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Check Out Sanny Lai’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sanny Lai. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I’ve always enjoyed baking growing up and would continue to make homemade treats whenever I had the time between school and my day job. When I started my full-time career after college, I needed a hobby to fill my afternoons and started with calligraphy. After a couple years of lettering on paper, I started seeing videos of cookie decorating and lettering on cookies. I gave it a try and started enjoying lettering and decorating on food I could eat. The best part of cookie decorating is that it combines my interest in baking with my love for calligraphy lettering. I’ve spent the last 2 years continuing to improve my skill set and I am currently known for my freehand work (I never use projectors) and my flavors (I develop my own recipes and offer multiple flavors of sugar cookies). Now, I am currently an IT Audit Manager by day, and a Cookier by night. I am getting married later this year to my college sweetheart, and we have 3 large dogs we enjoy spending all of our free time with. I still enjoy making cookies and turning this creative outlet into a small business has been a dream come true. I am thankful to all of my friends, family, and clients who have supported me along the way. I hope to continue making festive treats for all occasions and I am now starting to offer digital products such as recipes and digital tags/cards. In the next year, I plan to start offering in-person and online classes as well. It has been a fun journey so far, and I look forward to seeing where this small business goes over the next few years. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Nothing is a smooth road running a small business. There are many competing priorities that I have to juggle with and this year was one of the most challenging years. My business growth doubled since last year, and in addition to this small business, I work full time and also take online courses for my Masters in Business Administration (MBA). It has been quite the year dealing with all the competing priorities, but I still manage to get between 5-7 hours of sleep every day and that was priority #1. It took some time to adjust, but I have finally been able to find a balance in my schedule, and planning out my weeks helps me out a lot. Having multiple competing priorities is actually the reason I have been able to move away from perfectionism. I used to be a perfectionist, and I still am at times, but I finally found a way to be okay with imperfections. I learned that having the perfect cookie doesn’t make sense, because people are going to eat it at the end of the day. Nothing has to be perfect, and that’s what makes every cookie unique. It took me a year to be okay with imperfect cookies but now I waste less materials and I go with the flow. It has reduced my stress levels as well which is a bonus. One more struggle I have been dealing with this year is trying to keep up with social media. I get most of my business through Instagram, but the problem is that Instagram’s algorithm has changed so much that creators are now expected to post videos and use the correct hashtags in order to be seen. I’ve made it this far without having to promote any of my posts and I’m proud of the organic growth I’ve gained so far. It is definitely a continuous struggle to try to stay on top of social media in order to further grow my small business. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I make decorated sugar cookies and I specialize in flavors and freehand work. For flavors, I offer multiple flavors of soft sugar cookies. My most popular flavors are blueberry, lemon, snickerdoodle, chocolate, and strawberry. All sugar cookies are paired with an almond-flavored royal icing, but the cookies can also be eaten without icing as well. For freehand work, I am well known for creating all of my work without any projectors or tracing. I believe that freehand work makes every cookie unique and being a calligrapher has helped a lot with my ability to freehand letters and drawings on cookies. My freehand work is also what I’m most proud of. Being able to combine my love for lettering and love for baking into a decorated sugar cookie is something I never thought I would end up doing as my creative outlet. I enjoy being creative and coming up with fun ways to bring a design to life on a cookie. Every cookie is also unique because I freehand each design and I think that makes customized cookie sets my favorite type of sets. I love custom work and I love being a part of people’s special events! 

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
My advice for new cookie decorators is to keep practicing and have fun with it. If something gets messed up, find a clever way to patch it up and you’ll end up liking the cover-up more than the original design. Also, always remember why you started baking and decorating cookies in the first place. The most common answer I hear is that it’s fun to do! Often times cookiers tend to forget why they even started decorating cookies and they end up burning out. Once you come back to your original reason for decorating cookies, you’ll fall in love with making cookies all over again and it should hopefully help prevent you from burning out. Another piece of advice I’d like to share is to always try to make cookies just for fun! Sometimes the cookies you make just for fun or just for yourself ends up being your favorite set to create. I always set aside a few times a month where I just decorate whatever I want just for fun and it’s a fun challenge for myself to keep coming up with new ideas or maybe even decorate themes I’ve always wanted to do but never got a request to do them. Overall, my advice is to have fun. If you’re not having fun with decorating cookies then find a way to make it fun! Cookie decorating takes a ton of work, and finding the fun in your work is what keeps me passionate about this small business. 

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Image Credits
Treats by Sanny

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