By Irma Widjojo
Times-Herald, Vallejo, Calif.
The two Vallejo women have only known each other less than a decade, but their friendship has grown beyond that.
“I think we were sisters in a previous life,” Kelly O’Leary, 57, says of Kate Hodgdon, 62.
“Yes, I think we’ve known each other before,” agrees Hodgdon.
After knowing each other for a few years, O’Leary and Hodgdon started Bite Me Cookie Company out of their homes.
They met at a craft fair at the Vallejo Florence Douglas Senior Center in 2008, when their booths were placed next to each other. That night, Hodgdon came to O’Leary’s for dinner.
They have remained friends since.
About five years later, they decided to up the ante and became business partners after the California Homemade Food Act was signed in September 2012.
“I told Kelly that this is our chance,” Hodgdon said.
Though both women have day jobs that are not culinary in nature, they enjoy baking in their spare time.
Hodgdon says her cookies became a staple at her workplace when she began giving them out as holiday treats early in her career.
“I couldn’t afford buying presents for people at the office, and after a few years it became an entitlement,” she said, laughing.
The business’ catchy name — Bite Me Cookie Company — was born from a casual comment by O’Leary.
“We were bouncing ideas for the name,” she remembers. “Then someone said something to me and I said, ‘Oh, bite me!’
“And then the sky opened up and the angels sang.”
Since its conception, their cookie business has become a staple at fairs and shows in Solano County and surrounding areas. In turn, the duo became known as the “cookie ladies.”
“We are starting to develop a following, which is nice,” Hodgdon said, adding that they would like to expand to add merchandise like aprons and shirts to their offering.
The company also delivers around the county.
Though starting a business with friends is not always ideal for all, O’Leary and Hodgdon say they work well with each other.
“We’ve done I think remarkably well,” Hodgdon says. “We balance each other out. … We promised that if we are ever angry at the other person, we are going to tell each other. Whatever happens to the business, our goal is to remain friends.”
Beginning with four flavors, the business has expanded its menu to twice the size, as well as special-occasion cookies, also catering to those who require gluten-free and sugar-free diets.
The cookies are also made with fresh ingredients, with no shortening, and O’Leary and Hodgdon are always experimenting with new flavors.
“Our neighbors and coworker are our tasters,” O’Leary said.
“We also have a secret ingredient that we can’t tell you,” she added with a smile.
The women squeeze in the cookie-making time in their schedule — not that they mind.
“Doing the cookies doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s purely a labor of love,” Hodgdon says.