When Kristie Mass, our NJMOMprenuer of the week, started baking as a child, it never was meant to be anything but fun, let alone a career. But as she grew and her intricate designs became mini-works of cookie art that won raves, she decided to turn a dream gig into a bonafide business—Peapods Cookies, known for its impeccable, artistic, custom-created cookies that almost look too pretty to eat. We chatted with the Westfield mom of three–who also holds the title of Food Network Christmas Cookie Challenge winner—about where she gets her decorating inspiration, how she’s balancing her work and her girls’ at-home schedules, and the totally cool approach she’s taking to pivot Peapods in quarantine (hint: it involves TikTok).
featured image via Lauren Anzevino
How did you start baking and when did you decide to turn it into a business?
Growing up my mom was a huge baker, and I started by helping her with what she was baking. Every year for my birthday I’d bake my own cookies, and continued to bake as a hobby into adulthood. My first career was in the fashion industry, and one time, I brought some handbag shaped cookies to a market appointment with a prominent department store. The buyers raved over the cookies and asked where we got them, and it was then it dawned on me that I could turn this into more than just a side hobby and make it a legit business. A few months later, armed with a successful Etsy cookie shop, I left my corporate fashion job and Peapods Cookies was officially born.
The level of artistic detail in your cookies is incredible. Where do you get your inspiration?
Thank you—inspiration truly comes to me from everywhere. It could be something I dream up in my head, it could be an image on a napkin at HomeGoods, or even a baby outfit I see online. Sometimes I feel like 20 percent of my brain is filled with unmade cookie design ideas just waiting for their time.
So many NJMOMpreneurs have had to make major shifts and pivot their businesses through the current pandemic. How have you done that with Peapods Cookies?
In the past few years, I’ve been teaching decorating classes. It is a large percentage of my revenue and brings me joy to teach someone a skill they may have been intimidated to try on their own. Social distancing makes holding classes in the traditional sense, not an option, so I’ve been putting cookie decorating videos on my social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok) as well as step-by-step recipes for my customers and social following. It may not monetarily add to my business right now, but it is keeping my customers engaged in this strange time when we can’t be face-to-face. I’ve also lowered my minimums for custom orders since celebrations are immediate family-only affairs and therefore need smaller amounts.
Do your kids enjoy baking with you? Besides baking, what else do you think they’re learning from you through your business journey?
My kids love baking with me—they are finally at the age where they are learning and asking questions about ingredients and processes, which makes it fun. I am a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to decorating though, so sometimes I need to turn my head when I let them decorate their cookies. Both my husband and I own businesses, so we like to think we are providing great examples of what it means to be your own boss at home. We have also enrolled them in Girl Scouts so they can practice those skills of leadership and working together outside our home.
What’s the most challenging part of running Peapods Cookies out of your home, both normally and during quarantine?
The hardest aspect is balancing everything. Since we are all home now, I need to block out time where I can work uninterrupted. Normally, I had the majority of the day and late-night to work—now with homeschooling, extracurricular activities over Zoom, and the extra time it takes to manage the household, I have crammed my schedule to take up only 1 hour in the morning and then everything else at night when the kids are asleep. There have been some late nights, but I have also adjusted my workload to make up for the limited hours (and limited cookie ingredients).
What are your favorite NJ businesses to support and how have you been able to do that right now (virtually or otherwise)?
AR Workshop in Westfield is one of my favorite places, not only because it’s where I host my cookie classes but also because it’s also owned by an awesome fellow mompreneur, Joanna. Since they cannot hold any of their classes while social distancing, they have set up great DIY-to-go Kits that you can order online. We made the cutest personalized Easter tote bags with one of their DIY kits. We’ve also been trying to get lunch at least twice a week from the local places we love. Farinolio is one of our favorites and has been providing great contactless pickup. My kids love their sandwiches and Nutella croissants, so it’s been nice to not scramble with “what’s for lunch?” every single day.
What advice do you have for other NJMOMpreneurs?
The best advice I can give to my fellow NJMOMpreneurs is to identify your business direction early on and then always do what feels right for you and your brand, especially when starting and building your business. I see a lot of entrepreneurs and small businesses all over the place with their message, and I think that confuses potential customers. I believe having a clear vision for your brand, what you stand for, and what you are offering, and you’ll not only gain success but also a very loyal customer base, which is invaluable.