own incredible cottage food journey.

Simply put, Jennie has one of the most successful home-based cake pop businesses in the entire country!

But her journey started with humble (and unlikely) beginnings, including a bad car accident that left her permanently disabled, and a special needs son that gave her the dose of inspiration that she needed.

However, through hard work and persistence, Jennie has overcome many challenges and built up her cake pop empire over time.

In just over a decade, she has:

  • Landed many large orders of over 1,000 cake pops each
  • Created cake pops for many major organizations, including the NFL & Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Sold elaborate cake pops for $180 per dozen
  • Accrued over 40,000 followers on Instagram

It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s definitely been rewarding. In this episode, you’ll hear about what keeps Jennie going, and what’s she’s learned along the way!

The Dynamic Donut Duo with Amie Anderson & Jamie Krake

Amie Anderson & Jamie Krake live in Ypsilanti, MI and sell donuts (and other fun creations) with their cottage food business, It’s A Good Day Donuts.

Amie & Jamie planned to run a campground cafe in the summer of 2020, but the pandemic threw a huge wrench into their plans. “It was a disaster”, says Amie.

But during that effort they started making donuts, and people loved them! They sold them from home using Michigan’s cottage food law, and they haven’t looked back since.

Although they’ve sold thousands of donuts with their business so far, making money isn’t their primary goal.

Rather, their mission is to spread joy, not just to their local community, but within their family as well. Their business has been a source of fun during some very challenging times. “Donuts saved my life”, says Jamie.

A Little Bit of Joy with Tracy Mancuso

Tracy Mancuso lives in Central Point, OR and sells customized wedding & birthday cakes with her cottage food business, Sugar Rush.

Initially, Tracy’s passion for cake making started as a hobby in 2010, but quickly grew into a business as more and more people requested her creations.

In 2013, Tracy joined forces with another home baker, and that’s when their business really took off.

Initially they used Oregon’s law for domestic kitchens to sell their home baked goods legally. With two young children, one of whom is autistic, working from her home was especially important.

When her business partner left the business in 2019, Tracy switched to using Oregon’s newer (and simpler) cottage food law to run her business from her home.

Despite many challenges and changes along the way, Tracy’s business has continued to grow, and she says that she can barely keep up!

She has thousands of social media followers and shares the strategies she’s used to market her cake business, build a good reputation in her local community, and bring a little bit of joy into her customers’ lives.

Do Whatever It Takes with Whitney Singletary

Most people would have given up by now. But Whitney Singletary will do whatever it takes to turn her vision into a reality, no matter what stands in her way!

Whitney lives in Berkeley, CA and sells nut-flavored cookies with her cottage food business, Nuttin’ Butter Cookies.

While other bakeries avoid nuts due to allergen concerns, Whitney has done the opposite by focusing on customers who love nuts! Her cookies are very unique and feature 14 different types of nuts.

Whitney started by selling at events in her area, but she really grew her business once she started selling from her driveway five days a week.

She became so successful that she moved into a storefront in 2019, only to have the pandemic force her back into her driveway a few months later!

Despite facing many obstacles along the way, Whitney has persisted to prove to her two kids that a single mom can follow her dreams and run a successful bakery!

Mom By Day, Baker By Night with Daniela Zographos

Daniela Zographos lives in Anderson, SC and sells custom-decorated and custom-sculpted cake pops with her cottage food business, Yumsies Cake Pops.

But Daniela hasn’t always made cake pops. In fact, when she started her business in 2013, she had never made a cake pop in her life!

Daniela used to run a typical home bakery, selling custom cakes, custom cookies, etc etc. But now, Daniela ONLY sells cake pops. That’s it.

She simplified her business model to make it easier to be a stay-at-home mom, but niching down to just cake pops had a surprise side-benefit: it made her business more successful!

She now has a thriving business with 3k Instagram followers. And because she has full-time mom duties during the day, she does most of her baking at night after her kids go to bed.

Daniela shares a ton of info in this episode. She shares the surprising way she found customers when she moved to a new area, the surprising way she makes her cake pops, the surprising way she offers pickup outside of her home, and the surprising way she gets almost all of her ingredients for free!

And if all that weren’t surprising enough, she also managed to start development of her city’s first shared commercial kitchen space. How she finds the time to do it all, we will never know!

