I love sharing about other cookie decorators because even though we all have an obvious common link via cookies, we are all very unique.....and it is so interesting to hear about another cookier's life.
Karen of Karen's Cookies is no stranger to most cookie decorators. Since she and her husband operate an online cookie decorating supply shop, most are very familiar with her wonderful website that not only sells products, but shares lots of tutorials, tips, ideas, and so much more!
Karen's website is a favorite place for me to go online. It is one of those sites where I feel very comfortable. I think it is because Karen & Mike have become my friends. They are more than salespeople trying to make money. They are cookie friends that truly want to help and inspire others to decorate cookies. They bend over backwards to help in any way they can.
Meet my friend, Karen.......
Karen and I began our friendship back in May of 2009. (Wow, Karen, it's been almost two years ago!) She contacted me and asked if I'd like to do a blog give-away on my site, and of course, I said yes. :) And after that, we have maintained our friendship and written back and forth as time allows. We have kindred spirits........we both have several children and lots more in common......mainly the love of decorating cookies. Karen and Mike have such generous hearts. We've since done another blog give-away here on this blog. When lots of decorators came together and inquired about have a forum for cookies, Mike & Karen stepped in and create an awesome place to meet other cookiers and find out just about anything you'd want to know about cookie decorating. (If you aren't familiar with it, check out CookiersRUs.) Last March when I went to Ukraine and wanted to take decorating supplies to a cake decorator in Ukraine who wanted to learn cookie decorating, without any hesitation, Karen generously offered the items I needed. And when we had our first annual Cookie Camp in September 2010, Karen's Cookies was one of our biggest sponsors. :))))))))
Karen answered my ten guest blog questions and I think you will learn much about this amazing woman through her answers.
Where did your love for cookie decorating begin and do you still love to decorate cookies now that you have a full time cookie decorating business?
We always decorated Christmas cookies as a family for as far back as I can remember, but my first “solo” cookie experience was when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I made some Easter bunny and egg cookies all by myself. I wish I had a picture of them! Then a few years later, I got the idea to do some cookies, but I didn't have a cookie cutter that matched, so I made a template out of paper and cut around it. Looking back, I guess that was pretty good problem-solving for a 12-year old before the internet! But I remember at that time being so excited that cookie designs were literally endless and only limited by imagination. I've been hooked ever since! I do still love it, but I don't do it EVERY day, so that might help keep the love alive.
Tell us how Karen's Cookies came about.
I worked as a professional decorator (cookies and wedding cakes) for several years before I had kids. When I had my first baby almost 11 years ago, I was kind of bored and missing the decorating, but I wanted to stay home with the baby. Mike was a web developer at the time, so I asked him if he could make me a cookie decorating web page where I could put up my ideas and pictures of my cookies, along with some instruction. I developed a little following, and I was getting lots of emails from people asking where I get my supplies, so I figured I might as well sell them myself. So in 2007 Mike redesigned the site, and we put about 50 products up for sale. It grew steadily until we finally had to move it out of the house in January of 2010. Now we have over 1000 products, and Mike and I both work on it full time.
Among the products you offer, what are your favorites? Which do you use the most in your own kitchen?
I love the Americolor food coloring and the Adjustable Rolling pin, and I also love the boo-boo sticks and the disposable bags. If I could only have a handful of products to decorate with, those are what I would take. My recent loves are disco dust and the silver and gold luster dust. I have lots of fun with those!
I already know the answer to this.....but I'll ask it for the readers. What if a decorator wants an item that you don't carry? Are you willing to try to carry things on demand?
I am always willing to add items that people are looking for. I find it amazing that after decorating cookies for most of my life, I STILL discover new products and new ways of doing things that I never knew existed! I discover most of those through emails from people asking why I don't carry Product A or Product B. Some of our best products have come that way.
What piece of advice would you give a beginning decorator?
Don't give up after your first try! I sometimes get emails from people who are frustrated because they followed all the instructions and their cookies don't look like mine. I always explain that my first cookies were pretty rough (I do wish I had a picture!). It takes practice and patience, and you learn the most from the mistakes. Keep trying, and have fun with it. If you're not having fun, it's not worth it!
What is the most challenging part of running Karen's Cookies?
The most challenging part is balancing my “regular life” with my “cookie life”. We were home based for 3 years, and it was really hard to separate the two. Now that we're in a warehouse space, it's easier, but still a challenge. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night worrying about packages getting to customers on time, or worrying about when we'll get popular items back in stock. But I'm getting better at letting that stuff go when I'm at home. As with all things in life-- it's a process!
So how do you do it all......care for a husband and four children, run an online cookie decorating business, make beautiful cookies, create how-to videos, and now write a blog?!
I don't do it all!! I definitely let things slide-- a lot! I have to, or I'll go crazy. I'm really lucky because Mike and I work very well together. We enjoy being together, whether we're working or not. We go on lots of “dates” to the shop and work late into the evening, and we laugh a lot and have fun with it. I think the secret is to try to keep it fun, even if it's “work”. Sometimes we bring the kids along and we pay them to do things like break down boxes and put cookie cutter shipments away. It's definitely a family affair. We have great support from our family and friends. Sometimes my friends or mother-in-law will take my 3-year-old so I can decorate cookies uninterrupted while the kids are in school. I have lots and lots of help.
What is your favorite thing to do to “get away from it all”?
Mike and I love board games, so we play those a lot. In the summer we love to go camping as a family. It's hard to get away for long periods because it's just Mike and I who run the shop, and people need their orders year 'round, but we'll drive up to a campground after orders are shipped one day, and then come back in time to ship orders the next day. We're all about the mini-vacations! :D
What is the most gratifying part of operating Karen's Cookies?
Without a doubt, the best part is getting emails from people who say things like “I never thought I could do this, but you showed me how and I'm doing it!” I recently read an email from a lady who said that she found my site during a very dark time in her life and was able to do “cookie therapy” to get through it. Those are the things that make the everyday grind worth it. The original web site was all about teaching and sharing, and that's still the heart and soul of what we do.
Are there any future plans for Karen's Cookies?
We just want to keep growing and get better and better. We always have goals for more content, more tutorials, more videos. We hope to just keep adding, and keep people decorating cookies!
What a fun interview. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Karen better. And if you haven't checked out Karen's Cookie Blog, do it! Ever post has me copying down a new recipe or sparking an idea of a cookie I want to try. Plus, she is always offering a give-away. Don't miss it!
All photos above are the property of karenscookies.net and were used by permission.