What better way to kickstart my Feature Friday blog about highlighting local businesses than with something sweet. I had the chance to meet with Linda Holbrook of Holbrook House Cookie Shoppe recently and I had so much fun. I was there to take behind the scenes pictures of her in action and she was so easy to talk to that sometimes I would forget to take pictures because I was so wrapped up in the conversation. Read on to find out more about her and her delicious cookies. I didn't mind taste testing at all!
1. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I definitely enjoy the outlet for creativity. I love creating new designs, learning and using new techniques, and making people smile when they see their idea come to life on a cookie.
2. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR LINE OF WORK?
I grew up making these cookies, and I progressively improved with my decorating. While living in Italy, I took cookies to my kids' school events and was repeatedly asked if I took orders. Eventually, I figured why not!? So, in 2011 I set up a web page and a Facebook page, and my business took off from there.
3. WHAT SEPARATES YOUR BUSINESS FROM THE COMPETITION?
The taste! I bake using my grandma's recipe, and I've never tasted another cookie like it. Also, I never use royal icing or fondant. While they look beautiful, buttercream and glaze can't be beat when it comes to flavor.
4. WHAT'S CHANGED IN YOUR INDUSTRY OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS AND WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE FUTURE?
What's changed for me is going from a hobby mindset while living in Italy to a licensed and inspected business once we moved to Virginia Beach. As far as the industry itself, I've only been in this industry for two years, but there appears to be so much potential. Cute, individual desserts like cupcakes and macarons are still hot, and custom decorated cookies can be the next big thing!
5. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE NEXT?
In the future, I'd like to grow to the point of having a storefront/cafe while still retaining the family-business, local feel. I'd also like to move into the wedding industry, creating custom cookies to complement the cake and/or as favors for the wedding party and guests.
6. WHAT'S ONE OF THE FUNNIEST THINGS YOU'VE EXPERIENCED IN YOUR BUSINESS/LIFE?
Looking back now, one of the funniest incidents was when a friend of my husband's was visiting us in Italy. I had finished a cookie order, set it to dry, and went to bed. When I woke up in the morning, my husband was pacing the floor. He looked at me with fear in his eyes and told me his friend had eaten two of the cookies in the middle of the night. I had to deliver the order in mere hours! I refused to take them to the train station to get to their train on time, and luckily I had extra dough, so I spent the next couple hours replacing the eaten cookies before delivery. I wasn't laughing at the time, but it makes me giggle now.
7. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DESCRIBED BY THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH?
I would like to be known as an honest, dependable, helpful businesswoman. I'm quick to help out with last-minute orders and rushed requests whenever I can. I'd hope to be described as reliable, pleasant, and accommodating.
8. WHAT'S THE MOST SUCCESSFUL AND SATISFYING WAY YOU WIN BUSINESS?
Both the most successful and the most satisfying way to earn new customers for me is through word of mouth. I love when I get an email or a Facebook message from someone anywhere in the country telling me they were referred to me from a past customer of mine. There's no greater compliment to me than someone liking my product enough to recommend it over all the other options that are out there.
9. WHAT'S YOUR IDEAL TYPE OF CLIENT/CUSTOMER?
My ideal customer is one who knows what they want in a final product but is also willing to trust in my experience and creativity. My goal is to make a cookie that fits the customer's event/business/occasion perfectly, and my ideal customer believes in my ability to do so.
10. WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN?
I run! I love the me time involved in running mile upon mile alone on the road. With three daughters at home it's often the only chance I have to be alone with my thoughts. I also love to read. As a family, we love to travel and be outside when the weather is nice.
See samples of her work below or stay up to date with Holbrook House Cookie Shoppe on Facebook
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Survey Questions taken from Expat Women
"The Wind of Heaven is that which blows between a Horse's Ears." -Arabian Proverb
There is something majestic about a horse. It's beauty can be breath taking and it's size can be scarey, but awe inspiring. It is even more beautiful when you see a person who has a true connection with these majestic creatures. It is a bond you don't see often, but one you will never forget.
This is my niece. She loves horses. She started riding probably around the age of 7 or 8. It has been so neat to watch her grow and even see how the relationship with these animals has shaped who she is. If you know her around horses you know she is gentle, yet tough. It seems as though it is effortless. It is sweet to watch.
She used to compete in jumping when she was little and I admired her for putting in the training to do her best. It took courage to take an animal of that size and trust it to do what you willed. Believe me I know. We went on a trail ride through the woods one time and I don't have much horse riding experience. Well, sure enough I had the horse that would get spooked if it couldn't see the horse in front of it. Add to that a saddle that wasn't quite as tight as it should have been and you have the makings for a comical ride (at least in hindsight). My horse took off and of course at that time the saddle decided to go sideways. We we are now picking up speed while I'm literally hanging on sideways tucking my head from hitting trees. Thankfully my nephew was behind me and was able to direct me back up by pulling on the horse's mane. I was really terrified and had a new perspective on life. :-) And yes, I did get back on a horse after that day.
Morgan has fallen off horses, even gotten bloody noses from runaway horses, but it never deterred her from getting back up. Such perserverance is hard to come by. I know she will do big things in her life if she applies that kind of diligence. I love my niece like crazy and her brother and sister. It makes me sad to think about how fast they've grown up and now having my own children it seems to go even faster. From the little girls (her and her sister) who used to hold on to me when it was time for me to leave and beg for me to stay the night to the women they've grown into. I know God has placed them in my life for a reason and I'm proud to be their aunt.
The horse that is closest to her heart is actually a little smaller; it is a pony. Ginger is a fireball and rules the barn. Although she is small, she is mighty and makes her presence known. When Morgan first got her she used to do a little flick on her and quietly say, "No Ginger." It was funny to watch, but today Ginger knows you don't mess with this girl just like the horses don't mess with Ginger. They share a special bond and I think deep down they both know they need each other.
"I have seen things so beautiful they have brought tears to my eyes. Yet none of them can match the gracefulness and beauty of a horse running free." -Source Unknown