SMALL TOWNS: The Cookie Lady of Marinette County
PEMBINE, Wis. (WBAY) - Deciding to start your own business often requires a big leap of faith.
But now imagine you’re a mother of seven and ready to give it a try.
This week in Small Towns, we travel up north to Pembine to meet a woman who’s quickly found sweet success.
Erika Dunne spends a lot of time in what she calls her cookie cave.
“So the first thing you always do is we outline around the outside of the cookie,” explains Erika, seated at her decorating table.
In 2016, after growing up in San Diego, Erika and her husband Tony decided California wasn’t for them anymore.
So, they packed up and moved their growing family to the fresh air of Wisconsin’s Northwoods.
“No rhyme or reason, I think we just needed a change, yeah and so the kids have a bunch of room to grow, it’s great to raise kids, I love the school system, community has been great,” says Erika.
Now, as for this cookie thing, well it all started a year ago this month.
“So when I turned 40, like right after I had my twins, I kind of decided that I just wanted something else, I have all these kids, I have seven kids, so the twins were like six months old, I had been watching cookie decorating videos when I was pregnant with them and when they were about six months I decided I would take a small online class and just kind of try doing it,” recalls Erika.
With hundreds of cookies, she had practiced on over the course of a week, and not wanting them to go to waste, Erika decided to treat the school.
“I bought a bunch of gift boxes and started packaging them and dropped off a bunch of samples to the school and started a website and orders just started coming in, and since then it’s been like I have done, in the last year we think about close to 15,000 cookies, a lot of cookies, so it’s a lot, I did not expect this to turn into what it did,” says Erika. with a smile.
Erika named her cookie business The Tattered Whisk, and within just a few months, she landed some well-known clients.
“I sent an email to Mark Murphy at the Packers, and he forwarded my email along to some of the guys at Delaware North, and before I knew it they had emailed me back to bring them down some samples and to talk about possibly working with them. So I started doing orders for the suite holders this season, so that was a fun experience, I did a lot of cookies for them, I actually did their Christmas party also, so I did 1,000 cookies for that, so that was a busy week,” says Erika.
Aside from corporate clients wanting her beautiful and delicious cookies, Erika receives a lot of private custom orders.
“People will do birthday parties, baby showers, I mean everything, I’ve done vasectomy orders, I mean you name it, I’ve done it, so there’s a cookie for everything,” says Erika breaking out in laughter.
All the cookies Erika bakes are vanilla butter sugar, decorated with a vanilla royal icing.
Each one is hand-painted, or edible printed with images or logos.
Around any holiday, Erika says her biggest challenge is the balance between being a cookie artist and a busy mom.
“Sometimes I work late, I’ll work until one or two in the morning when I have a lot going on, and so that can be a little tiring, but I like to be able to be with the kids in the afternoon, still make dinner, be with them before they go to bed and then I’ll work after they’re in bed a lot so I can catch up with what I need to do,” explains Erika.
In recent months, Erika has started teaching in-person classes in Green Bay, Appleton, and Iron Mountain.
She’s pretty proud of how far The Tattered Whisk has come, and the new nickname she’s earned.
“I think it’s kind of addicting once you start getting business and getting popular and people are finding you, I think it just grows and you’re wanting to keep growing and growing and see where you can get. The kids at school, they’re like, ‘your mom is the cookie lady,’ everybody knows me so I guess, and when I went to the Packers it’s, ‘you must be the cookie lady,’ I’m like. ‘I guess, yeah,’” says Erika with a chuckle.
After a very successful first year in business, Erika is excited to see what this year brings, further cementing herself as the Cookie Lady from the Northwoods.
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