Family, Freedom, & Pie with Kourtney Rojas

In 2011, Kourtney had romantic ideas about starting a pie business and selling at the local farmers market. But life (jobs, family, kids, etc) got in the way and it wasn’t until 2019 that her dream became reality.

Kourtney Rojas lives in Anaheim, CA and sells fruit pies, chess pies, and other pastries with her cottage food business, With Love, From Scratch.

After 8 years of selling pies sporadically to family and friends, she finally decided to turn her pie hobby into a real business. She entered a pie contest, started posting high-quality photos on Instagram, and she’s never looked back!

After only two years, she has amassed over 3,000 followers on Instagram, and she now sells over 100 pies per week!

As a stay-at-home mom, she has learned how to say “no” and turn down opportunities that aren’t a good fit for her.

Having a home business has given Kourtney the freedom to adapt her work life to her family, not the other way around. But she’s also not afraid to admit that finding the right balance between the two is often a struggle.

Although her business journey has required flexibility, patience, and constant learning, Kourtney explains why it has unfolded in exactly the right way.

The Self-Taught Supermom with April Spencer

Running a successful custom cake business is a lot of work. Running a popular Etsy shop is also a lot of work. And taking care of young kids full-time is definitely a lot of work.

Meet April Spencer, who has managed to do all three AT THE SAME TIME!

April is a cake decorator and sugar artist who lives in Harrod, OH and sells impressive custom cakes and lollipops with her cottage food business, Spencer’s Sugar Shop.

In addition to running a very successful custom cake business from home, April also rented a commercial kitchen to sell her custom lollipops on Etsy and ship them across the nation. She’s currently put the Etsy business on pause due to the mass influx of weddings recently, but at one point she was shipping out over 30 custom lollipop orders per week!

As if running two businesses and a young family weren’t enough, April also manages to put a strong focus on her social media presence, and she now has thousands of social media followers.

How does she do it all? Nobody knows for sure, but listen in and learn how she went from knowing NOTHING about cake decorating to becoming one of the most popular bakers in her area in just a few short years.

The Resilient Baker with Justina Rucinski

In 2019, Justina Rucinski was sexually assaulted in her home in Burlington, IA when a supposed client came to pay for a cookie order. That traumatic event not only forever changed her life, but has also changed cottage food laws around the country.

Justina now lives in San Antonio, TX and continues to sell custom decorated cookies and cakes with her cottage food business, SweetEms.

After her horrific experience, she came very close to shutting down her business. But with massive support from bakers around the world, she has both resurrected it and become one of the most popular cottage food bakers in the United States!

In addition to her business success, Justina has become an advocate for the safety of all home bakers. Because of her story, many states no longer require cottage food producers to put their home address on their product labels.

In this emotional episode, Justina shares how the cottage food community helped lift her out of utter darkness, so that she could once again continue running the business that she loves so much!

Blending Coffee & Business with Jim & Crystal Whitmarsh

A few months before Jim & Crystal Whitmarsh were expecting their first child, they started roasting coffee beans at home with a $20 popcorn popper. At that time, little did they know what their new hobby would grow into!

Jim & Crystal live in Kasson, MN and sell small-batch roasted specialty coffee with their business, Trail Creek Coffee Roasters.

They initially leveraged Minnesota’s cottage food law to start and grow their business from home, and after a couple of years, they moved into a brick-and-mortar storefront to expand their business.

Although their loyal customers rave about their coffee, it’s likely their continued marketing efforts that have had a greater impact on their business. They are constantly finding new and creative ways to collaborate with other businesses and organizations, and then they showcase those collaborations through social media.

A far cry from their initial popcorn popper roaster, they now own a commercial-grade roaster that costs tens-of-thousands of dollars! Their path to success hasn’t necessarily been the quickest or easiest, but through a double shot of passion and persistence, their small business continues to grow!

Turning Up The Heat with Nathan & Nicole Parchman

The Parchmans weren’t trying to start a cottage food business. Back in 2012, little did they know that their small garden of tomatoes and peppers had the seeds for so much potential!

Nathan & Nicole Parchman live in O’Fallon, IL and sell salsa, pickles, and sauces with their business, Nitro Family Foods.

