In the fall of 2017, my boys attended the annual Marne Community & Spouses Club Luncheon at Hunter Army Airfield like they have done every year for the past 8 years. This year though, Jamie came back raving about a talented young woman they met, Laura Theising of Sugar Momma Custom Cookies. At just 29 years old, she has developed an incredible talent for baking and decorating the most beautiful, intricate, and delicious cookies, while raising three small children and supporting her husband, who proudly serves in the United States Army. Because of the impression she made on Jamie and Bobby, I knew I wanted to talk with her. We finally got the chance to sit down and chat, so I wanted to share our interview with y’all. To contact Laura about custom cookie orders, you can email [email protected]
Paula Deen: Hey, Laura!
Laura Theising: Hey! How are you?
PD: I’m great; how are you?
LT: Good! My mom is going to die that I’m talking to you right now.
PD: Oh my gosh. Well, I tell you what. My children were so impressed with you. They came home singing your praises about your cookies.
LT: Well, that’s very sweet. They were very nice. They had lovely things to say about you, as well.
PD: Well, thank you. In fact, I got to have one of your cookies. My daughter-in-law, Ashley, for Bennett’s first birthday, ordered the cookies from you, and they were incredibly beautiful and delicious.
LT: Aww, thanks. Thank you.
PD: Well, I tell you, I was just amazed. They were such a high caliber, as far as their decoration and all. They were just great.
LT: Well, thank you.
PD: So tell me about yourself.
LT: Okay, well we haven’t lived in the area very long, but I love it down here. I am sad to leave if we end up leaving, but my husband is in the army. That’s what brought us down here, and that’s, of course, how I met your boys at the army spouses event. And I have three children, so if I’m not baking cookies, I’m being a mother.
PD: What are their ages, Laura?
LT: Eli is 9, Lillian will be three soon, and I just had Ben, who is 5 months old.
PD: So you’ve got your hands full!
LT: [laughing] I do!
PD: So you won’t be happy to leave the heat if you have to relocate?
LT: I love the heat! [laughing]
PD: You love the heat?
LT: Well, I don’t love it, but we’re from Indiana, so right now it’s still snowing up there. Every time I call my parents, I’m like, ‘Well, I’m standing outside right now.” So I’m liking it down here.
PD: Well, good! Well, I’m so interested to know… have you always loved to bake?
LT: I have! I have always loved to bake. Before whenever I would make them with my mom and grandma and everybody, we would just sprinkle sugar on them before we put them in the oven. We just would randomly make them for the holidays and whatnot. Now, I didn’t start actually decorating cookies like this until my husband actually. We had a long distance relationship. He went to West Point in upstate New York, so we were far away from each other through college. So I started making him cookies. My husband and I grew up together, we’re from the same hometown…
LT: …so we’ve known each other for a long time. We were friends before and we started dating then I started to make him cookies, and I would write little notes on them. So that’s where the decorating came from. And then later on when he was deployed, we would always write little messages on his cookies and I thought, “You know, I think I’m really good at this.” So then I started doing it for my kids’ birthday parties and holidays when I hosted, and people just started to go crazy for them, so I just thought, “well, I’ll start making them more often.” And then when we were at our last duty station was when it really started to blow up because a couple girls started asking me to make stuff for battalion fundraisers and things, so I started to make them more detailed, and it kind of turned into a whole thing.
PD: Wow, wow. Well, do you see yourself someday with a storefront?
LT: Yes, yes. I would love that.
PD: Yes, well, I was going to ask you where you wanted to take this because you definitely have a talent.
LT: Well, thank you. I would say that is definitely a very, very big dream of mine, but it’s obviously not something I am thinking about immediately just with the kids being so small.
PD: Yes, yes.
LT: And my husband is gone so much that it’s kind of hard to kind of have my own thing right now.
PD: And you obviously don’t have any family down here.
LT: We don’t, no. Both of our families are about 10 hours away. But they’ve both been really good. They will jump on a plane and come see us at any moment.
PD: Oh, well, that’s great, that’s great!
LT: Yeah, they have been really helpful still.
PD: Well I saw, like I said, Bennett’s cookies, and they were so intricate. I can’t imagine how in the world you can do that.
LT: [laughing] Patience.
PD: Did you just teach yourself?
