In just seven years, Sarah DeClerk she has grown Ann Potter Baking Company from a part-time hobby to a successful business that has partnered with the likes of Disney for Gap, Hanky Panky, Vitamix, Bloomingdales, and Harpers Collins Publishers. Sarah shares her passion and creativity by teaching classes locally and regionally on her craft and loves to speak on the benefits of creativity and living a balanced life. Along with weekly cookie orders, the company operates a successful line of baking mixes and dry goods. We are super excited to be Decorating Cookies with Ann Potter Baking.
Afterwards, we sat down with Sarah to learn about how she built her passion into a full-time business. And to learn more about these drool-worthy cookie designs! Her Instagram videos are seriously mesmerizing.
Where did you learn the art of cookie decorating?
I am a self-taught cookie designer. I have always been creative and have loved to be in the kitchen and one day I just decided to try out royal icing cookie decorating. I have been practicing ever since.
Where did the name Ann Potter come from?
When I first started this hobby, people told me it would turn into a business. I didn’t quite believe them but sure enough- here we are! I never wanted to name something directly after myself so I used my middle name, Ann (and my niece’s) and my dog’s name, Potter. It serves as a great pseudonym and people, of course, call me Ann all of the time!
How did you make the transition from full-time job to designing the work life you wanted to have?
I was so busy with my full-time job in advertising and would come home every evening to work on orders until 10 or 11 at night. My husband Brady said to me one night, “If you want to go for it, do it!” I quit my job two weeks later and haven’t looked back!
What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned about running your own small business?
Work-life balance is so important and so is being meticulously organized. I would challenge anyone who wants to work for themselves to really prepare to be working ALL of the time. Little things pop up constantly and you are never really off the clock. It is so important to have systems in place that make you productive as well as give you piece of mind so you can take a much-deserved break.
Your cookies are so unbelievably creative! Where do you get the inspiration for your cookie designs?
I love when my clients just let me create for them! I am usually working off of a color palette or theme, and I generally just free flow with the design process. I don’t tend to sketch out designs or anything and really enjoy just seeing where the process takes me.
What is the one kitchen tool you can’t live without?
My convection double ovens.
What are your Top 5 Tips for those wanting to try cookie decorating this weekend?
1-2. Have patience and lots of time. This process takes lots of time!
3. Give yourself grace. Getting the hang of royal icing takes practice.
4. Remember that it is a cookie and doesn’t have to be perfect! At the end of the day, you can eat the evidence if your project doesn’t turn out as expected.
5. Make sure to use a good cookie recipe that doesn’t spread. My Ann Potter Baking sugar shortbread mix is perfect for this! Easy to prep and turns out perfect!
What is your favorite all-time cookie design you’ve created?
It tends to change depending on the season. Right now I am very into the ugly sweater cookies. They can be all of the colors and have tons of texture! So much fun to create for clients!
What is your number one productivity hack in your business?
Hire help for things that others can do 75% as well as you. I can’t outsource the actual cookie decorating because I am such a control freak and people are paying for my detail, but I can have help on prepping packaging and for my classes.
What is the best advice you were ever given?
Keep it small. When you have small overhead you can keep the craft tight and within your control. My biggest fear when starting out was growing too fast or the thoughts of opening up a storefront and losing control of the product quality. People are paying me for the most beautiful and delicious cookie. The last thing I would ever want to do is to deliver a subpar product.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you first started this business?
I wish I had been more confident in knowing and charging what my time is worth. It has taken me years to know that I can’t please everyone or produce cookies for everyone. I hope to inspire other creatives to always be true to themselves and their work!
What advice would you give a young person starting out with visions of blazing their own entrepreneurial trail?
Be kind to others. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs so you can problem solve and brainstorm–having a network of support is so important. Listen to others’ struggles and successes. This is such an easy way to glean knowledge and inspiration from others! And even though the customer may or may not always be right, they are what keeps you in business so be easy to work with and appreciative!
What projects are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?
Expanding my dry goods product line. I also have a couple big classes coming up. I am so passionate about showing others that creativity isn’t something that some of us have and others don’t. Everyone has this in their blood and it is so important to use! It leads to a healthier and happier sense of self. I teach lots of classes on the art of cookie decorating but it is much more than learning how to work with royal icing. It is a 2-3 hour escape that allows us to work with our hands which is something we should really try to do and often!
Will you share your favorite cookie icing recipe, please?
We were lucky enough to to get to snag Sarah’s icing recipe you can see it HERE.
You can sign up for her cookie decorating classes HERE. She even does video seminars from time to time so you can soak up her wisdom no matter where you live.
Want some special cookies of your own? You can order HERE.