Sweet Deals for Chef-Entrepreneurs

Every chef is not cut out to find success working in somebody else's kitchen. If you love baking and dream of parlaying your pastry chef degree into a sweet signature culinary item, take inspiration. Here's great advice from culinary innovators who've made a career out of following the voice of their inner chef.

Cookies: Reigning Passion or Just Career Desserts?

Famous Amos is doing it for the second time. Debbi Fields is still on a roll. Though Fields was a born baker who grew up knowing her cookies had "it," Wally Amos was an Air Force veteran turned William Morris talent agent when he turned his hobby into a cookie empire.

Lois Ford and Lou Ciercielli started their wildly successful Bellows House Bakery while they were both working as mechanical engineers. Now their signature cookies and brownies sell at Costco. Each is a model of passionate persistence.

The Fine Art of Culinary Wholesale

If you think a pastry or baking entrepreneurial career is only for the young, think again. Lois Ford, 53, and Lou Ciercielli, 52, worked their way into cookie wholesale slowly, learning through sometimes painful experience where their true success lay. They first baked cookies for their B&B, only later taking a brief foray through retail before selling to the Popcorn Factory.

Ford insists that baking for catalogers is where it's at. She discovered "a huge potential market for fresh products where we could be the supplier but we weren't at risk for the marketing."

Have Culinary Cookie Arts? Let's Party!

One of the most inventive riffs on cookie entrepreneurship has to be Caryn Truitt and Betsey Toombs' cookie-party store. Called simply "Cookies," the retail operation ran about $100,000 in its first year.

Why? The two entrepreneur bakers didn't listen to the skeptics. They knew cookie parties would sell. And sell they do, not just to wide-eyed kids on their birthdays, but to bridal parties and corporate groups who want special baking parties. How do they account for their phenomenal culinary career success? "It's hard not to be happy here," Truitt tells Entrepreneur magazine.