After strong demand from family, friends, and (sometimes) complete strangers, they started selling “Nitro Salsa” at their local farmers market in 2019. And they haven’t looked back since!

Despite working fulltime jobs plus significant side jobs, as well as raising a family, the Parchmans somehow manage to find time to produce and sell over 200 jars of salsa and pickles each week!

In addition to the farmers market, they now also wholesale to stores and are in the process of building their own brick-and-mortar commercial kitchen and storefront.

In this episode, you will learn what makes this dynamic duo so successful!

How To Build An Instagram-worthy Food Business with Safeera Inayath

When Safeera Inayath immigrated to the United States from India back in 2010, she had never baked a cake in her life. Now cakes ARE her life, and she has over 10,000 Instagram followers!

Safeera lives in Prior Lake MN, and sells custom cakes, macarons, and other baked goods with her cottage food business, Sugardust & Sprinkles.

Aside from creating amazingly elegant and high-end baked goods, Safeera’s food photos really stand out. Her photography looks truly professional, even though she takes all of her photos with a smartphone.

By investing in photography skills and focusing on Instagram, her business has taken off. Brands and organizations have contacted her with a variety of money-making opportunities, including teaching, promoting a brand’s products, and even designing new products.

From Sugar Geek to Online Influencer with Liz Marek – Part 2

With over 300,000 followers, Liz Marek has become very well-known in the cake decorating community! She lives in Beaverton, OR and teaches beginner and advanced bakers how to craft amazing custom-decorated cakes through her online business, The Sugar Geek Show.

Liz began her cake decorating business as a side job just 13 years ago. After running that business from her licensed home kitchen for many years, she started winning cake competitions and making more of a name for herself.

Liz has written books, appeared on television and the Food Network many times, and traveled around the world as a professional speaker. She is a mom to two young children, and she now focuses solely on teaching online through The Sugar Geek Show.

In this interview, Liz shares plenty of helpful tidbits about running a cake business, but what I found most compelling were her many missteps and consistent persistence along the way. Things often didn’t go the way she hoped or planned, but she still made something great out of it by constantly reinventing herself!

This is Part 2 of Liz’s interview. In this episode, Liz shares beginner tips for starting a cake business, what it was like to compete on (and win) Halloween Wars on the Food Network, and more about how the Sugar Geek Show has grown (and where it’s going).

From Sugar Geek to Online Influencer with Liz Marek – Part 1

With over 300,000 followers, Liz Marek has become very well-known in the cake decorating community! She lives in Beaverton, OR and teaches beginner and advanced bakers how to craft amazing custom-decorated cakes through her online business, The Sugar Geek Show.

Liz began her cake decorating business as a side job just 13 years ago. After running that business from her licensed home kitchen for many years, she started winning cake competitions and making more of a name for herself.

Liz has written books, appeared on television and the Food Network many times, and traveled around the world as a professional speaker. She is a mom to two young children, and she now focuses solely on teaching online through The Sugar Geek Show.

In this interview, Liz shares plenty of helpful tidbits about running a cake business, but what I found most compelling were her many missteps and consistent persistence along the way. Things often didn’t go the way she hoped or planned, but she still made something great out of it by constantly reinventing herself!

In fact, by the end of this episode, you will learn that if things had gone the way that she planned, she almost certainly wouldn’t be where she is today.

From Failed Kickstarter to Successful Storefront with Melvin Roberson

These days, Dough Boy Donuts is a popular gourmet donut shop that is bustling with customers and employees, but it all started from very humble beginnings.

In 2014, Melvin Roberson used Texas’ cottage food law to start his donut business from his home kitchen. A year later, he expanded to a food truck, and eventually, to a brick-and-mortar location in Fort Worth, TX (now relocated to Burleson, TX).

Melvin has faced plenty of obstacles along the way, including negative customers, family feuds, and a failed Kickstarter campaign.

But through perseverance, sacrifice, and plenty of hard work, he has built a loyal customer base that keep coming back for one of his unique signature donuts, like the Sriracha Maple Bacon or The Last Call.

Melvin’s has a tremendous amount of experience in the food industry… before building a successful food business through three different stages (from home, food truck, storefront), he held just about every food service position available, ultimately managing hundreds of employees as the kitchen manager at a popular steakhouse.