Velma Perez launched her business CookieGram out of her Cypress home in spring 2017. She considered herself a hobby baker until that point but did not know where to start when it came to operating a business.

“Especially as a cottage baker, we’re everything—we’re marketing, photography, accounting, scheduling; we’re the purchaser,” she said. “There’s so many facets to what we do; it’s literally a merry-go-round.”

Perez said when she reached out to local bakers for support, she got little in return. But with time and practice, she was able to build her clientele and her business to the success it is today. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020 and many residents were stuck at home looking for new hobbies or ways to bring in extra income, Perez said she noticed more cottage bakers starting businesses and promoting their products on Facebook foodie groups.

“I started talking with another local baker, and I just said, you know, I’m really seeing how a lot of these up-and-coming bakers are cutting themselves short. While the skill [level] might be different, we’re essentially still putting in the same amount of work, ... time and money,” Perez said.

Perez teamed up with Courtney Nguyen, a fellow home baker and owner of The Flour Petal Bakery in Cypress, to launch the Cypress Baker’s Network, a group intended to promote community over competition. They kicked off the network with a social event in mid-September to connect with local bakers and learn more about how they could help support them. About 25 people attended that first event and shared how learning from the experiences of more seasoned bakers would help them grow their own businesses.

The Cypress Baker’s Network has since held a series of workshops where experienced local bakers have covered topics such as social media and websites, photography tips, customer relations and retention, pricing and burnout.

Perez said after the first workshop, three of the local bakers posted increased pricing to better reflect the time and effort put into their work.

“When I first started, I was building my clientele, so I was willing to take anything and everything. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t making anything, and then I quickly realized I wasn’t having as much fun as I thought I was because I was working myself to death,” Perez said. “So I just thought, ‘I don’t want that for other people in my community, and if I have resources, if I have experience or knowledge, I’m happy to share that.’”

Longer-term goals for the group include hosting dessert festivals that support local charities, Valentine’s Day pop-up markets and “sweet retreats” for disadvantaged children to decorate baked goods, Perez said. The leadership recently launched a Facebook page, and Perez said community members will soon be able to use it as a resource to solicit local bakers for special events.

Joining the network is free, but some workshops may have fees.

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