LT: I did, yes, I did. Well, I kind of enjoyed the challenge so each time I would make them, I would look up different ideas, and I would kind of challenge myself and think, “Well, I bet I could do that.” And then I kind of got a little bit more intricate. A lot of my ideas, I found on Pinterest, and then I would sit down and try to do it and be pleasantly surprised. And now, I feel like I, well, I wouldn’t say I can do anything, but I definitely feel more confident. So I definitely think I enjoyed the challenge at first and really enjoyed and kind of taught myself.
PD: So is there anything you’ve learned since you started? What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned?
LT: Umm… I’d say probably that I just continue to surprise myself. When I first started this, it really was just a little hobby, and I would just do it occasionally for friends. And now, it’s just gotten to be something I hadn’t even planned on it even being at first, you know?
LT: But it’s really become such a great outlet for me because, right now, I really am only a mom—not that that’s a bad thing—but it’s a good outlet for me because it’s something that now that I’ve done it for so long, it comes very naturally to me, and I don’t have to put a lot of thought into it. I can just sit down after the kids go to bed, and it’s something for me, for myself. It’s something I’m proud of that I have for myself. I tried to make this a full-fledged business for a while, but I kind of took a little break from it because my husband’s deployment was nixed at the last moment, so we decided to have another baby!
PD: Oh, wow!
LT: So I kind of put everything on the back burner and took a little break, so now I just recently have kind of thrown myself back into and have kind of gone full steam ahead. And it’s gotten to be, down here in Georgia, it’s gotten to be bigger than I ever hoped or dreamed it would be.
PD: Good for you! How many days a week do you find yourself baking, Laura?
LT: Oh, every day.
PD: You do? You get orders every day?
LT: And lately, well, I will say, it was really busy for Christmas, and it’s really busy right now for Valentine’s Day.
PD: Oh, that’s right.
LT: So I do think that it does pick up tremendously around the holidays. And a lot of people have been repeat customers, which makes me so happy, so they are already on the books for the next holiday and the next holiday, so that’s been really nice.
PD: That is great. You know, the first sale is good, but the second sale is fabulous.
LT: YES. It means they’re happy with it and coming back for more!
PD: Yes, there you go! Your cookies—can you bake them ahead and put them in the freezer and then decorate them?
LT: Yes, that’s what I do usually.
PD: I was going to say, that would be so hard. You know, I bake a lot of cookies. Mine are delicious, but they’re not necessarily pretty. [laughing]
LT: [laughing] Hey, that’s what my husband says is the most important part.
PD: But I would be thrilled if I could make a cookie that was delicious AND beautiful. I mean I was blown away with Bennett’s cookies. I would actually love to see just how you do it. I’m that impressed. Well, I hope that you find a way to turn this into something that could really be big for you. When I started my business, my children were grown—they were like 19 and 21. So my hat is really off to you. I can’t even imagine doing this with three babies. I just can’t imagine you doing it. You must have the patience of Jobe. [laughing]
LT: [laughing] I don’t know about that! I would say I don’t really sleep a lot, but I don’t know how patient I am!
PD: Well, you really impressed me with the cookie I’ve seen. It was delicious.
LT: Well, thank you. That’s very sweet.
PD: And if there is anything I can ever do to help you, I would love to. I would be delighted to do it.
LT: That would be very cool. Ok, well I appreciate this so much. This was such a cool experience for me.
PD: Well, you can call me any time. You know, I found that in my little business, I started it with $200, so I had no room for errors.
LT: No, you did not.
PD: Yeah, I couldn’t make a mistake down to the cantaloupe. I had to really look at ‘em good, check ‘em because I couldn’t afford any losses. But every day I found that I had the opportunity to grow as my little business grew. And then one day I was like you. I said “holy moly!” So I hope that before too long this can really take off for you.
LT: I hope so too. Well, can I ask you a few questions now?
LT: I guess my first question—I guess I thought you had started your business when your children were younger.
PD: No, a lot of people, a lot of people think that, Laura, but no, I was not nearly that brave; plus, I was pulling out of a 20-year ride with agoraphobia—
LT: oh, gosh!
PD: Yes, so I wasn’t much good to anybody.
