When people think of the perfect cookie, cupcake, birthday or wedding cake or even gluten free, all natural pastries, their minds may wander back to the smell of their grandmother’s kitchen or their favorite local bakery. There’s a certain nostalgia surrounding baked goods on special occasions that causes people to go above and beyond, and sometimes pay above and beyond, for the perfect, tasty treats for their parties, birthdays, weddings or other special occasions.
Keachia Carter, Regan Wooten, Monika Thompson and Tiffany Kindred have each made it their mission to provide this community with multiple options for the perfect treat for every occasion. Each of these bakers and small business owners have a common thread that sets them apart from the average bakery—they all run their baking operations out of their homes.
Whether because baking is just a hobby and they have other full-time jobs, or in an effort to provide tasty desserts for the lowest possible cost for their customers, each of these bakers strives to provide the best treats available from the comfort of their own kitchens. The days filled with the fragrance of your grandmother’s kitchen won’t seem so far behind you when you bite into one of their treats and the memories will come instantly flooding back.
Keachia Carter never imagined she would run a cookie business out of her home. In fact, she claims she was “never a kitchen girl” until she started baking cookies at the beginning of this year. It all started when she ordered some decorative shortbread cookies for a wedding shower she was hosting. She took one look at them upon picking up the order and said, “I can do that.”
And do that she did.
Her daughter’s birthday was right around the corner and it gave Keachia the perfect excuse to try her hand at cookie baking and decorating. With the first few batches she made, Keachia realized that while the cookies were beautiful, they didn’t taste good. “I just thought, what good is it to take all the time to make and decorate cookies if at the end of the party, they were just going to sit on a plate and look pretty without anyone eating them?” said Carter.
Keachia began experimenting with different shortbread cookie recipes she could find and it was not long before she had honed and developed a delicious cookie, and in the process, her knack for decorating the cookies only got better. Naturally, her friends and family took notice.
“Even though I was putting time and energy into learning the process, it never once occurred to me to sell the cookies. It wasn’t until I was getting multiple orders a week that I knew I had to start charging for them.” Just like that, Keachia’s Cookies was born. In a matter of mere months, Keachia was taking anywhere up to 14 orders within a week, in addition to her full time job in the oil and gas industry.
Keachia says that her cookie business has given her the opportunity to reconnect with friends from the past as well as form connections with new people. She takes pride in every part of her process—from the baking, to the decorating, and finally the packaging—she pays close attention to each detail.
“I love this business,” said Carter. “Think about it: happy people want cookies. I get to work with happy people all the time.”<
Tiffany Kindred baked her first cake when she was 16 years old. She made a German chocolate cake for her friend’s dad’s birthday, and after that first year she had a standing commitment to bake him a cake every year on his birthday. Despite the German chocolate cake being so well received by family and friends, it never occurred to Tiffany that she would someday run her own baking business.
Years later, when pregnant with her second child, Christmas was fast approaching and Tiffany was racking her brain for ways to supplement her family’s income during the holiday season. She remembered that her mom used to make gift baskets full of baked goods and sell them. She thought back to the warm reception of the German chocolate cake and knew she had found her answer. For three years, Tiffany simply sold baked good gift baskets around the holidays, but when the birthday of a close friend rolled around a few years later, the trajectory of Tiffany’s baking took an unexpected turn.
“I made one cake for my friend’s birthday and people just started calling me and asking me what else I could make,” said Kindred. It wasn’t long before she expanded from cakes to cupcakes and shortbread cookies as well. Seemingly overnight, Simply Sweet by Tiffany was born. She caters for every sort of special occasion and takes pride in the fact that her little baking side gig has provided a financial cushion for her family in the years she spent at home raising her three young children.
At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, Tiffany took a job working at her kids’ school. Naturally, the vast amount of events she bakes for these days are school classroom parties. “Easily 70% of my recent business has come from working at the school,” said Kindred.
In addition to the school parties, birthday parties account for a large amount of the events to which she caters. “I love doing kids’ birthday cakes because they’re always fun and colorful and they give me the opportunity to try out new designs, but I also like doing birthday cakes for people because I just don’t think parents should have to break the bank to give their kids a nice birthday cake,” said Kindred. At the end of the day, Tiffany loves that she has the opportunity to offer the community delicious baked goods with above-and-beyond customer service. “I do everything in my power to keep my customers happy,” said Kindred.
