In just eight months, Gilbert resident Markie Stone has transformed her cookie-decorating hobby into a popular business, allowing her to quit her job as payroll consultant and focus solely on cookies.
Before establishing Honey and Heart Cookie Co., Stone, 29, said she was never really a baker. She considered herself a hobby collector and had been learning calligraphy and making and selling hand-lettered cards.
“I was searching for something where I could own my own business and be my own boss. I’ve always been inspired by people who were able to take their life into their own hands but I never thought I’d have the guts to take this leap until I found something changed my perspective,” said Stone.
Her inspiration came after watching a cookie decorating demonstration on a TV show.
“I don’t think I had ever made a sugar cookie from scratch,” said Stone. “When I first tried it out, I thought it was stressful. But after I got on Instagram and saw how popular it was becoming, I decided just to give it a shot.”
Stone began experimenting with cookie recipes and would bring in new batches almost daily for her coworkers to taste test.
After more than a month of figuring out the perfect cookie dough recipe, she moved on to learning how to master royal icing – a centuries-old technique mixing well-beaten egg white and icing sugar that gained the accolade ‘Royal’ when it was used to coat & decorate Queen Victoria’s wedding cake.
“Since I had never really baked before this, I wanted someone to just tell me how much water to add to get the right consistency. But I had to learn it’s all about the feel.”
It was after attending a cookie workshop class Stone said she started to get the hang of royal icing.
“Once I saw it in person, it all started to click for me. After, it was just practice,” she said. “I just started making cookies every day. I would get off from work and was so excited to make cookies and decorate them – even if no one would eat them.”
She continued bringing sample cookies into work and soon after got her first request from a coworker to make customized engagement cookies.
“After her first couple sets, it was obvious she had a talent,” said Stone’s mother, Karen Garrison.
“She’s always been very creative and I could just hear how excited she was as she thought about the different designs and color choices for each cookie,” Garrison added. “She definitely found her niche.”
With a business in the making, Stone began brainstorming meaningful names for the company.
“I knew I wanted the word heart in it. These cookies take a very long time to decorate so I always call it a labor of love. I also wanted to bring my grandma into it. She collected all sorts of bee things so it’s why I decided to use the word honey.”
On March 1, Stone launched Honey and Heart Cookie Co.’s Instagram page where she started posting pictures of her work. It was through social media and word of mouth the business began to grow.
Stone believes her decision to begin hosting cookie classes really increased the popularity of the business.
She held her first-ever cookie class in June at a clubhouse in her mom’s neighborhood with 12 attendees.
Although she said the space wasn’t ideal, she knew she wanted to continue teaching classes. She decided to reach out to the Gilbert Art House inquiring about utilizing the space there.
“They reached back out and said they had been looking for a cookie decorator. I was waiting for them to say something that would make it not possible but it never happened. Their space was so perfect,” said Stone.
In July, Stone began hosting cookie decorating classes at the Gilbert Art House and the public interest began to soar.
Maddy Majerowicz was at Stone’s very first class and has since been a returning customer, ordering both customized cookies for her sister’s birthday and attending another cookie class at the Gilbert Art House.
“It’s a fun way to be creative,” Majerowicz said about the classes. “Markie is really good at describing each step, sharing her recipes with us, and is reachable through Instagram and email if we have questions when trying it on our own.”
Stone says the opportunity to teach cookie classes has brought her the most joy.
“I get to meet 60 new people every weekend and it feels like such a blessing for me to be able to interact with all different types of people.”
Residents of the Gilbert area have shown an overwhelming interest in Honey and Heart Cookie Co. through their consistent requests for more cookie classes. In fact, the eight December classes sold out in just 20 minutes.
As the business rapidly grew, Stone said she was frequently pulling all-nighters in order to keep up with the demands of cookie orders while also trying to maintain her schedule as a full-time payroll consultant.
“It was becoming really difficult to focus at work when I had this passion waiting for me at home. I needed to spend more time working on the cookies and I felt like I wasn’t giving my full attention at my job.”
On a whim one morning, Stone said she sent a text to her husband telling him she was ready to quit her job.
“I was a little worried just because it was a huge life choice for our family,” said Stone’s husband Josh. “But honestly I felt okay with it because I could tell it was something she really wanted. I knew with full-time commitment to the business, it would be a success.”
Nov. 14 marked Stone’s first day as a full-time cookie-maker.
Her weeks now consist of making big batches of icing, baking cookies to keep up with custom orders and any upcoming classes, and devoting hours upon hours to designing and decorating the cookies.
Jenn Cook, long-time friend and now customer of Honey and Heart Cookie Co., said she was amazed at how much attention to detail was put into her son’s first birthday cookies.
“She mocked up like four different design ideas and sent them to me,” said Cook. “She was willing to put in the extra effort to customize them exactly how I envisioned it. Everyone at our party couldn’t stop commenting on how well they turned out and how great they tasted.”
In addition to custom orders and cookie classes, Stone recently began offering private lessons at her home for people interested in learning more in-depth about the cookie making process.
She says she has plans to increase her availability for both private lessons and custom orders and will continue to host cookie classes in the new year.
Despite the long hours spent baking and decorating, Stone says it has all been worth it.
“I’m working way more than I did at my other job, but to me is so much more fulfilling than what I was doing before. It’s no longer about working for a paycheck, it’s about being able to do what I love.”