If you’ve ever been faced with the need or opportunity to take a leap of faith, without a safety net, you’ll appreciate today’s Featured Baker. I’m honored to bring you the story of Kaitlyn Cray, of CrayZ Cookies, in Denver, Colorado, who did just this. Ten months ago, Kaitlyn had never even decorated a cookie before and today, her thriving business supports her family of six! If you’re looking for a sign to start something you’re passionate about or just want to be inspired, read on to learn about Kaitlyn’s journey!
Didn’t See That Coming
Kaitlyn and her husband were enjoying life in Florida with a growing family when he was shockingly diagnosed with a rare cancer. In the battle of his life, impacting his ability to work, the family packed up and moved to Colorado to be closer to family. Kaitlyn was working hard but her family needed more of her at home. At the time, that just wasn’t an option, despite being unhappy in her job and longing to be with her family more.
It was around this same time that Kaitlyn started seeing cookie decorating videos on social media and was very intrigued. On a day off, she baked up a batch of cutout cookies and made her first batch of royal icing. “I thought they were a mess,” Kaitlyn shared. But her husband encouraged her to post them on Facebook. “They are ugly! No one is going to want to pay money for these!” Kaitlyn told him. After all, she had not baked these cookies with the intention of selling them. She was hoping cookie decorating might be something relaxing and fun she could do for herself as a hobby.
Just for fun, she posted them, and it turns out, “People wanted them!” Kaitlyn sold 35 dozen of these cookies at the bargain price of $15 a dozen. “I had never sold a thing in my life,” Kaitlyn shared. She immediately had to get organized as a business, figure out packaging and start making cookies!! That was last Halloween, in Oct of 2022! And here is the picture she posted on Facebook along with the first boxed order she ever sold.
CrayZ Cookies Is Born
With the overwhelming response for customers in her community, CrayZ Cookies was born! Fortunately, the cottage baking laws are very easy and quick to comply with in Colorado for cookies! “I jumped in headfirst with no back-up plan,” Kaitlyn explained. Kaitlyn’s business quickly became her new full-time job and despite having a small kitchen, she does have a room dedicated to her decorating now.
Kaitlyn’s business is virtually all custom cookie orders, and she caps her orders at 10-15 dozen per week. She played around with other offerings and holiday pre-sales but nothing gets as much traction as her custom cookies. In fact, that is advice she offers to other aspiring or current bakery owners, “Focus on where you’re getting a return.” In her case, her schedule is full with custom orders so there hasn’t been any incentive, time or need to branch out beyond that.
Learning To Decorate and Differentiate Herself
When you see Kaitlyn’s work, it’s baffling how all of this could have happened in the last 9 months! And she’s learned everything from YouTube! “I’d study YouTube for every single set,” Kaitlyn explained. When a customer requested something she had never done, she’d say, “I’ve never done it, but I will try my best!” She’s never had a disappointed customer and encourages other bakers not to shy away from challenging orders.
Starting a home bakery in Denver, where there is no shortage of bakeries and other cookiers, Kaitlyn new she needed to find a way to set herself apart. While her business took off like a shot, continuing that momentum isn’t automatic. Something that does come very easily to Kaitlyn is exceptional customer service. She has always worked in roles where customer service was critical and believes, “Customer service is the number one thing when you have a business.” And she believes it is one of the things that has made her one of the most popular cookiers in Denver in such a short time.
“I’m super open with my customers,” Kaitlyn shared. She doesn’t run her business with rigid policies or rules like many do and she believes her customers appreciate the openness. She knows everyone has busy lives and tries to be accommodating while ensuring she’s not being taken advantage of. Sometimes it’s even more convenient for her to deliver her cookies so she’ll surprise her customers with free delivery. Her customers are thrilled, it’s more convenient for her and keeps them coming back. She firmly believes that “How you treat people,” will help your business more than anything.
It’s Not All Sprinkles
While Kaitlyn’s business has been a huge success, it hasn’t always been a walk in the park. She’s still learning to manage her time in pursuit of what she calls, “work life harmony.” And she still has the occasional day where she just doesn’t want to decorate another cookie. But she says that her husband is her biggest supporter and reminds her why she’s doing this. And she tries to tune into the excitement of her customers as well. “These people are depending on me and are so excited,” Kaitlyn shared. So while it can be easy to forget the significance of all these cookies, they truly mean so much to those who have ordered them.
She made the mistake of taking on 33 dozen orders over Easter and will never make that mistake again! And she’s learned that her creative time is at night. “When everyone is sleeping, and the house is quiet.” She enjoys her family during the day and gets into her creative zone at night. That’s what works best for her, and she encourages all bakers to find the groove that works for them. Don’t try to force your creative time into something prohibitive.
Encouragement From A Successful Cookier
Kaitlyn’s biggest piece of advice is, “just jump.” If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do or if you want to start a home bakery, just start. There likely won’t ever be a perfect time. “All you need is a scribe, a cookie, some icing and a table. That’s all I had!” She also encourages bakers to find their own style and, “you will thrive.” Imposter syndrome can be very real in this industry, but Kaitlyn says, “Don’t hold yourself to all these standards that social media puts on you.”
We had a really great conversation about how if 10 cookiers tried to make the same cookie, they would all likely come out very different. Don’t try to copy the work of someone else; you’ll be much more successful with your own style and leveraging your strengths.
Where Is CrayZ Cookies Going?
Ten months ago, decorating cookies was not even on Kaitlyn’s radar, let along having a booming business. It’s all happened so fast, she’s still figuring out what the future looks like. She’d love to have more space which would allow her to work more efficiently. But like everything she’s done, she works with what she’s got! And she makes it happen!
Kaitlyn had no back-up plan; and her family was depending on her. Sometimes that fire is what is necessary to achieve success. But at the end of each day, Kaitlyn still believes that if you, “Give them something to remember,” that is what will set you apart. “People will enjoy your cookies, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.”
Kaitlyn also passionately shared how she believes that God gave her this gift to “serve others and bring joy to their lives and special moments.” While this is her business now, she loves the opportunities to serve families in need. She enjoys donating her cookies to others battling cancer or other challenges. In her words, “To share the love of God through the talents he’s given me and remind people that they are not alone.” What an inspiring leader and community member!
It was a privilege to get to know Kaitlyn, her heart, and it’s quite impressive to hear how much she’s learned throughout this journey. You’d think she’d been in business for years! But it reminded me that no matter what business you’re in or for how long, delighting the customer is what it all comes down to. Kaitlyn is a natural in this space and her community is lucky to have her! With that focus, I’m excited to watch CrayZ Cookies grow! There’s no stopping Kaitlyn with the support of her family and community and she is so grateful!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the images of Kaitlyn’s cookie art throughout this piece. And to put it all in perspective, here are a few more photos of her early work, just 8-9 months ago. This is the development you see when you put your mind and heart into something. Congratulations Kaitlyn, I wish you all the success!
To see more of Kaitlyn’s work, follow her or connect with her, use the links below! I HIGHLY encourage you to check out more of her amazing and beautiful work!
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