LT: Oh, goodness. Well, my first question was how you managed being a mother and running such a successful business, which obviously you were still a mother when your boys were older, but a little bit easier. Well, actually mother says it’s harder when they’re older and you don’t know where they’re at!
PD: You know, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life because I pulled my children into what they call my dreams, not theirs.
PD: And they really couldn’t comprehend that I was fighting for our lives. Because my sons, they didn’t have a passion—no money to go to school and they certainly didn’t have the grades to go to college. So I dragged them every day, and then one day, it happened. They fell in love with their business.
LT: Which is so neat!
PD: I was so fortunate, but it had its repercussions. Jamie told me one day, “I just want my mama back.” And I said, “Well, son, she’s gone.”
LT: [laughing] Yeah, things have changed!
PD: “She is gone.”
LT: Well, I will say, I never thought I could do it until you just have to do it.
PD: Yes, until you have to do it! Is your husband an officer?
LT: He is, yes.
PD: What is he?
LT: He is a Captain. We’ve been in for 8 years, so, yeah, he’s a Captain, and if we stay in, he’ll make Major in the next two years, which is kind of how the timeline goes.
PD: Well, that’s great! How old are you, Laura?
LT: I will be 30 in 3 weeks.
PD: Well, happy early birthday!
LT: Thank you!
PD: Listen, you’re still so young. You know, I was 42 when I started my business—
LT: Well, that’s reassuring!
PD: Yeah, and I may as well have been 92!
LT: Please! 42 is young!
PD: Yeah, I didn’t realize how young I was, but I had lost my daddy when he was 40 and my mother when she was 44, so in my head, I was old.
LT: Wow, that’s young.
PD: Yeah, I didn’t think of myself as being young; I thought of myself as being very old and thought, “how am I going to do this?” And I worked like a dog—16, 18 hours a day, every day of my life. For years, I went without even a day off because I moved into the Best Western after a year and a half, and I was required to serve three meals a day, 7 days a week, and I was still operating The Bag Lady!
PD: It was tough, but you know, I’d do it all over again.
LT: Would you?
PD: Yes, yes. Because it’s an area where women have the ability to make just as much as a man.
LT: Yes, amen!
PD: If you’ve got a good product and you’ve got passion and you’ve got the desire to fight because it’s definitely a fight. Every morning you wake up, it’s definitely a battle.
LT: Yes, yes. I guess another question I was wondering—whenever you were first starting, was there a pivotal moment or this moment where you thought, “I’ve really got something. I know this is going to be successful; I’m going to take this to the next level and not just be a small local business”?
PD: You know, I kind of always thought of myself as a small business, but….
LT: Well, in a way you still are because you still have the restaurants and stuff.
PD: Yeah, I still have a great desire to make it you might say. [both laugh] But there were a couple of moments. I think it was 1999 we were voted by USA Today the #1 best meal that they had eaten that year. We beat out Paris, we beat out Chicago, New York, everybody—our little humble buffet.
LT: That’s awesome.
PD: Yes, every December they run a big article about the best meal they had eaten that year, and we took it. We took that title that particular year, and that was so thrilling.
LT: I bet.
PD: It was so thrilling. But you know, there are still a lot of things I want to do, Laura, and I just turned 71.
LT: Did you really? You look good! [laughing]
PD: Thank you! I can’t believe I’m 71 years old, but there’s still a lot I would like to do!
LT: Like what?
PD: I would love to do an animated film. I would love to lend my voice to an animated movie. I’ve got a book in me that I would love to get written.
LT: That would be really neat.
PD: Yeah, so if my body will just participate [both laugh] with my mind.
LT: Hey, you’ve got a lot of time left!
PD: I hope so! I hope I have 20 years left.
LT: Well, my husband’s grandpa just turned 93 and is in perfect health, so you just never know!
PD: Oh, my gosh. Isn’t that wonderful! Yes, all my grandparents lived a pretty long life. My mother’s father lived to be 65, and he was the youngest of all the grandparents. Well, I just wish you all the luck in the world, and like I said, if you ever just want to talk, just give me a call and we can walk through it and see if we come up with something!
LT: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
PD: Please thank your husband for me for his service, and thank you and all the other partners out there for staying behind and so graciously accepting the responsibility of maintaining that normalcy for the children who don’t get to see both parents on a daily basis.
LT: I sure will, and thank you so much.