By Corinne Jurney The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
Owners of Southern Sugar Bakery consider smiles to be the sweet rewards of their labor.
Christin Kubasko and Angie Tucker are the co-owners and sole employees of the home-based custom cookie business.
The two friends, both school counselors, started the company last year when they found baking to be a rewarding hobby.
Now, they're figuring out how to balance their day jobs while meeting a growing demand for their cookies.
The two met in 2005 when Tucker, now 34, led a high school Bible study group that Kubasko, now 26, was in.
They became friends and Kubasko went on to follow Tucker's path into high school counseling.
Growing up, Kubasko always had a knack for baking. After sharing her cookies with friends, she received requests to buy them for events.
While working as a counseling intern with Tucker, Kubasko received a request for 300 cookies for a wedding.
"At that point, 300 cookies was crazy," Kubasko said. "I had been doing maybe one or two dozen a week."
Tucker offered to help and the women worked after school to get the job done. Kubasko taught Tucker, a baking novice, how to make the dough and icing from scratch.
Kubasko eventually became a full-time counselor. Tucker, a mother of three who works part time, encouraged Kubasko to do more with her baking.
The friends started Southern Sugar Bakery in February 2013 after the North Carolina Department of Agriculture inspected Tucker's kitchen, the bakery's home base. The bakery received its first official order on Valentine's Day 2013.
They made a Facebook page to centralize the ordering process and had 1,000 likes in the first week.
Southern Weddings Magazine featured their cookies. Time Warner Cable featured the company in its "Made in the Carolinas" series. The bakery sold 3,000 cookies at last year's North Hills Christmas Tree Lighting.
"We went from 300 a week to 3,000, a year later," Kubasko said.
Now they are selling up to 25 dozen cookies a week and having to turn away orders. They can make cookies of any shape or image – even people's faces, down to the beard stubble, Tucker said.
They bake together, singing country music while they work, with Tucker responsible for making and handling the dough while Kubasko adds the finishing touches
Cookies cost $36.72 for a basic baker's dozen; complicated designs, like monograms or characters, cost more.
Tucker recently increased their baking space by converting her dining room into a "cookie room," complete with drying racks, baskets of food coloring and jars of flour.
Kubasko and Tucker work on their business part-time during the school year and take on more orders during their summers off.
The owners are now considering if and when they want to devote more time to baking and building their business.
"It's scary to go out on your own, but we don't want fear to keep us from doing what we feel led to do," Kubasko said.