Meet the Maker – Jennifer Rodriguez of Sweet Jenny Belle Bakery
This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Jennifer Rodriquez of West Jordan, Utah. Jennifer creates tiny works of art in the form of iced cookies at her company Sweet Jenny Belle Bakery, and we’re so excited to introduce her talent to you. Welcome, Jennifer!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?
Jennifer: Honestly, I think I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit. After I received my Master’s degree, I worked as a corporate librarian, and I can remember feeling complete dissatisfaction. Was this all there was? I didn’t – no, I couldn’t – spend every day in an office working for someone else.
My latest venture is my bakery. I made the leap last August because I had so many requests to purchase my goods, I knew I had to try. I’ve danced with the idea of being a baker for the last 2 decades, and I knew it was time to really give it a go.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Jennifer: When I opened the bakery, I knew I wanted to specialize in decorated cookies. I had spent so much of my life working in different art mediums, but never mastering them. I wanted to buckle down and really master one art, and royal icing would be it. I wanted to specialize in custom orders. There is something so exciting about a client coming to you with an idea and being able to tell them, “Yes, I can make that for you.”
LBC: How would describe what you create?
Jennifer: I create sweet, edible works of art. It’s important to me that they are delicious. I spent a long time tweaking my cookie and icing recipes to be amazing. However, many of my clients are purchasing from me because of the artistry on the cookies.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Jennifer: My day is a crazy tightrope act of balancing because in addition to my business, I homeschool my three sweet kiddos!
I try to get up a few hours before the kids. This is my time to drink coffee and maybe ice a sample cookie and upload it to Instagram. I’ll review my schedule for the day and answer any emails that came in overnight.
Once the kids wake up, we have breakfast and watch a cartoon or two. I will set them up with their schoolwork for the morning and toys for my toddler. While they are occupied, I may whip up a batch of icing or dough. These items made at home are not for sale, but for my sample cookies and videos that I post on Instagram and the blog. A good portion of my advertising is beautiful pictures of cookies on social media.
During the afternoon while the kids are having lunch and playing outside, I will typically shoot a cookie tutorial video and answer emails. We will then head to the park or library.
In the evenings after my husband is home, I will pack up and head out to my commercial kitchen. I’ll spend the next couple hours baking and decorating cookies for orders. It’s an awesome time for me to focus on what I love.
Before I head to bed I will work on my blog, answer emails and prep for the next day.
It’s a long day to be sure, but I’m surrounded by people I love and creating. I love it.
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Jennifer: 1. Who is your tribe? It’s important to embrace and befriend those that are already in your business field. There is room for everyone to shine. Those are the people can understand the ins and outs of your business like no one else. Consider collaborations and supporting each other. Seriously. This is big.
2. What are going to be your work hours? It’s really easy to work all the time because we love what we do and there can be a lot of work to do when starting a business. You need breaks though – so be sure you create working hours, and keep to them as best you can.
3. How are you going to advertise? Are you going to do shows, rock social media, or something else? You have an amazing business, but how will people find you?
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Jennifer: I make lists; I love to make lists. I will really evaluate what has to be done that day and what can wait. I have a few daily relaxation rituals – glass of wine and a hot bath! I make it a practice to not stress over things that are out of my control.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Jennifer: I took a very small loan from an investor when I started my business. I bought only what I could afford until I had regular sales coming in. It’s enticing to want to start big, but all that buying is debt banking on the future. You will have less stress and sleep better at night if you start the business with a conservative financial debt.
I reached out to the other business owners in my field. I got to know them and asked for advice. I was so pleasantly surprised that the food community is a warm and supportive one. This week I just created a monthly collaboration with 3 other cookie artists. Self employment can be a lonely venture; step outside your comfort zone and befriend the competition.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Jennifer: Honestly, I don’t have a great example for this with my bakery. But here’s why: 10 years ago, I started my first small business. I bought and bought and bought and then bought some more. I was hoping my online store would be an instant hit and didn’t concern myself with the huge debt I placed myself in. We are still in some portion of that debt from bad mistakes 10 years ago. It was hard on me, hard on my marriage and it haunts me.
Because of that, I no longer use credit cards in business or my personal life. It’s a bad habit, and I urge you to not start down that path. Yes, be positive about your future, but diligently plan for the negative and the unexpected.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Jennifer: I donate my baked goods to a local homeless shelter, The Road Home. It’s a shelter for families in Salt Lake City. I can’t wrap my mind around what it must feel like as a parent to worry how they will feed their child that day. What an amazing burden to carry – and it breaks my heart as a mother. Is it making an impact to donate cupcakes or cookies? Well, I hope that for just a moment, that sweet treat lightens the load for the parents and brings joy to the children.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without.
Jennifer: 1. My phone – I use it all day to connect via social media. I use it every day to take photographs and record videos.
2. My contacts – It really is a lot about you who you know. Be a support system to others and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone has advice and important knowledge – let them share it with you.
3. My baking supplies – I could not do any of this without my tools. I don’t actually need a lot, so I am picky about what I do purchase and I try to avoid useless gadgets. Clutter kills creativity. Buy what you need and love, and that’s it.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Jennifer: You will see that I’m creating everyday. That my planner is booked with teaching engagements, food conferences and my kids’ soccer games. I have a book or two under my belt and I’m gearing up my new baking product launch.
There isn’t a storefront or chain. I want to direct my business to teaching and inspiring you how to create beautiful cookies and cakes. Your family wants to eat delicious treats baked by you, not me – so let me help you create the sweet memories.
LBC: You experienced quite the breakout moment via Instagram earlier this year, and you now have more than 50,000 followers. Can you share what happened and the impact it had on your business?
Jennifer: I love to create cookies for the random holidays, and I made a cookie tutorial video for Groundhog Day earlier this year. A few days before the holiday, I received a very quirky email from Instagram. I seriously thought it was a hoax! They were asking for permission to repost and some silly questions about groundhogs. I replied, joking to my husband about how it probably was someone pulling my leg.
When I went to bed, I had about 2,000 followers – I woke to over 20,000! It was insane.I had to quickly clean up how I posted pictures and videos. I wanted to keep my new followers engaged, and I knew any sloppy posting would create a loss. I immediately stopped posting family pictures and created a private account for those.
I’m an introvert and value humility, so honestly to become a viral star was a bit tricky for me. I had so many people congratulate me and my sales increased overnight. It was a blessing, but it took me some time to feel comfortable with it. Fake it till you make it. I still don’t feel like a “big deal” though my friends have told me that I’ve arrived. I’m good with that. I would want someone to kick me if I ever do feel like a celebrity.
LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…
Jennifer: Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Cam, Rolling Stones and Black Eyed Peas.
LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?
Jennifer: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love what you’re doing with Sweet Jenny Belle, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your bakery. We’re cheering you on!
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!