For some people, living in sunny San Francisco and working in corporate America would be a dream come true. For others like Delaware County native Sarah Cannon, nothing compares to living and working in small town USA.
Cannon, who grew up in the village of Sunbury and graduated from Big Walnut High School, decided in 2009 after graduating with a degree in textiles and clothing from The Ohio State University that she was one of those individuals who wanted to head out west in pursuit of a successful career in the corporate world. She would find just that, but she would also discover along the way it wasn’t the life she was destined to live.
“When I was living in San Francisco, I was working for a really well-known outdoor company (The North Face),” Cannon said. “I liked what I was doing, but I didn’t really want to remain in the corporate world. I liked (The North Face’s) message in that they promote never stop exploring, which is their tagline. In part, they were kind of responsible for my desire to kind of live that.”
The kind of life Cannon is referring to is what she is doing today — making her own schedule as a small business owner in her native Delaware County.
Discovery through exploration
While working in California, Cannon had an inkling she was meant to do something else with her life, so she saved up money for a couple of years and headed off to explore the world and discover herself along the way.
“I took off on a year-and-a-half long backpacking trip all around the world,” Cannon said. “During that time, I thought when I return, I don’t want to go back to work for anyone. I wanted to teach myself how to do something. I’ve always been a bit of an artist, but I didn’t have a specialty.”
Having felt the itch for quite some time to see if she could make a living as an entrepreneur, Cannon decided to take a leap of faith upon her return to the States.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but I had no idea what that could be, and I knew that it wouldn’t be easy for me to do in California, because it is so expensive. The year-and-a-half long backpacking trip kind of served as a way for me to clear my slate and gain some clarity on what I wanted to do when I got back.”
Birth of a cookie business
Upon her return to America, Cannon tossed around numerous ideas for a startup business. She decided on a product that’s enjoyed by many Americans, young and old — sugar cookies.
“When I got back, I knew someone who had been decorating cookies for a while. She, too, had quit her retail job to pursue baking full-time, which sort of inspired me to start looking on YouTube and Instagram,” Cannon said. “I decided on becoming a self-taught cookie artist, essentially. It basically snowballed from there.”
In fact, she experienced instant success after setting up a cookie business in her studio apartment in California.
“I was pretty successful right off the bat at getting orders back in the Bay Area,” Cannon said. “People have a lot of disposable income out there. I was only back there for eight months, and I sustained myself solely on this business living in California.”
Circumstances, however, led Cannon to move herself and her cookie business to Austin, Texas, where the business continued to make a name for itself. After spending some time down south, Cannon came to the realization that if she wanted to sustain her business, there was only one location that made since — home.
“I figured that the best place to grow a small business like this would be where I’m already really well-connected, and that would be home,” she said. That’s what led me back to Delaware County. I wanted to give this small business a try in the comfort of my own community that I already knew pretty well.”
Community supports one of its own
Just before the holidays last year, Cannon made the move back home to Delaware County, and this past February, she filed for limited liability company (LLC) status as Sarah Jane’s Custom Cookies, which she operates from her loft on East Winter Street in downtown Delaware.
Immediately, Delaware County welcomed Cannon’s business with open arms, or in this case, by opening up their wallets and pocketbooks.
“I did really well last year for Thanksgiving and Christmas within the Delaware community,” Cannon said. “I don’t typically advertise outside the city. I get plenty of business just from people here.”
She added when locals see her cookies for sale on her website or during the local farmers’ market, they have one question in particular for her, and it’s an important one for cookie connoisseurs.
“A lot of people just want to know if they taste good,” Cannon said. “Yea, they do. They taste just as good as they look.”
As for the appearance of her cookies, Cannon remarked they are a “pretty fancy product.”
“I just like being able to provide something,” she said. “It’s art on a cookie. It’s less about the baking and more about that I’m selling artwork as a means to support myself. I find that pretty remarkable.”
To be making a living in Delaware is icing on the cookie for Cannon.
“I just like the idea of having a thriving small business in a small town at this time, when it seems big box retail is taking over and kind of crushing the small businesses. Here I am in my hometown doing a really good job,” she said. “I think people love supporting small businesses, especially in a town like this. There was a time over the past 20 years where there was almost nothing in our downtown area, but I’m proud of Delaware for turning a corner and bringing more business back to our town and supporting small business.”
Cannon also enjoys the life she is able to live with no 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule staring her in the face five days a week.
“Really, the whole reason I’m pursuing this entrepreneurial path is I want to be able to be in control of my time, and I want to be able to travel,” she said. “I went backpacking for two months this past summer over in Europe. That’s about as millennial as it gets, I guess.”
For those wondering what type of treats are available at Sarah Jane’s Custom Cookies, Cannon keeps it simple.
“I do just strictly sugar cookies decorated with royal icing,” she said. “It is one product, basically.”
During the holidays, rather than doing 40 to 50 different custom orders, Cannon offers her own holiday-themed designs in multiple options: ready to eat cookies in various quantities, do-it-yourself cookies (pack includes baked cookies along with bags of icing and sprinkles) and paint-your-own cookies.
“The paint-your-own ones work like an old school watercolor,” Cannon said. “It comes with a paintbrush and you just dip it in a little bit of water and then dip it into the edible paint palette (food coloring). You can eat your artwork when you are done.”
During other times of the year, Cannon turns her focus away from holiday cookies and more toward custom orders for events like weddings, bridal and baby showers, and birthday parties.
To learn more about Sarah Jane’s Custom Cookies or to place an order, visit www.sarahjanescustomcookies.com.
Cannon, who said she won’t be accepting anymore orders until after the first of the year, also offers cookie decorating classes from time to time, which she announces on her “Sarah Jane’s Custom Cookies” Facebook page.
Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-9000. Like The Gazette on Facebook.