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From Breast Cancer Battle to Busy Baking Biz with Lisa Petrizzi-Geller

In 2013, after many months of breast cancer treatments, Lisa Petrizzi-Geller began experimenting in her home kitchen. She started with cake pops, but quickly expanded to chocolate-covered Oreos and other types of treats. “It was kinda like therapy for me”, Lisa says.

Apparently the therapy worked! Fast forward 8 years later, and now Lisa runs POP Culture, a successful food business in Berkley, MA that is based out of her residential kitchen.

Over the years, Lisa has sold her treats at all kinds of events, from small popups to large corporate events to huge festivals. How huge? One time, she did $8k of sales in a single weekend!

And despite events being cancelled due to the pandemic, 2020 was her busiest year yet. As she put it, “It just kept going. I never got a break.” The year culminated with the craziest of holiday seasons, where she made over 3,000 hot cocoa bombs alone!

In this episode, Lisa shares creative and trendy ideas for treats, tips to prepare for a home kitchen inspection, the dark side of running a cottage food business, and what she’s learned from selling at tons of events and fulfilling countless custom orders.

How To Start An Eco-Friendly & Socially Responsible Cookie Business with Barry Sherman

For Barry Sherman and his life partner, Scott, their cookie business is about a lot more than the cookies!

Since 2018, Barry and Scott have run their eco-friendly and socially-conscious cookie business, Urban Bakers, in Tampa Bay, FL.

Initially they started from home due to Scott being diagnosed with early onset of Parkinson’s Disease, but they quickly expanded to a commercial kitchen.

Their dense quarter-pound cookies are very unique. They come individually-wrapped in compostable bags with compostable labels, and the quality of the ingredients is top-notch. They also come in a variety of flavors, including root beer float, piña colada, and spicy dark chocolate chili.

In addition to operating their business as sustainably as possible, they also give back by donating a portion of each sale to a different charity each month.

Barry talks about the triumphs, challenges, and surprises of running a high-end drop cookie business, and what he’s learned along the way.

13 Years Old and Already In Business

Lauren Inazu isn’t your average 13-year-old girl. When she was 8, she recruited friends to sell and market her lemonade stand, Lauren’s Sweet Treats. In 5th grade, she started a school newspaper. And now, she recently launched a cottage food business.

Lauren lives in St. Louis, MO and sells all sorts of baked goods with her new business, Count It All Joy.

Between school, homework, piano lessons, sports, youth group, clubs, and Bible study, Lauren is somehow finding time to fulfill baking orders. Sometimes she likes to surprise her classmates with that fact: “I think it’s always kind of fun to be like, ‘Oh yeah, I just have to go make four dozen cookies tonight for an order.’ And they’re like, ‘An order?'”

Lauren may be one of the most ambitious and mature 13-year-olds I have ever met, but she is not unique in wanting to make a little dough from her baked goods. Many kids reach out to me to ask if it is legal for them to sell their creations.

In this episode, Lauren shares what she’s learned about legally starting her cottage food business as a 13-year-old, in hopes of inspiring other young entrepreneurs to try it out as well.

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.

How To Start A Vegan & Gluten-Free Bakery From Scratch with Noel Martinez

Cuban-inspired, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, organic, low-carb, allergy-friendly, diet-specific, healthy… Noel’s baked goods are certainly unique!

Noel Martinez runs his highly specialized bakery, Mami’s Bakes, from his home kitchen in Pittsburg, PA.

Noel started baking gluten-free for himself when he was diagnosed with celiac disease 20 years ago. Then he started baking sugar-free and low-carb for his “Mami” (mom), who had diabetes.

After Mami passed away in 2019, Noel finally decided to start selling the baked goods that his family and friends had raved about for years.

He started selling to coworkers, and soon enough, they were keeping him busy with orders every week. They also had no problem paying top dollar ($40 for a coffee cake, anyone?) for his products, even though most of them had no diet-specific needs!

Only 6 months in, Noel is still in the early stages of his business. Despite his consistent sales and enthusiastic customers, there are growing pains as well.

Noel shares a view into the ground floor of a new business, including his process for improving recipes, pricing products, building an email list, attracting raving fans, sourcing ingredients, and finding time to run a side business while working two part-time jobs.

From Art Teacher to Cake Pop Artist with Becca Aronowitz

Becca Aronowitz from Richmond Hill, GA makes some of the best cake pops you have ever seen.

