Michelle Janzen Signature Cakes & Cookies
Like many entrepreneurs, Michelle Janzen has always had many creative outlets, but time spent in the kitchen creating sweet treats was always her favourite activity.
She would make specialty creations for her friends and family, which evolved into custom orders for events such as weddings, birthdays and corporate functions.
For Janzen, working in the kitchen was a welcome change to complement a decade of employment in the insurance industry and now working in the public sector in Saskatoon, Sk.
She officially went into business Aug. 1, 2016, the same day the Saskatchewan Home Food Processing Regulations went into effect. This regulatory change allows producers like Janzen, ‘to prepare “low risk” foods in their own home for direct sale to the public and to retail stores or wholesale establishments that do not prepare or process food for sale.’
This policy change green-lit entrepreneurs like Janzen, to grow a legitimate business from their home, often in rural communities.
Janzen has worked hard to remain relevant to current culinary novelties, understanding the trend is your friend in the industry. She began by creating cakes and cupcakes exclusively, but once sugar cookies became popular, she followed that trend. Janzen invested in some equipment specific to sugar cookies and was off and running.
The success she was having with sugar cookies demonstrated it was a popular niche and one she should stay on top of. It took Janzen more than a year of experimenting to sort out the subtleties of sugar cookies and after 10 or 15 attempts, it clicked.
“People like them because they’re cute, finely detailed, not as filling. People are intimidated by making their own sugar cookies,” she explained.
Once the product was perfected, it was time to go to market. The majority of Janzen’s business comes from corporations often looking for cookies to give to their staff or prospective clients. The nature of a sugar cookie is, it has a large space available for branding and logos. Janzen’s largest order to date was 500 sugar cookies in the shape of rocket ships for a website launch.
Another niche she fills during the holiday season is creating customized kits that allow customers to decorate and customize their own cookies.
The Just Watch ME! Video Contest
Janzen heard about the Just Watch ME! Video Contest from the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program, through Community Futures. Making videos to promote her business was not something Janzen, or many entrepreneurs have found comfort in. She was nervous, but like most entrepreneurs, she did not let a small obstacle get in her way. Janzen created a slideshow and added her voice to it, reflecting on her journey of entrepreneurship.
The resulting video resonated with the Just Watch ME! judges and she advanced to the final four and public voting.
“The contest was great, because it is essentially getting you comfortable with marketing your business and talking about yourself. Working to get people to vote for you is a lot like trying to earn sales,” Janzen said.
After the public vote was over, Janzen came in second overall in the Seasoned Entrepreneur category and first overall in the province of Saskatchewan.
The contest helped by getting her more requests for quotes and large corporate orders. Another perk of the contest was Janzen received a Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce membership.
“The contest helped me come out of my shell and get comfortable doing videos to the point that I’m now thinking about creating my own YouTube channel,” she added.
The Future Is Bright
Entrepreneurship is a good fit for someone with a disability. Janzen has been diagnosed with Hashimoto disease, which is an autoimmune disease. Setting her own schedule helps her manage it.
“When you have a disability, not every day is a good day. Some days you are in pain, which makes it hard to get to a regular job with regular schedules,” Janzen noted.
“When you’re able to make your own schedule you’re able to manage your pain better.”
Having a disability has not blunted Janzen’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and her small business. She continues to grow and make investments in her company, including a 3D printer allowing her to quickly make custom stencils for corporate clients and to sell to other bakers.
Advice To Others
“The majority of my business comes off of Facebook. It’s the most important marketing that I do,” Janzen affirmed.
If you browse the Michelle Janzen Signature Cakes & Cookies website, you will see she does a great job of digital marketing. Her photos are well thought out, often taken on cute backgrounds and it makes a difference to the impact the page has to the viewer.
Other digital marketing she focuses on is her Instagram page where Janzen connects with other bakers and markets her cookie stencils across North America. She works to keep the content on her Wix website fresh and relevant.
When asked what advice she would give to other entrepreneurs, Janzen’s words were succinct. “Don’t be afraid to give it a try, but definitely have some money in reserve. It costs money to get a business going,” she said.
“Don’t be shy to tell people about what you are up to and explain the benefits. Sell yourself. Marketing is the biggest part of the success in addition to having a good product and a good work ethic.”
What Is Community Futures?
- Develop long term community economic development strategies and plans
- Coordinate resources to implement development plans
- Promote the region and its economic opportunities.
CFs further support the local economic development process by assisting area entrepreneurs with:
- Preparing and assessing business plans.
- Providing business and market information.
- Providing business loans.
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