There’s nothing like being a busy baker, especially when you’ve just started your own cookie baking and decorating business.
Monica Nealson, 28, of Nevada, just finished filling orders for 23 dozen decorated Valentine’s Day cookies after posting several weeks back on social media that she was starting a business, Cookie Creations by Monica.
“A huge influence on me was my grandma, who is a big baker,” Nealson said. From that influence in the kitchen, and her own love of creativity, she started decorating cookies about five years ago just for herself, her family and friends.
“I gave cookies as gifts and enjoyed giving cookies to our neighbors for Christmas. My skills have improved each year,” she said. All it took was some positive feedback — a lot of it, in fact — that made her believe she might have talent for doing this as a business.
It’s not a full-time business. Nealson, who is married to Nevada councilman Dane Nealson, has a full-time job in the mortgage department at First National Bank in Ames. The cookie business is a “hobby business,” she said.
She’s been encouraged by another Iowa woman who she connected with on social media, who does the same type of thing. “Seeing her page … I thought, I could do that.” The two began corresponding about ideas, and that support, along with all the other inspiration she gets off the many cookie pages she’s following on Facebook and the countless ideas to be found on Pinterest, have led her to where she is today.
“I went through the proper steps of getting approved by the city and such,” she said. She has a business website: https://cookiecreationsbym.wixsite.com/cookiesbymonica; and she has a page on Facebook. She also has a business email where she can be contacted: email@example.com.
After announcing and showing samples of many boxed set cookie gift ideas for Valentine’s Day, Nealson was inundated with orders and had to finally stop taking them for the holiday of love. And that’s much of how her business will work, she said. She’ll do the orders she can, and may have to turn some away at times if her time is already filled. She needs to find a balance, she admitted. And, she thinks she’ll get faster at what she’s doing and figure that balance out even more as she gets more time under her apron.
One way to be more efficient is to do all the baking of cookies — primarily sugar cookies from a recipe she found online and then tweaked to her taste — at one time, and then figure out how long she can freeze them and how long to thaw them for decorating, all while maintaining their fresh taste. It’s the decorating of the cookies that takes the most time, and which is her favorite part of the process. That’s where her creative spirit takes over.
As she goes along, Nealson said, she is open to new ideas. For instance, she works with a Royal Icing recipe right now, but “I am open to decorating with butter cream and softer frostings if people want that.” She’s also open to different types of cookies by request. One thing that’s been mentioned to her is whether she could do a gluten-free cookie. “I haven’t done much gluten-free, but I may look into it, and if I can make a quality product, I’d be willing to offer it.”
Valentine’s Day was big, and a great way to get her “foot in the door” on this business. She’s now excited for the other things that are coming up: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and not only these spring holidays, but other events, like graduations, baby showers, wedding showers and weddings.
Over her five years of baking cookies, she’s collected many cutters for all types of events and celebrations. She also has been able to make her own “cutters” for just about anything else she doesn’t have. So, really, she said, “There won’t be anything I can’t try to make.”
With all these cookies in the house, it’s a really good thing that Nealson and her husband are runners. Not only does her husband run pretty much every day, he said her love of baking cookies and his love of testing them is also the reason he got a gym membership this year.