After Becca quit her job as an art teacher in 2012, she started Sweet Whimsy Shop to sell her cake pops and help support her family.

8 years and 40,000+ cake pops later, Becca has become a true master at the cake pop art form.

But unlike many entrepreneurs that start with big dreams for the future, Becca never envisioned becoming well-known for her cake pops.

As she puts it: “I had not thought about that at all. I just thought this is a way that I can sell cake pops. That was really where it ended.”

But that’s most definitely not where it ended for this “pretty extreme introvert”. So far, her largest order totaled around $4,000, and her cake pops have even appeared on national television!

Becca talks everything cake pops: making, pricing, sculpting, decorating, inverting, etc. She also shares her journey from art teacher to business owner, how she handles social media as an introvert, how she runs her business on two hours per day, and some crazy experiences she’s had along the way.

Creative Ways to Market Cookies with Mallory Dies

For Mallory, it all started with a chocolate chip cookie. But that was just the beginning!

Mallory Dies, owner of The Crassy Cookie in Stafford, VA, tried selling many variations and flavors of her drop cookies, and ultimately found the most success with her innovative gourmet cookie sandwiches.

These cookie sandwiches are certainly unique. They range from “safe” flavors like rainbow chip, strawberry shortcake, or choco fudge brownie, all the way to more “oddball” flavors like blueberry lemon-lavandula, fruity pebbles, and matcha munchie.

Mallory shares how she slowly built a customer base (twice) and had self-doubts along the way. As an introvert, she resisted putting herself into her brand, but eventually “bit the bullet” and started developing significant engagement on social media.

She also shares many marketing ideas that have worked well for her business, like creating monthly boxes, adding bonuses to orders, and promoting her products in local Facebook groups.

Despite the many challenges with selling basic drop cookies (short shelf life, low perceived value, etc), Mallory has found many ways to make a cookie business work well for her.

Marketing Cake Art with Jennifer Lopez & Emily Blattel – Part 2

Over the past decade, Jennifer Lopez and Emily Blattel have sold dozens of custom cakes that run the gamut from elegant buttercream cakes to realistic cake sculptures. The results are always exceptional, and sometimes they are nearly unbelievable!

This dynamic duo runs The Cake Mom & Co. from their homes in Paducah, KY and Scott City, MO.

Because they are both amazing cake decorators, I thought this interview would be focused solely on cake artistry.

But they ended up touching on so many facets of running a cake business that I had to split this episode into two parts. This is Part 2, and you can listen to Part 1 here.

In this second half of the interview, they covered startup advice, the ordering and design process, business partnerships, social media platforms, cake supplies, promotional giveaways, and cake competitions.

Jennifer also explained how she helped changed Kentucky’s cottage law, even though she initially had no intention of spearheading that effort!

Marketing Cake Art with Jennifer Lopez & Emily Blattel – Part 1

Over the past decade, Jennifer Lopez and Emily Blattel have sold dozens of custom cakes that run the gamut from elegant buttercream cakes to realistic cake sculptures. The results are always exceptional, and sometimes they are nearly unbelievable!

This dynamic duo runs The Cake Mom & Co. from their homes in Paducah, KY and Scott City, MO.

Because they are both amazing cake decorators, I thought this interview would be focused solely on cake artistry.

But they ended up touching on so many facets of running a cake business that I had to split this episode into two parts. This is Part 1.

In this first half of the interview, they covered their startup journey, online marketing strategies, photography, pricing, delivery, and many stories of their triumphs and near-failures.

Make sure you listen to the end to hear the “beach cake” story, which led Emily and I to agree that Jennifer is a veritable “crazy cake lady”!

Baking A Difference with Kathy Cherie

Whether it’s putting a smile on an ill child’s face, delivering a stunning floral wedding cake, or contacting state legislators to change the law, Kathy Cherie is always baking a difference in her community.

Kathy lives in Elk Grove Village, IL and has operated her cottage food business, Cake Du Jour, for nearly 40 years. Her business is somewhat under-the-table, except that her health department has known about it for decades.

Kathy would love to help the next generation of bakers in Illinois do what she could not: run a home bakery legally. Her county (Cook) still doesn’t allow home kitchen operations, so she continues to advocate for a statewide law.

Although she loves baking for all occasions, she especially loves donating “dream cakes” through the charity Icing Smiles, where she gets to support families with a critically ill child. She has made over 20 dream cakes so far.

In addition to her charitable and legal efforts, Kathy talks about making photorealistic sugar flowers (her specialty), gives pricing advice for custom cakes, and shares tips on how cake decorators can improve their skills.

