Cookie company founder finds growing market for special product

By Erin Mairose, for SiouxFalls.Business

To get Sarah Bruce to open up, just ask what her favorite kind of cookie is.

“Monster cookies, chipped chocolate, ginger, peanut butter chunk and simple snickerdoodle,” she replies.

They’re all on the menu at her bakery, Cookie Crazy, which is located near Canton.

Sarah and her mom, Valerie, own and operate the business, which has given Sarah much more than an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Sarah, who lives with autism, worked at her dad’s business, Quality Claims Solutions, scanning and stamping receivables after she graduated from Lincoln High School in 2011.

But when her medications changed, the job wasn’t conducive to her new needs, “and so our expectations for her had to change,” Valerie said.

For about a year, mother and daughter experimented in their home kitchen to see if Sarah would stay interested in the idea of a bakery.

“She always loved being in the kitchen,” Valerie said.

While practicing their baking, Sarah and Valerie dropped off a few of their samples at different businesses, including Laura’s Lattes in Canton.

“They used to bring us cookies just for us as employees to have, and then after that we contacted them and said ‘We’re wondering if you would want to sell them here,’ ” assistant manager Daneen Gannon said.

Laura’s Lattes also has its own ties to special needs. Its namesake, Laura Lems, has Down syndrome. Part of the coffee shop’s mission is to be an example to others with disabilities, to show that “anyone can rise above the expectations that many in this world would have for them.”

Although cookie sales at Laura’s Lattes started off slow, “it’s picked up as people have gotten a taste for them, and now we have repeat customers that want them,” Gannon said.

Laura’s Lattes also serves as a pickup location for people who place orders on Cookie Crazy’s website.

All of the baking is done in a commercial kitchen the Bruce family built separate from their home.

A next step is finding someone to help manage the bakery who has both an affinity for baking and special needs. This would give Sarah more independence in daily living, and experience working with others, both of  which are long-term goals her parents would like to see take shape.

“It’s amazing to see what (those with special needs) can do given the opportunity when mom’s not in the room,” Valerie said.

“Really, it’s been an opportunity to develop knowledge and a vocation that can be a lasting endeavor that provides social engagement, movement, all the things you need to live a happy life.”

In the kitchen, Sarah is detailed-oriented at following baking instructions. She also does all the packaging of the cookies herself.

Sarah’s cookies also can be found at the Coffee Cabin on Minnesota Avenue north of Interstate 229 in Sioux Falls. Between filling store and individual orders, Valerie describes it as being the “right kind of busy.”

Another benefit of the bakery is that it takes away focus from medical issues as Sarah stays engaged in building the business, her mom said.

“It’s really not very uplifting to think that the next thing you have to look forward to is your next doctor’s apartment,” Valerie said. “It’s been very good in that sense.”

To order from the bakery online, click here.


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Cookie company founder finds growing market for special product

There’s a special story behind Cookie Crazy, where a mother and daughter are building a business together.

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