We had the good fortune of connecting with Chef Kimberly Houston and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chef Kimberly, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I was a single mom working really long hours in retail when my kids were in elementary school. I knew I wanted to provide a better living for them and thought that becoming my own boss would give me the freedom to do so. I started small, making from scratch pound cakes and chocolate chip cookies, things that were easy and I could do well. As I gained momentum, I went to culinary school and became a certified pastry chef, this changed my menu over to custom cakes and cupcakes, I added custom cookies a few years later, and now the bulk of my orders are custom cookies.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a custom cookie artist, I have the unique pleasure of creating something that most people consider “too pretty to eat.” Custom cookies are often a take-home gift. At parties, the guest of honor and the cake are always the focus. The cookies seal the deal by being the take home remembrance of time well spent. It is rare that I will duplicate any previous orders, as then they are no longer custom. My clients trust my ability to create something magical for their events, so while they may send a reference photo, I have complete creative control over the process. Decorating cookies is a skill set that takes time to cultivate. I’ve taken lots of classes since going to culinary school, in addition to attending cookie decorating conferences. There is always something new to learn in the sweets world, I’m a little bit of an overachiever. I am constantly seeking out ways to improve my skills or figuring out ways to apply other art mediums to cookies. I’m most proud of the loyal cookie following my brand, The Cookie Emporium, is cultivating. It’s an amazing feeling when repeat clients say just make me a couple of dozen cookies however you like and drop them off. Particularly during quarantine a lot of cookie care packages have been delivered to the friends of my clients. Along this journey, I have learned that support will look different for everyone. For me, I’m very particular about people being in my space. I’m careful about the energy around me. I may decorate cookies, but I am an artist. As with most artists I need my environment to be conducive to a positive creative flow. I’ve learned to take stock of where I am in life in general, cookie decorating is more than a job, it’s completing an experience for my clients.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The first stop of me would have to be the Vortex. It’s literally my favorite burger spot in Atlanta. My kids and I spend a lot of time downtown and near the Woodruff Arts Center due to my son’s involvement in the arts, so I’d probably end up there, walking around and taking in the views of the city. I love brunch over everything. I don’t have a favorite brunch spot, but I like different things from different places and brunch is probably the only thing I’d ever be 100 percent down to blindly taste. It takes a lot to mess up breakfast foods, so I’d be willing to brunch just about anywhere. If I’m honest, pre quarantine I was a meet me at Starbucks girl. Drinking a grande blonde white chocolate mocha (hot) gets my creative juices flowing and I can think of a million and one ways to improve business and tons of things to incorporate into books sitting in a coffee shop. These days, I just grab it in the drive through, light a stress relief candle, turn on my coffee house playlist and jump on zoom to connect with others.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My success first stems from having an incredible support system. My parents, cousin and bestfriend were all very instrumental in helping me juggle life as a single mom and entreprenuer. As I matured in business I had the honor of being mentored by Mary Parker, CEO of AllNOne Securities, Brandi Riley of Courage to Earn, Robin Ware of the Ware Agency, Cydni Mitchell of Sugar Coin Academy and most recently Sarah Williams of Launch Your Box. Each woman brought a different level of expertise to me where I was in business and was able to help me to move to the next level in business.