Being Productive in Retirement with Joanne Littau

Most people run a business to make a profit, but Joanne is not too worried about that aspect of it. Rather, she cares much more about supporting her community and having fun in retirement!

Joanne Littau lives in Denver, CO and has been selling jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butters since 2014 with her cottage food business, The Jelly Jar. Some of her creations have won prizes at county fairs in Colorado.

I have known Joanne for many years and visited her market a few years ago. I even had an unopened jar of her marmalade in the fridge, which I tasted in real-time during the interview!

Joanne talks about why it’s difficult to make money from selling preserves, what practical tips to follow when canning goods, and what makes the cottage food community so special.

Selling Honey & Supporting A Cause with Dr. Christine Bertz

When Dr. Christine Bertz started beekeeping, she didn’t care if she made any money from it. In fact, her main motivation was to support pollinator conservation efforts. But now, only three years in, her honey business is blossoming and she is having trouble keeping up with customer demand!

Christine lives in Memphis, TN and sells honey and jams with her cottage food business, B & Bees Provisions. In addition to selling, she gives her products away to benefit charities through her participation in triathlons and marathons.

Christine talks about the importance of beekeeping, how to start a beehive in your backyard, and how her fear of bees has transformed into an utter fascination and love of them.

The Cookie Cutter Queen with Tina Karnath

When it comes to creating custom decorated cookies, Tina is very prepared. She owns a plethora of cookie cutters (including over 500 just for Christmas), and amazingly, she is always looking to buy more!

Tina lives in Saginaw, MI and has run her popular cookie business, the Chunky Chicken Cookie Company, for the past three years. Whether she is designing cookies or naming chickens, her creativity shines through.

Tina talks about how she manages to decorate hundreds of cookies each week, as well as pricing, resources, and what she’s learned over the years. She also shares her philosophy about putting life onto cookies to make the world a happier place.

Selling Spicy Peanuts in Breweries with Kevin Martino

Kevin Martino started his cottage food business, Chef Kev’s Specialty Foods, when California created its cottage food law in 2013. He wholesales flavored peanuts to a number of breweries and hardware stores in Concord, CA, and also sells online.

Kevin was actually one of the first cottage food business owners that I ever met, and it’s cool to see how far he has come with his business over the years.

Kevin talks about what he’s learned through producing and wholesaling spicy peanuts, how he’s grown his business so far, and what he’s planning for in the future. I also share my insight on why an LLC might not be the right fit for him at this point.

Wholesale Strategies That Work with Sonia Chang

Sonia Chang never planned to start a food business, but now she has two of them!

Sonia lives in Pasadena, CA and runs a granola cottage food business called Cali Granola (formerly named Chef Sonia’s Granola By The Handful). After successfully selling her granola for a couple years, she purchased and operated My Sweet Cupcake, a popular cupcakery.

She has sold her granola in over two dozen stores and has used a variety of marketing strategies to build her businesses, such as her “leap frog” and “flavor profile” techniques.

Her journey is filled with many unexpected surprises, but every step of the way, her service-based approach and collaborative spirit have carried her forward.

From Home Kitchen to Pie Shop in Under 2 Years with Diana Shockley

Have you ever dreamed of opening a brick and mortar bakery someday?

So did Diana, the owner of I Love Pie in Carmichael, CA. But she never thought her dream would come true so soon!

After selling at the farmers market for a year and a half, her pie business grew so much that she expanded into her own commercial kitchen and storefront. And now, just 6 months later, she is planning to open a second location!

On paper, it looked like a recipe for failure: selling a common food item (regular fruit pies) in a highly competitive and health-conscious market, all while juggling a full-time job.

So how did she do it? Why was she so successful? Ultimately, you will see that it wasn’t the product, or the market, but rather, Diana herself, that made all the difference.

Selling Homemade Desserts for 17 Years with Lauren Cortesi

What is it like to run a home bakery for 17 years? That is what Lauren Cortesi shares with us on this episode.

Lauren lives in Pennsylvania and started Bella’s Desserts in 2003. In addition to running her cottage food business, she occasionally teaches classes on starting a home baking business.

Lauren talks about the ups and downs of being a home baker, how a famous baker transformed her business, and why she has never wanted to open a brick and mortar bakery.

The Price Is Wrong

Let’s say you’re thinking of selling your homemade goodies at a local market this summer. How will you set the price?