This installment of Celebrating Geauga Small Businesses is from Denise Hagan of D is for Delicious. She specializes in decorated sugar cookies and holds monthly cookie decorating classes. In addition to decorated sugar cookies, she will also be serving a variety of other homemade cookies made fresh each day. They will be opening their Chardon storefront in late June/early July and are located in Woodiebrook Gables
Shopping Center, 602 South Street, Suite B-3.
Geauga County Public Library: When was D is for Delicious founded?
Denise Hagan: I decorated my first cookie in 2011 and realized it was much more than a hobby a few years after that.
GCPL: What is the story behind your business? How did it begin? What challenges did you face in getting started & how did you overcome them? What challenges do you face in your day-to-day operations, and how do you overcome them? What is your favorite part of owning a business?
DH: D is for delicious started off as a for fun and creative adventure, but looking back it was truly a therapeutic outlet that I desperately needed at the time. I didn’t realize how baking and decorating cookies for others would change me. Cookies were merely the medium.
I was a fourth grade teacher for nine years, then resigned after my second daughter was born to stay home and raise my girls. Like anyone, I had my share of struggles, but the responsibility of having a child with special needs, with so many unknowns about what her future would look like, left me feeling terrified. I dealt with my fears by withdrawing and feeling isolated even though I was always surrounded by people who I know loved me. I was terrible at communicating how I felt and how badly it hurt me that my daughter wasn’t developing typically. The gap grew and grew between her and her peers. The future that I had once envisioned for her grew blurrier each new year. I was home raising two little girls at the time and desperately looking for a diagnosis to explain what was going on and how to “fix” her problems. It honestly made me go a little (ok a lot!) crazy.
One day I decided I wanted to try making cookies like the ones I saw on a friend’s blog. I had once really enjoyed scrapbooking, but after the girls were born there wasn’t much time to haul out all the supplies anymore and work. So I found that a cookie canvas was just as fun. I could turn it into something else and people actually liked them and started to ask that I make them for their special occasions. It was an amazing feeling to be trusted with this responsibility and I enjoyed connecting with other moms as we chatted over the cookies they were picking up. Each cookie order allowed me to step outside of the bubble that I had hidden inside of for far too long. I felt like I had a purpose outside of the home again and it was really fun!!
My husband and I had gone back and forth on moving into a storefront for several years. He’s been incredibly supportive all along, but the voice of reason. I tend to be the dreamer. We spent several months praying about it and asking for clarity on what we should do when several amazing opportunities came our way and gave us the assurance that we needed. We decided that it’s now or never if I’m going to take this leap and bring D is for Delicious into a storefront. And I knew that if I didn’t it would be the biggest regret of my life.
The greatest challenge has been operating out of my home kitchen while making the volume of cookies that I do. Not only has my business outgrown our small kitchen, with just one regular oven, but there isn’t a separation of home and work and that’s been challenging (to say the least) for me. We basically live in a cookie factory!. Balancing my work and home lives, which are so incredibly connected, has been quite the juggling act. I can’t even put into words how excited I am to have our house feel like a home again and have our kitchen table back in the kitchen where it belongs.
GCPL: Why did you decide to start your business? What inspired it?
DH: I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and have enjoyed selling homemade goods, but I never set out to start a cookie business. Cookie decorating was just a fun creative outlet initially. I started to teach monthly cookie decorating classes in 2015 because I’m a huge fan of experiences. I love getting together with friends, especially when we can have Cookies bring people together, and I have loved watching families and friends spend time together doing the same activity that brings me so much joy.
GCPL: What kinds of training and education did starting your business require (College, trade shows, seminars/conferences, etc.)? Have you ever used the library to help with this?
DH: Although Teacher turned Cookie Lady seem like polar opposites, my education and teaching experience actually helped prepare me for my cookie business quite a bit. Before each custom order, I prepare by envisioning how the set should look so that I know how many of each shape to bake. It’s practically lesson planning all over again! (Although some of the fourth grade topics that I used to teach were fun, cookies are definitely WAY more exciting!) Also, teaching never quite went as I had planned it and I would need to have a Plan B ready to go, which is the same in the cookie world. I always bake extras in case I mess up. We like to call these cookies gone wrong the “Duds”. They taste great but don’t look so great.
Other educational opportunities that I’ve found helpful and inspiring include conferences that focus on female entreprenurship (my favorite: Christy Wright’s Business Boutique conference) and a variety of cookie decorating classes that I’ve attended as a student. Networking with other cookiers across the country has been incredibly helpful and I am looking forward to attending Cookie Con this September with thousands of other people that think about cookies as much as I do. Picking the brains of other small business owners has been very insightful too. I believe that everyone has valuable advice to give and I enjoy learning from other peoples’ experiences.
GCPL: What resources did/do you find most useful in helping you to start, grow, and maintain your business (Books, software, training materials, databases, etc.)?
DH: Hands down, the most helpful resource has been other people. Each person that has been willing to share their success stories or their regrets have contributed to my process. Our community is full of so many wonderful small business owners that have taken the time to meet with me and help mentor me. I’m forever grateful!!!
Software-wise, I’m currently trying to get more comfortable with QuickBooks and all that is possible with Google.
Social media, especially Instagram has been incredibly helpful because there is such a huge cookie community out there and it feels so great to be a part of this group of women who share the same passion that I do. Cookie Con, which I mentioned earlier, is coming up this September in Indy, and I can hardly wait to spend three days with all these other cookiers who share the same passion and truly “get” me.
GCPL: What advice do you have for people who want to start a business?
DH: GO FOR IT! I’m a huge fan of encouraging people to chase their dreams. I don’t feel like anything is out of reach! If you’re willing to work really hard, grow thicker skin, and make a fool out of yourself along the way, then you’ll be just fine. Listen to others and learn from everyone you meet. Do it scared!
GCPL: Can you give us a book recommendation?
DH: Inspiring reads that I checked out from the library that I HIGHLY recommend:
Business Boutique: A Woman’s Guide For Making Money Doing What She Loves by Christy Wright
Girl Code: Unlocking The Secrets To Success, Sanity, And Happiness For The Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba
Soar! Build Your Vision from the Ground Up by T.D. Jakes