Small Business Spotlight: Catching Up with Jessica Wells of Ms. Stugie’s Cookie Shoppe 2 Years Later

As you can see by now, we’ve made some major changes, but some things will remain the same and get amped up in the future. One of those things is the Small Business Spotlight interview series. Small businesses have been given a new turn on life in the past few years as many people are making a conscious effort to shop local and shop small. Women entrepreneurship is booming! We want to make an effort to highlight those who are contributing to their local communities and crafting their own futures by becoming entrepreneurs!

 

We first spoke with Jessica Wells two years ago when she formally launched her business, Ms. Stugie’s Cookie Shoppe. One couldn’t help but notice that business boomed almost immediately and we caught up with her to see what changed, what remained the same, and what advice she’d give to anyone wanting to go into business for themselves.

Ms. Stugies Cookie Shoppe is 2 years old now! Wow, congratulations! What can you say were your biggest challenges in the beginning and how did you overcome them?

“The biggest challenge, in the beginning, was confidence. When I started my business, I was very fearful that my cookies would not be received well by the community my confidence was super low. Up until I started my business only my family and close friends ate my cookies. The fear of rejection as well was definitely a huge issue. Now 2 years into my business I am still a little fearful but my confidence has definitely improved.”

How do you balance working full time and running a business that is coming for your day job as far as time and commitment?

“Balance? Where do I begin?  Every day is a challenge for sure. (Being a ) full-time wife and mom, full-time employee, and full-time baker is definitely a lot. In the past, if a customer would call last minute for an order I would accommodate even if I was already overbooked because I did not want to turn anyone away. Just recently my husband mentioned that I need to come up with a system for my orders because not only was I a little more stressed, I was extremely tired as well. I do my baking and cookie decorating after my girls are asleep. Basically, I start baking at night around 8:30 p.m. and depending on the orders I stay up to about 3:00 a.m., get a few hours of sleep and at 6:00 a.m. I am back to my morning routine of heading to my full-time job and getting the girls ready for school. I have recently switched to online ordering and putting a limit per day of how many orders I can take. This has helped with my balance for sure. I implemented this new system 1 month ago and I can tell a difference already. My husband and kids can tell as well. “

 

“As my business grows I make adjustments to make time for what is important.”

 

– You run a cookie company. One may say a  cookie is a cookie. How you stay innovative?

“Staying innovative is important with every business for sure. With cookies, there are so many different types of taste buds out there the possibilities are endless. When I started my business, my mindset was any flavor that can be put in a cupcake, I want to do that with my cookies. I try to stay current with flavors and ideas. I always ask my customers and cookie villagers about flavors and what they would like to see in my shop. This helps me stay current with trends and helps me invent new ideas and flavors.”

What was one (or more) aspect of running a small business that you underestimated in the beginning?
“There were two things that I underestimated when I started my business. The first thing was marketing. I handle all aspects of my business from receptionist work all the way to baking and delivery. I thought marketing would be a click of a button and boom there it is, boy was I wrong. Marketing for my business is literally a full-time job by itself. Four social media platforms, cold calling, running a website, and running an online store takes about 20 hours of my week. I underestimated the process big time. I have learned so much through marketing about my market and things have become a lot easier. The other thing I underestimated was time. Time is not on my side at all lol. When I started my business, I thought my business would stay small, I expected to have a few new customers and that would be it. My business grew so much, so fast. I found myself struggling for time for friends, family, and myself.  I had to invest in a planner in order to schedule my time. As my business grows I make adjustments to make time for what is important.”

– Your business is black women-owned, were there any challenges you face that you think were directly related to those two things?

“Absolutely!!! The stereotype of being a woman for sure. I remember calling a few companies here in Augusta, GA asking for ad space in magazines, newspapers, etc. I wanted my business to be in every book, article, etc. I remember calling a popular magazine and the owner mentioned in a condescending way, “I mean what are you, a little lady who just stays at home and bakes, we have a lot of that and I don’t think you can afford our ad space”. I was shocked, to say the least, and angry because he didn’t even know me. I didn’t let that get to me because shortly after my business was featured on the Buzz on Biz on our local news and I was even a sponsor, so each morning for 6 months my logo was posted up for thousands to see. I also face stereotypes of race, for a while I was nervous that people would not purchase from me because of me being a black-owned business. I would hide behind my logo. I would post pictures of myself or anything. Then one day I had an aha moment. I wasn’t being true to myself or my business if I was hiding my race. In the cookie industry, there are not a lot of women that look like me that are in the “big leagues”. At this point, I am making that my mission. Being a black woman owned business has definitely been a challenge. But I am here for it!”

 

I want you, my customers, to see the product and taste the love that was put into it. “

 

Let’s face it, many black-owned businesses do not have a good reputation? How are you working to combat this and what should the general public know to help bridge the gap?

“Being a black-owned business you automatically have a spotlight on you. I try to make sure that my customer service and product are always a step above so that the color of my skin is not the topic. I want you, my customers, to see the product and taste the love that was put into it. “

Your husband recently started his own small business and it gained popularity quickly. Congrats to him! How is that working for you two as far as balance and raising a family?

“Yes, ma’am! My husband started Show Off Automobile Spa  1 year ago, I am so happy for him. Finding balance and raising a family is not as bad as one would think. We are a team, but we make Sunday family day. we try not to do anything business related and focus on family. With us both working full time and full-time businesses we both spend individual time with the girls so much so they don’t realize the other parent is working and then on Sunday since we are all together it is like a bonus lol. We also have long bedtime rituals with the girls so they are getting all the love. Being married with kids and businesses is a challenge too. We have vowed to have a date night without kids at least once a month. We make this a priority. We are still tweaking the balance but for now, it is working.”

 

“Don’t lose sight of your dream because you are looking at what others in the same field have accomplished.”

 

You mentioned on your website that your company is named after your two daughters. You hope to leave the business to them one day. What can you envision Stugie’s Cookies to be 20 years from now? Do you ever think about franchising or do you like the local mom and pop appeal?

“Oh wow, 20 years from now. I love the fact that my business is local because it has that hometown feel; however, I have a few ideas that will be added to my business that we will be able to franchise.”

– And advice for those looking to start a small business in the food industry?

“I would say to anyone starting a food business or a business in general, Stay the course. Don’t lose sight of your dream because you are looking at what others in the same field have accomplished. If you “stay the course” you will not have to worry about others because you are so focused and driven on your goals.”

-What are you most excited for in 2019?

“In 2019 by business will be 3 years old. I have new cookie selections debuting and new adventures within my business, so you definitely have to stay tuned!”

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Keep up with Jessica by liking Ms. Stugie’s Cookie Shoppe on Facebook, following on Instagram, and tweeting along on Twitter.

Check out her cookies and keep up with the Shoppe at www.stugiescookies.com.

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