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Meet Trailblazer Tiffany Barden

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tiffany Barden.

Tiffany, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I guess I could credit the birth of Rose Villa Cookie Company to the birth of my two beautiful children. Prior to them, I was living a career-oriented life as a high school teacher, professional dancer, and cheer coach, where my weeks were filled with work-related obligations almost every day and night. It was just something I became accustomed to… always busy, always something right in front of me. Although I loved being busy all the time, I always had the desire to be my own boss and do something that both challenged and fulfilled me, though it never seemed like I had free time to really explore.

With the birth of our daughter (now four), my husband and I made the decision that I would stay at home to care for her, and what a complete lifestyle change that was! With no day job, no coaching, no professional dancing, I was literally focused 100% on our daughter. Becoming a mom is a blessing and the best gift I have ever received.  It is the proudest thing I have ever done and the greatest love I have ever felt.  But in the midst of play dates, making food pouches and attending mommy and me activities, I started to feel that I had no identity outside of being a “mama.” By the time I found my footing on this new role of full-time motherhood, I was pregnant with our son (now two). The birth of my second child thrust me back to being busy, trying to figure out how to navigate life at home with two little ones. It left virtually no time for myself or for exploring this entrepreneurial dream of mine, yet that desire was still there.

Creating custom cookies wasn’t something I had ever thought about until the week of my daughter’s 3rd birthday. I wanted decorated cookies to match her birthday party theme (mermaid of course), and while I had never attempted anything of the sort, I decided to give it a shot. With both kids stable, weaned, and now sleeping through the night, I spent a few late nights obsessively watching cookie tutorials on Youtube, researching recipes, and purchasing supplies. After making a few dozen reject cookies (which my husband happily ate nonetheless), I finally ended up with a batch I was proud to display. Plus, I had run out of time before the party, so it was this set of cookies or the store-bought treats.

After fielding a few questions about the source of the cookies, conversations quickly turned to emphatic “you should totally sell these!!” So, with the support of my family, and the sacrifice of all of my kitchen counter and storage space, Rose Villa Cookie Company was open for business. Initially, I just wanted to try a few orders for friends & family to see if I would enjoy creating them for other people, and I quickly realized that I find so much joy in seeing my customer’s reactions to their orders.  Still wondering if I was onto something (or if my family was just being nice), I booked a pop-up shop at Williams Sonoma two months into the journey. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from complete strangers was the last validation I needed to confidently grow my business.

So, between still being a full-time mom, wife, and new entrepreneur, I’m always busy, something is always in front of me, but the entrepreneurial desire has been satiated… for now.

Has it been a smooth road?
When I started this journey, my husband and I agreed that we only wanted to do this if I enjoyed it and didn’t stress out too much. Thankfully, I have found so much fulfillment from making cookies and expressing myself through them. It feels good to put myself out there and be able to provide beautiful and delicious treats to compliment someone’s special day. To my surprise, the business has taken off quicker than I could have ever expected in its first year of operation. I think my biggest challenge has been learning on the fly and trying to keep up with it all. Admittedly, I am my toughest critic and I have high standards for what I put out. As a result, I have spent numerous sleepless nights re-mixing, re-baking, and re-decorating. I’ve also had to learn my limits (sometimes the hard way), and knowing how to say no when I really just want to say YES to every order. There is also the business aspect that is new to me, such as invoicing, website design, and creating content for social media. I am still learning every day. At the end of the day, I strive to produce cookies that I love and adore because that’s what I think my customers deserve!

My advice is to practice, be patient, and believe in yourself.  Don’t compare your work with the work of others (especially when you’re just starting out). It can be really frustrating at times, but keep in mind that there is a learning curve for everything.  If you genuinely enjoy what you’re doing, the end result always makes up for the rocky road it took to get there.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. There is an incredible community of “cookiers” on social media and these fellow artists will become your support system, sounding board, and friends for life.  I cannot express how grateful I am to be a part of a group that encourages, empowers, and lifts each other up.  When you are ready, take time to give back and mentor others.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I specialize in hand-made custom sugar cookies, decorated with royal icing. I am a one-woman shop, which means I design, bake, decorate, photograph, and package all of the orders myself. I take pride in working with my customers to make their vision a reality, and love seeing the reactions on their faces when they get something that exceeds their expectations!

A year in, I’m most proud of the relationships I’ve built with my clients and seeing them become returning customers. Their referrals to other friends have been extremely validating and motivating for me. I’m also proud of turning this creative hobby into a sustainable business model, while still being able to maintain a healthy balance between cookies and family life.

It’s hard to say what sets me apart from other cookiers… there are so many talented people in this niche, and I have so much respect for everyone’s work. What I think sets custom decorated cookies apart from other businesses is that everyone in this industry is so encouraging and positive.  I am constantly overwhelmed with happiness by the amount of support shared.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
I was raised by a single mom and moved from Taiwan to the US at the age of seven. Upon arriving here, I didn’t know a single word of English and was extremely intimidated by my new surroundings.  My mom put me into a variety of activities to help me acclimate to my new home, make friends, and learn English quickly. Through it all, I learned how to be my own advocate.

Being thrown into a strange new environment was challenging, but it also taught me a key lesson: nothing was going to be handed to me and the only way to overcome a difficult situation was to work yourself out of it.  Even at a young age, I refused to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something or that any of my goals were unattainable.  With relentless drive, focused work ethic and unyielding perseverance, I was able to gain the confidence needed to be successful and have carried those qualities into adulthood.

I am so grateful to my mom showing me that it is possible to be a successful woman in business. She has made a few changes in her own career path and business ventures, but she’s always controlled her destiny. She’s taught me that it is never too late to start something new, and nothing is more empowering than being your own boss!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kristina Elayne Hill Photography, Maggie Minhas Photography

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