Katie Cunha, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, is a registered nurse who has always loved to bake and would occasionally sell her treats while living in Pennsylvania. But when she moved to Cape May, NJ, she put her baking dreams on hold because state laws prevented her from selling goods made in a home kitchen. A few years later, Katie heard grumblings about passing a law to overturn it and knew this was her chance. Her husband suggested she create a niche in the Cape May area focusing on delicious and specialized French macarons, delicate meringue-based sandwich cookies made with almond flour, egg whites, and flavorings. Though they are notoriously hard to make, Katie perfected her recipes, figured out how to mass produce them, and put a business plan in place so she could launch Cape May Macarons when the law passed last fall. We chatted with this mom of two to discover why she had to find a new hobby after baking full-time, the macaron flavor she can’t resist (hint: it’s a campfire fave), and the beaches she and her family love when they’re not in Cape May.
Tell us a little bit about your background. My husband, Tony, and I have been married for five years. We have two children, Tony (4) and June (2). I grew up in Media, PA, in Delaware County and met my husband there later, but we decided to move to his hometown of Cape May when he got a job as the brewmaster at Mudhen Brewing Company.
You were a registered nurse career-wise before opening up your business. How did you pivot to this business? I had worked at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia for about six years, but when we moved to Cape May, I switched to Telehealth Nursing. It was ideal at the time because I was pregnant when we moved, so I could work from home and have a flexible schedule. I left the field a few months ago to focus full-time on my business. I’ve always loved to bake and cook, and when I was working at the hospital, I’d always be the one bringing in baked goods for holidays and birthdays, and I’d also sell my desserts from time to time. When we moved to New Jersey, it was the only state without a Cottage Food Law, so it would have been illegal to bake and sell anything out of my home. Then, in October of 2021, the state passed the Cottage Food Law, but I’d heard it might happen a few months before it did, so I got online and figured out how to start the business. As soon as it passed, I applied for a permit, and during the six weeks it took to wait for it, I got my business insurance, bought materials and baking supplies, and nailed down my recipes so that I could hit the ground running as soon as my permit came through.
What would have been helpful to know before opening your business that might have made the journey go a bit smoother in the beginning? I wish I had more confidence in my business right from the get-go and had invested in high-quality things instead of trying to cut costs. It cost me more because I had to buy sturdier and more expensive cookie sheets, baking mats, and other equipment later on.
Do you have a favorite macaron? My bestseller is the Vanilla Bean, a very simple and classic macaron, but I love chocolate, so my favorite has got to be my S’mores Macaron. It’s chocolate buttercream with marshmallow fluff with gluten-free graham cracker inside and on top. I know my family loves what I do. My husband is my #1 taste tester, and the second I turn on the mixer, the kids ask for icing or cookies—I usually let them have a little when I’m finished with my baking.
What do you do to unwind after a very stressful day? Baking was my biggest hobby and used to be my way to unwind before it turned into my business, but now I get my alone time by heading outside and going on a bike ride or walking. We live in such a beautiful area, and being in nature helps me reset and appreciate life outside of the kitchen.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? Mudhen Brewing Company in Wildwood is amazing. Because my husband works there, we’ve been there since the beginning, and it’s been great to see how it’s grown. It’s a family business with beautiful property and a great atmosphere—we like to take the kids to hang out there. I also love Blue Bottle Art. I met the owner doing a farmer’s market, and her work has been in such high demand that she recently opened a little shop in Cape May. She secures sea glass to a canvas and draws or paints around it, creating something unique and one of a kind each time.
What are some of your family’s favorite things to do in NJ? We’re definitely a beach family, even in the fall and winter when we’ll go and kick the soccer ball around and wind up a big sandy mess. We love Wildwoods and Ocean City and bop around to get a little taste of all they offer. We’re also involved in our church, Seashore Community Church of the Nazarene. Aside from going every Sunday, I like to bring macarons to events and gatherings, and my husband plays the drums in the band there, too.
What’s your best piece of advice for an NJMOMpreneur? Just start—it’s good to have your ducks in a row before you begin, but if you have a talent or skill or are making something, you can figure out the business side of things as you go along. If you wait until everything is perfect or have every detail worked out, you’ll find reasons not to go for it.