WAM! Women Around Me!

Susie Kooyenga: Having her cake and eating it, too!

When I met Susie for the first time I was struck by several characteristics at once: her fair porcelain complexion, her down-to-Earth centeredness combined with silly fun, and her easy smile. She shares a gap-toothed smile with other famous beauties of our age, most notably Lauren Hutton, Anna Paquin and Elizabeth Moss. And she smiles often.

But don’t let her smile distract you from the fact that she is serious about her livlihood, her family and living a balanced life full of all that matters most to her. And it hasn’t always been easy, but they say the lessons learned from The School of Hard Knocks are the lessons we remember most.

Holly: What would you call yourself and what you do?
Susie: Sugar Artist. I design, bake, decorate and deliver custom cakes to your door!

Holly: As owner of Sweet Tooth Delivery–when did you start your business? and Why?
Susie: I started brain storming in 2002 as a way to work from home and be available to be with my kids. I had been a server for 17 years and no college. My sister sent me a book called The Seed Handbook: The Feminine Way to Create Business, by Lynn Franks and I used that as a tool to help me figure out a life plan. I remembered my late mother had loved to decorate cakes for family parties, so I took some classes locally and loved it! Decided to go to culinary school and REALLY loved it. Once my husband saw my final project we decided to start the process of building a commercial kitchen in the basement of our home.

Holly: What were some of the hurdles involved?
Susie: Hurdles: time management; kid interruptions…LOL! But it’s all good!

Holly: I believe you’re married with two children–what are your kids’ ages?
Susie: I have been married for 15 years to Steve and we have two children: a son, Skylar, 11, and a daughter, Lilly, 7.

Holly: How has your family acclimated to your professional life as a baker?
Susie: My family is very supportive when I need to work and deliver. I work a lot in the wee hours of the night and early mornings to make it all work.

Holly: What critical decisions did you have to make along the way to becoming who you are today?
Susie: Believe in myself, that I could do this, and try to stay positive.

Holly: What are some of the major challenges you face or have faced?
Susie: It took so long to build the kitchen–four years, and I would get so discouraged. But I knew in my heart that one day I would have my dream. That was a long four years for me!

Holly: What mistakes have you made and what have you learned?
Susie: People in business do not always keep their word. When I was trying to get business and put myself out there they would give me a ‘yes’, then I’d never hear from them again. I’ve learned to be direct and always be clear on what I can deliver.

Holly: How do you balance your professional and personal life?
Susie: I make time for myself and my family and I always try to live in the moment.

Holly: What in particular or in general has helped you grow in your avocation to become who you are today compared to when you began?
Susie: My self confidence has grown with each cake I have made and with that I become more invincible. LOL! My family and friends are so supportive. Also, The Seed Handbook was a really great guide for me.

Holly: What do you think of those various bakery reality shows, competitions and such? Do you enjoy watching any? If so, why, or why not?
Susie: I do enjoy watching those shows. My idol from the beginning has been Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes. I was fortunate enough to be in a cake competition in Rockford, IL where he was the judge. I got to meet him and I have a photo of Duff and me on the wall outside me kitchen. I have many cake friends who have competed on those shows, so I know all the back stage antics and what really goes on behind the scenes so they are comical to watch.

Holly: Do you ever enlist the services of a coach or mentor?
Susie: No mentors, but in the caking community everyone is very helpful if you have questions or need some support.
Holly: Do you ever coach or mentor others?
Susie: I am teaching my friend Janice to decorate cakes. She also helps me out when I need it.

Holly: How do you refresh, recharge and stay motivated?
Susie: Exercise. Good sleep and naps are important too! Also, spending time with my hubby and kids, as well as my girlfriends and yoga.

Holly: What inspires you?
Susie: My family, kindness and everyday beauty

Holly: What advice might you have for someone starting out in your profession?
Susie: Be persistent, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and find someone to mentor you.

Holly: Have you ever had a particularly funny or embarrassing moment, and if so, please share it!
Susie: I don’t have anything funny to tell, but I would like to share something: Some of my proudest moments comes through my daughter who wants to open her own shop when she grows up. A pet grooming boutique. She talks in great detail about her plans and asks many questions about business.
This brings me the greatest joy–I love being an entrepreneur/ working Mom/ role model for her. My son says he wants to work with me and take over the company after college.
They are two of my greatest accomplishments.

See some of Susie’s delectables at https://www.sweettoothdelivery.com/ or call 847~204~7773.

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