If I'm not crafting, I'm baking. That is, if I'm not at my full time job, or taking care of my cutie patootie kid, or whatever. You know, my spare time. Baking is something that I love so much in this weird therapeutic way. Like, if I need to "turn that frown upside down" I'll bake. It clears my head. And don't get me wrong, I have a sweet tooth. Oh, do I have a sweet tooth.
I recently came across this awesome shop called Sugar and Flour, and what to my surprise, it's in my own backyard -- Franklin, Wisconsin. I decided I had to know more. Granted, I haven't tasted these cookies yet, but they're on their way to my house. I ordered some trains and dump trucks to be delivered to my son while I'm in the hospital with baby #2. Hopefully he'll save me a bite! Here's what I learned about Sugar and Flour...
Tell me a little about yourself. When did you start baking up such beautiful cookies?
My name is Karen Herrera and I live just outside of Milwaukee WI with my husband, our two young girls and our dog Charlie. Before becoming a stay at home mother I was a baker at a few different places. I quit my job to stay home with the girls but now one is in school full time and the other is in preschool so it is time for me to get back into the swing of things. I started Sugar & Flour last year to give myself something to do while still being able to be at home with my girls when they need me. It's worked out well.What are some of your influences/sources of inspiration?The inspiration for my cookies comes from a few different places. Sometimes I might see a neat cutter that I feel I just MUST own and the design comes from that. Other times I will see a pretty picture that inspires me. Sometimes it could also be just a color combination. I try very hard not to copy cookies that other people have done. They've worked hard to be original and I don't think it's right to take that away from them. I know how much it bothers me to see my work copied.
I see you make some of your cookies using cutters you've made yourself. Tell me more!
There's been many times that I've had to make cutters from scratch. My first one, the Choo-Choo Train, was designed to match a boy's party invitation. I do actually make a working cookie cutter out of metal - it's not just a cardboard picture that I cut around. I like being able to customize the shape of the cookie to suit what a client needs. It makes the cookie that much more special. The custom shapes that I chose not to have available in my store I show on my Flickr page so that they can still be seen. I'm proud of them.
Your Etsy sales have been great! Do you have any tips for other Etsy sellers?
Etsy has been very good for me. I actually found the site through my sister (hi Diane) when I mentioned to her that I wanted to somehow sell cookies online. Her suggestion was to start on Etsy and see what happened. I had no idea how successful it would become. There's a few things that I think are essential for success on Etsy and can also cary over to any online business.
*** The most important thing would be ORIGINALITY. What's the point of doing something that someone has already done? I do look at other cookie makers online to see what they're up to but your ideas need to be your own. Originality is key. When I came out with my Itty Bitty cookies last year it was to draw people to my store with something they could try inexpensively without needing a special occasion to buy for. They were a HUGE success. Now there are a couple other people selling their own version so I have to share that success with them. Oh well.
*** Beautiful clear pictures are also a must. It's not like someone can walk into your store and see your cookies. Your pictures are what they're going by so they need to be perfect. I like to have a few close-up pictures to show the texture and finer details and also some farther away pics to show the whole cookie. I also like to use pretty bowls and plates. For me, white props look best. They make the cookies look pretty without being a distraction. Also, consistency between listing pics is important. I think you can tell just at a glance which listings are mine on Etsy because they're all done in the same style. Find something that works for you and stick with it.
*** Have a quality product. Be known for something spectacular. I'm a trained baker and I can make all sorts of wonderful things but I've chosen to focus on just sugar cookies. Over the past year and a half I've figured out the best way to make, ship and store my cookies. I've also learned new techniques for decorating. I'm sure things will evolve over time... I'm always looking for ways to improve my product.
So, neighbor...tell me about your perfect Milwaukee-area day (I'm new here, I need ideas!).
I suppose a perfect Milwaukee day would be packing up the kids and going out to Barthel's Fruit Farm in Mequon. Doesn't matter what time of year... we go for strawberries in the spring and apples in the fall. We'd spend time goofing off there and then head home to have some lunch together. Maybe have friends over later for the girls to play with. We don't do much... we just like to relax at home.
Thanks, Karen! And best of luck!