Image credit: Chris Emeott Photography
If you’ve visited The Cookie Cups bakeries or followed us online, you probably know Nicole Pomije, the avid baker and entrepreneur who grew a home kitchen operation into our full-fledged bakery brand.
As the creator of The Cookie Cups and several other successful businesses, Nicole loves to share her wisdom and experience with fellow business owners, home bakers, and parents. Her insights have been especially helpful throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced countless businesses (including ours) to pivot their approach to survive.
Here are a few of Nicole’s best tips on running a business, juggling family life, and making delicious foods at home.
When life hands you a global pandemic, pivot your brick-and-mortar business to a shippable home-based experience.
We’ve talked a lot about our Cookie Cups baking and pizza making kits here on the blog, and we’re very excited to see our first kits shipping out to families across the country. As many of you know, this new product line was developed during the two months our bakeries were shut down during Minnesota’s stay-at-home order.
Although our private birthday parties and cooking classes are resuming, the smaller group sizes and overall decline in bakery foot traffic means we can’t do things the same way we used to. Our kits represent a much-needed opportunity to keep delivering The Cookie Cups experience to our customers, right in their home kitchen.
Nicole’s Take: “These are things that the family can do together. We’ll be able to ship them nationwide, and they’re shelf-stable. We’re hoping that with this pivot, we’ll be able to see what areas would maybe like a Cookie Cups location in the future.”
Changing home food business laws could open up remote work possibilities for more entrepreneurs.
As someone who got her start in the “cottage food” industry, Nicole understands how difficult it can be to work around many states’ restrictive regulations for home food businesses. Selling at farmers’ markets and later, moving to a brick-and-mortar location was the only way for The Cookie Cups to earn more revenue under Minnesota’s cottage food laws, which caps annual sales for home bakers in our state at $18,000.
Now that COVID-19 has made remote work an essential move for many businesses, Nicole believes allowing bakers to produce and sell food under their own roofs, unrestricted, would give a much-needed boost to local economies. Like The Cookie Cups, other food-based brands could even have a greater opportunity to use their residential kitchens as a gateway to brick-and-mortar retail.
Nicole’s Take: “It’s extremely satisfying that I can come into my office, located in my second bakery, and hear people baking in my kitchen that I built. It’s amazing what we’ve done over the past five years.”
Personal finance insights
A high-yield savings account is an excellent way to earn interest with flexible access to your money.
During COVID-19, interest rates on financial products like American Express high-yield savings accounts plummeted. While this may encourage consumers to invest their money elsewhere with a higher return, Nicole wants to keep her account for its liquidity, interest rate (which is still higher than the average savings account), and opportunity to build compound interest.
Nicole’s Take: “My high-yield savings account allows me to make a certain number of withdrawals without penalty while keeping my funds liquid in case of emergencies. If you're thinking of opening a savings account this year, I would definitely consider opening something with a high yield so that you are making the most of your funds with the ability to access cash quickly if needed.”
When you work together as a couple, achieving financial goals becomes easier.
Nicole and her husband David (a.k.a. “Mr. Cookie Cup”) have built and grown multiple businesses together throughout their relationship, including The Cookie Cups. When it came time to open our second bakery location in Chanhassen, this power couple was able to pay it off in full, in cash, within a few months of opening.
How did they do it? Of course, there was a lot of careful planning and strategizing based on their renovation costs and current income. But their track record of taking every step in life as a team really made it possible for Nicole and David to make this financial dream a reality.
Nicole’s Take: “At the end of the day, knowing we are in this together is the biggest thing and keeps us strong.”
Home cooking and baking insights
Save money by purchasing some pantry staples at the dollar store.
As a business owner and the mother of a toddler, Nicole is always looking to save money where she can. One simple way to cut down on the monthly grocery bill is by purchasing certain pantry staples at a dollar store.
Nicole says you can usually find things like tomato sauces, pizza sauces, and canned corn at the dollar store. Items like these have a long shelf life and can be stored in your pantry for affordable last-minute meals. Honey, which normally retails for over $8 per pound, and spices are also great dollar store finds.
Nicole’s Take: “Sometimes you can find really good spices, like different kinds of cinnamon.”
Cut your meal prep time down with simple microwave cooking hacks.
When you think of foods like macaroni and cheese or queso dip, most people think of standing over a hot stove melting cheese, or waiting for the oven to preheat. When you’re craving these delicious cheesy dishes, there’s no need to spend a ton of time prepping and cooking – they’re both very simple to make in a microwave-safe bowl.
Nicole’s Take: “[For macaroni and cheese], I like to use a few cheeses, pre-cooked noodles, and cream cheese to bring it all together. You can use veggies, too, [like] mushrooms, broccoli or jalapeno for a little heat. The trick [with queso] is to use a little bit of milk or cream with your desired cheeses, throw in some fresh salsa, and microwave in 30-second increments until smooth.”