Cookie Queen Kitsch’n herself, Traci Tritsaris-Fox, shares with us the inspiration for her sweet treat business and is launching her new website this week with 4 new packages, and a 5th one coming soon with some added extras by All in All Parties. The new packages are excellent value compared with creating a separate table for your next event.
Tell us about yourself
I am Mum to my daughter who is 8, I have been divorced and am now remarried. The unique thing about our family is that we all get along fabulously – both my husbands, ex and current, get on well and they quite often do the child handover to each other without me being involved.
When I was a teenager, I worked in my parents floristry business and learnt how to do bouquets and flower arrangements. I even did my own flowers when I got married.
My grandmother was extremely creative and always doing floristry and cake courses and making food into other things and apparently I get that from her, even though I had never met her (she passed when my Mum was only just 20).
Tell us about your business, Cookie Queen Kitsch’n
It has been going for 7.5 years and I started the business when my daughter turned 1. I had baked and organised the baby shower, Christening, her 1st birthday and that opened the door to party planning and baking after doing these main events for the first time in my life. From there that is where I decided that I had a passion for it, particularly with the cookies. I followed a few American blogs and started experimenting from there. The passion grew and the next thing I know I have 1,500 cutters. I was doing that for a year then decided to reduce my hours down at work, where I was managing a call centre, to 3 days per week, after separating with my ex-husband. From there I thought it would be a good opportunity to create money on the side by doing something I love. The more I did it the more obsessed I became. With cookies, the more you do the more you want to do and it engulfs you and everything you see can become a cookie!
I started out when living with my mum and realised that mum didn’t want me to be up at 2am “cookie-ing” at the dining table so that’s when we moved out. Then, 3.5 years ago I was retrenched from the call centre position and automatically started looking for another job. My now husband (fiancé at the time) ended up saying to me “I think you’re doing really well – let’s take the business to the next level”. So we did and drove it forward with passion and business sense. That’s when I decided to incorporate the dessert buffets and candy bars to my offering.
When you went full time in your business, how did you start promoting yourself?
I dedicated myself to researching and becoming as knowledgeable as possible on social media. It’s very fickle and you only succeed if you know the ins and outs of it. It’s a lot of hard work yet with Facebook it has paid off – I now have almost 12,000 followers. You really need to be prepared be tech savvy, know your audience and what you need to do.
What types of parties and events do you mainly cater your yummy treats to?
I can do anything and my business is one where I can tailor a table to any theme. I do find that because I have children’s parties on my website and Facebook account, I tend to attract those the most. The most common parties are Frozen or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed but I always mix them up and do them differently each time, right now Unicorns are the happening thing in town.
I get a lot of repeat business, or business referred from the parties that I am baking for. I have one client who I have done 7 tables for in 2 years – they love what I do the last time and book further events as you start building trust that you will deliver exactly what they want.
Your work looks incredible and tastes delicious, is there anything you can’t create?
There are some cakes outside of my limitations and I have a cake specialist who I refer to if it’s not something I can do or with the time I have allocated to the job. I refer to Gabriella from Little Boutique who is an amazing cake baker, and an IWM too. I have become an on-seller for the acrylic and wooden Custom Cake Toppers, which has been exciting, and we can design any style and over 20 colours on your cakes and cupcakes. If required, I can do the floristry work if the cake needs flowers.
Cookies on average take 3-4 days to make and any colour that touches another colour needs 24 hours in between otherwise they bleed and look blurry. The cookies are the most time consuming, then dessert buffets, marshmallow pops and petite desserts which all take me 40+ hours per week which is why I limit my cakes where I can, but at the same time some loyal customers have just returned for the third or fourth year in a row.
Where do you gain the inspiration for your creations?
It’s an ongoing process and I go on a case-by-case or event-by-event basis. Often people have a very clear idea on what they want so I let them know that I will use their ideas as a guide for inspiration but I will not replicate another designer’s direct design. I recommend original ideas and try to get them to visualise what I can create for them.
I bring in inspiration from a lot of photos I have saved on my FB page and computer as well as sites like Pinterest and Instagram. I find that I need to keep on trend and it helps to be aware of movies that are coming out as it’s amazing how many kids pick themed parties before the movie has even started here. Recently, unicorn themed requests are being asked for more and more so I came up with a cake pop to meet the needs of my customers, which has been loved by many.
What are your big sellers and why?
Definitely cookies and that is why I have started hash tagging the #innerwestcookielady and hoping it will catch on that if anyone trying to find me on IWM can reach me that way.
I create custom cookies and have a no-fuss pricing structure which means that even if a customer creates their own logo for the event, there is no additional charge, which is unique in itself. If the request is not something I have a cutter of, I have someone who makes custom cookie or fondant cutters for me. Recently, I designed 6 unique cutters to offer my clients in the Christmas Season with 3 Wise Men and a trio of Elf, Rudolph and large a Sleigh Bell.