When Regan Wooten’s youngest daughter was turning ten, she requested a three-tiered cake like one she’d seen on the popular TV show “Ace of Cakes” for her birthday. Regan set out to find the exact cake his daughter requested. It didn’t take long for him to find, however, that the cake his daughter was requesting was going to cost him roughly $1,200.
His daughter took one look at him and said “Daddy, if anybody can make me a cake like this you can,” and he knew he had no choice but to try. Regan, whose only previous baking experience involved making his kids muffins in the mornings for breakfast, not only pulled off the three-tiered cake, but turned the heads of all of the moms at the birthday party. Not even a year later, a Facebook page called “Cakes by Regan” was live and Regan was taking orders.
Seven and a half years later, his business, the name of which has since changed to RW Cakes, is thriving. Some weeks he takes anywhere from five to six orders all the way up to 15 to 20 orders. He bakes cakes, cupcakes and cookies for every event imaginable: birthday parties, showers, graduations, retirement parties and even weddings.
Regan spends his days as a bank manager at Regions bank and spends his evenings elbow deep in cake batter and cream cheese icing. He has perfected his craft over the years and even expanded into
specialty flavors. He makes a key lime cupcake which he zests limes into the batter with a zested key lime buttercream icing that he says is his wife’s absolute favorite.
When it comes to being in an industry that is heavily dominated by females, Regan says he doesn’t give much thought to it. Every time he walks into Hobby Lobby to buy supplies, Regan says he’s met with a chorus of “Here comes the cake man!” from a couple of the employees. “I just love making my customers happy,” said Wooten.
While he has looked into opening up a storefront and baking full time, he knows that in order to stay afloat he would have to charge his customers much more, which is just not something Regan is looking to do. Rather, he’s investing in a commercial oven for his home that will allow him to make twelve dozen cupcakes every 18 minutes. This will allow him to not only increase production from out of his own home, but maintain the low prices his customers have come to appreciate so much. “Every cake, every time, is a new challenge for me. I work to produce something a little unique with every new order. At the end of the day, I want my customers to know I gave them something handmade just for them,” said Wooten.
If you had asked Monika Thompson in September of 2016, she would have told you that she was one of the healthiest people she knew. She lived an active lifestyle with a husband and two young boys at home, worked a full time job as a neonatal nurse practitioner and was vigilant about what she ate. Despite all this, to her shock, on October 1, 2016, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
While a cancer diagnosis was the last thing she expected to hear at this point in her life, it was the catalyst for Monika to begin looking into alternative diets. It did not take her long to realize that there are many people who cannot eat a traditional diet. She got a crash course in the importance of moderation and her eyes were opened to a large part of the population whose bodies don’t have tolerances for grains, dairy or eggs.
As Monika began making strides toward her own health she began baking. While she had always loved to bake, now she was baking with health in mind, using all-natural, gluten free and locally sourced ingredients. By June of 2017, Monika launched her small business “Scratch House Kitchen,” and was selling her healthy and delicious treats at local farmer’s markets, at Well+Fed LA, as well as working with local catering companies and fulfilling orders for baked goods out of her own home. Only one month later, she received the news that she was in remission from her struggle with cancer. Monika’s selection in healthy treats ranges from cinnamon rolls to granola cookies to energy bites to pumpkin scones. There’s a little something for everyone.
“I want people to feel like they have options,” said Thompson. “Whether it is someone who has to adhere to an alternative diet by necessity or someone who is just trying to be more conscious about health, I want to have something for everyone.” Starting a small business surrounding health-conscious baking has also given Monika the opportunity to educate the public and communicate reasonable expectations when it comes to alternative diet options.
“My goal here is to offer things that are tasty and approachable,” said Thompson. Monika plans to go part-time at her job as a neonatal nurse practitioner in order to focus more of her time on building Scratch House Kitchen. She has immediate plans to expand her wholesale operations both locally and even towards Monroe, La.
Whether it be baking and decorating cookies for friends and family, cooking their kids’ birthday cakes, providing dessert options for people with a sweet tooth and a passion for health, or making gift baskets full of baked goods for friends and family in an effort to supplement a family income, each of these bakers channeled their motivation into a business venture.
While they each would like to open storefronts one day should the opportunity come their way, none of them let the lack of a storefront keep them from pursuing their baking and small business goals. They have made no excuses, and as a result have exceeded their initial goals, all from the comfort of their own homes. The dreams, the passions and the visions for each business have expanded since the beginning, but at the heart of each venture is a common thread—each baker’s love for the craft.