"I never dreamt I would be a small business owner, but slowly and surely I got certified and licensed and before I knew it, I was officially in business."
Learn how entrepreneur Cara Hanson got started with CUT&iced, and how she runs her business while being a mom of three kiddos.
Let us just put this out there, we are OBSESSED with your cookie designs. You've got to have a favorite design or recipe you've made so far. Is there a cookie or set that stole your heart?
Thank you! I do have some favorite sets for sure…they are always the ones that are hardest to let go out the door haha. An early favorite was one of the first sets that I had creative license from the client. Her son was turning three and his birthday was a “snorkel and sea” theme. I made these super fun jellyfish cookies that I am still in love with more than a year later! I also made an Amalfi Coast themed wedding set last summer for a small elopement style ceremony (oh, covid…) and I loved making those too.
We need to know where your love for making cookies came from! Were you that little girl who always baked in an easy-bake oven?
I never had an easy bake oven, but I did enjoy being in the kitchen. I have always enjoyed baking more than everyday cooking, but the cookie love honestly didn’t come until the very end of 2018 when I stumbled upon it through a demo class with my local Mothers of PreSchoolers group. I took a class at the beginning of 2019 from local cookie celebrity Aime Pope (@thepaintedpastry), was instantly obsessed and never looked back!
What was your "ah-ha" moment, when you decided to pursue your journey as a small business owner? What inspires you to keep going?
After practicing cookies for several months and having what seemed like a never ending stream of friends and acquaintances inquiring about events, the cogs started turning and my husband surprised me by suggesting I go for it and start a business. I never dreamt I would be a small business owner, but slowly and surely I got certified and licensed and before I knew it I was officially in business. There are definitely some days, especially when I am up in the wee hours of the morning flooding cookies, that I wonder “why am I doing this?” but then a set comes together or my son comes downstairs and gasps at the cookies I made overnight and it renews my motivation. My kids inspire me all the time and my inner motivation to continue to learn, improve, and grow keeps me going as well.
The pandemic definitely changed plans for many people. How did it impact your cookie business? Did you make any major pivots?
Prior to the pandemic, I was booking out 6-8 months and many orders were for multiple dozens. My kiddos were in school and preschool, so I had some day time hours to work and things were running fairly smoothly. In the early days of the pandemic all my orders cancelled. I actually spent the time taking online classes myself and working on new skills and techniques that I hadn’t had time to try due to being so busy. I focused on building a website and rebranding to celebrate my first business anniversary which helped bide the time when I wasn’t making cookies. By the end of the summer, I got back to taking orders again, but things had shifted. Most orders were for a dozen or less (no big parties, etc.) and I also had my kids home full time now, so it sort of worked out for the best on it’s own. One of the biggest disappointments was all of the cookie workshops I had scheduled for 2020 getting cancelled. I was an educator before I had my children and I was so excited to share my new love of cookies in a workshop format. I am still trying to figure out how to pivot that piece of my business, but I have some exciting things in the works, hopefully being announced soon!
Don't hold back, we want the honest truth... what has been the most difficult part of being a small business owner?
Gosh, mostly it has been really fun, but I think the most difficult part is probably the emails and communication. I think people often forget that small businesses are often one person. Due to my residential kitchen license, I am unable to hire employees outside the residence, so it is always just me, myself, and I. And that one person is not only running the business side of the business, but baking all the dough, icing all the cookies and on top of that being a full time mama and wife. It’s a lot of plates up in the air and when you get that one email or Instagram message that doesn’t have the best tone, it’s difficult to not take it personally. I will say though that I have some of the most understanding and patient clients and for that I am so, so grateful!!
What is it like running a super successful business like CUT&iced and being a mama to three kiddos? How do you manage that work-life balance?
Thank you! It is a lot and if someone has the answer to the work-life balance, let me know!! In all seriousness, my day time hours are for the kiddos. The reason I even went down the business road with my cookies is because I can work in the evenings and the early morning hours while my kids are sleeping. Our mornings are spent homeschooling, afternoons are for play, chores, lots of outdoor time, etc. and then after we clean up from dinner and I get them all tucked into bed, then the cookies come out. Sometimes when an order needs finishing up, I’ll work on it during the day time hours, but I really try hard to be present with them during the day.
What to do you do to relax when you're not baking and creating gorgeous cookies?
Hmmm…I actually take on non-business cookies (like art collabs and such) which makes it fun for me. Otherwise, I love hanging out with my husband. We have been making good sport out of traversing our way through Netflix during the pandemic haha, but we also enjoy board games. I also love a good self care night…foot soak, face mask, etc.
What is the best piece of business advice you've ever been given?
Set boundaries and stick to them. And it’s ok to say no. In the beginning, I said yes to every order, every opportunity and a couple of them almost broke me. Now more than ever with having even more on my plate, sticking to my boundaries is so important. The beauty of being your own boss is you get to set the rules!
What piece of advice would you give to another female business owner that is just starting her journey?
Good question! I think it would be don’t make hasty decisions. Do your research and know your field. And have fun!! Owning your own business is hard and exhausting, but it should still be fun because you are doing something you believe in and are passionate about.
What kind of interview would this be if we didn't ask everyone's "favorite" question?! Where do you want to see CUT&iced in 5 years? What's your long-term vision for the business?
That is a tricky question. Ideally I would love to have a little cookie empire in five years, but while custom cookies are trendy now, who knows if they will be a thing of the past in five years. Hopefully they are bigger than ever! I would love to be able to teach workshops regularly and maybe even develop my own line of merchandise or products. The sky’s the limit right?
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