I get a lot of repeat business from mums who do cookies for party favours, so much that by the 1st of January I had two of my May weekends booked out. My customers develop full trust in what I can create and usually leave it to me.
A cotton favour bag is also something that I often will do for parties, or Christenings and can individualise it to the event.
When everyone is enjoying holiday periods, it seems to be the busiest for you – what do you do to balance your down time?
To tell you the truth I find that the school holidays is the opportunity to take down time as people tend to go away and the majority don’t have functions and parties in school holidays. When my daughter was in Kindy I worked during every school holidays and I found that I was trying to juggle a child home from school and still doing the baking. While she is very good at self entertaining and doing craft or bake alongside me, I have found that in the last 12 moths I have worked out that the business does significantly drop during school holidays so I changed my work life balance. 90% of the time I will be in holiday mode during the school holidays and if one or two orders come in, it doesn’t affect the family.
Cookies have a lifespan of 12 weeks and I can heat seal them so if I’m going away someone can pick them up a week early.
How did you learn the art of cookie and sweet creations?
My mum baked with us from a very young age as she was a stay at home mum until I was 20. She was always allowing us in the kitchen to cook and I got the creativity from my grandmother. My mum is also creative and made cupcakes for my first wedding and created chocolate strawberries in tuxedoes, which were amazing.
I have completed a few food and cake courses along the way and with Cake Centre but they were to more fine-tune skills that I have already, or to learn different techniques. It just comes naturally to me.
The best part of my job is… the customers and you’re dealing with people’s fun events. I do love my customers and find that nearly all of them are fun and easy to work with, especially those repeat customers who have faith in me. It takes time to prove yourself but the customers make it easy. I love the creative side of what I do and that I have the flexibility to create as much or as little as I need to.
Most memorable event you have catered the sweets for?
An IWM who owns a jewellery store Moi Moi in the top of the QVB. She booked me to do a launch for a gemstone and we did a table that looked like a wedding table. We had macrons in shiny silver, white and lemon merengue pots, and cookies that looked like diamonds. We had to do some savoury finger food and mum helped out by making them in the afternoon and we presented them on silver trays served by waiters. We catered for 100 people and had a backdrop that was printed and big giant silver wedding vases full of white ostrich feathers – it was white and silver sparkles. We served chocolate covered strawberries in a tower so people could pluck them whenever they wanted to.
My daughter’s birthdays are over the top too! We do trade swaps with cake makers, balloons, party hire etc. I spend at last 6 months of the year planning it and she lives on Pinterest and Google, always putting lists on the fridges of the needs she has.
Favourite spots in Sydney’s Inner West?
Annandale, its village-like with the little clusters of shops there. We go to cafes there and the people are friendly. Our favourites are Black Toast and a new little bakery called Stoneground Bakery. I’ve become addicted to their sausage rolls and pumpkin feta tarts.
Getting to know… Anni Payne of Milk & Honey Photography
Getting to know… Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich of Inner West Institute of Music
Getting to know… Maria Elena Siasat of Bikini Babe Tea
Getting to know… Michelle Cummings of UsForYou Australia
Getting to know… Roxanne McMurray of Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre
Getting to know… Allison Greenland of Leap Into Literacy
Getting to know… Judith Treanor of Temples & Markets
Getting to know… Global Sisters
Getting to know…Carmel Griffiths of Puggle Post
Getting to know…Anna Jonak and Florencia Pyke of Business School for Mums
Getting to know…Lisa Barbagallo of Dress Up Attack!
Getting to know…Nitu Gupta of Drummoyne Dental Surgery
Getting to know…Bek Lawrance of Paisley Park Leichhardt Campus
Getting to know…Maggie, Kelly & Jennifer of Health Space
Getting to know…Jennifer Long of Seven Hats Sydney
Getting to know…Anne-Sophie Chapoton of Waff Fitness
Getting to know…Sam Wood & Snezana Markoski
Getting to know…Rebecca Morgan of Sattout Accounting Services
Getting to know…Maya Broers of Fuelbox Australia
Getting to know…Kat Wieczorek-Ghisso of Paisley Park Early Learning Centre
Getting to know…Amelia Parkinson of The Wise Hippo
Getting to know…Georgie’s Face Painting & Babysitting
Getting to know…Alison Linn Osteopathy
Getting to know…Dr Justin Coulson
Getting to know…Supercharged Food
Getting to know…Little Nicholson Play Centre
Getting to know…Mummies Paying It Forward
Getting to know…deliciously yours
Getting to know…Lacteeze
Getting to know…Salon Tallow
Getting to know…Milkman Australia
Getting to know…Vintage Toy Box
Getting to know…Boobs on the Run
Getting to know…Lah-Lah Big Live Band