When Emily Robinson started baking and decorating sugar cookies on a whim, she didn’t realize she was actually starting down a path to opening her own business.
“A lady I worked with brought in sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day. It instantly took me back to childhood, the memories of sugar cookies and moms bringing them in for holidays,” she said. “I asked her for the recipe and started looking online. And I was kind of introduced to this world of sugar cookie decorating.”
She began practicing, not just simple frosting but elaborate, careful designs, giving her cookie creations to friends and family.
“Everybody was saying, ‘These are so pretty, you should sell them,’” she said. “So I started a Facebook page, and then I started selling at the Riverside farmers market. The second market, I sold out.”
That was in 2011, when Robinson was working for an insurance company. Her cookie business, Emi’s Treats, started growing quickly on the side, through the market, online marketing via Facebook and Instagram and word-of-mouth. Someone would serve her cookies at their baby shower, and one of the guests would call for their next party, and so on.
Robinson does custom orders, with cookie decorations individualized for each event, whether a birthday, graduation, wedding shower or just for fun.
“People tell me the theme of their parties, and I just create cookies around that theme,” Robinson said.
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She gets inspiration from Pinterest and Facebook cookie groups, whose members are called cookie’s. She also has a stack of cookie books at home that she references.
The key to a good sugar cookie, she said, is to use real vanilla. All her ingredients are homemade, from the cookie dough to the frosting.
By 2016, she was selling enough cookies that she wanted to make it her full time job, but accessing affordable health insurance was a barrier. She was able to find a plan on the Affordable Care Act exchange, and in 2018, she quit her office life and hasn’t looked back.
“I was having to put limits on myself with cookie orders because of my job, but my passion for my cookies overtook the passion for my job,” she said.
She bakes out of her Cedar Rapids kitchen, which is licensed and inspected by Linn County Public Health. She said that step wasn’t required for people selling cookies out of their home or at a farmers market, but it would be if she ever sold through a retail store. She said she also wanted to give her customers peace of mind.
She has considered branching out someday with a brick and mortar bakery location. She opted to call her business Emi’s Treats because she didn’t want to be limited to just sugar cookies. But for now, they’re her niche, and they’re keeping her busy.
“In an average week, I do about 20 dozen cookies. I’ve done up to 25 dozen a week — during the holidays, one Christmas I did 45 dozen,” she said.
She limits the designs during the holiday season to streamline the process, rather than doing custom orders.
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Customers pick up their orders at her house, and due to COVID she has a contactless porch pickup option. She said in March she had a lot of orders canceled as people curtailed their events, but they have picked back up again. She’s hearing from clients who are doing “drive through-style” baby showers or other parties and still want to hand out favors to their guests. She also started offering “Paint your own cookie” and cookie decorating kits for families.
Those kits might spark the same creative energy in kids that draws Robinson to decorating cookies.
“For me, it’s very therapeutic,” she said. “I’ve always been creative. I love crafting; I used to be really big into scrapbooks. What I really love is the avenue of creating, letting my creative juices flow.”
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At a glance
• What: Emi’s Treats