Jessica Ortiz started baking and selling cookies to family and friends 10 years ago. Inspired by her dad to start baking, she started out by bringing some of her confections to a holiday cookie competition at work, where she received an overwhelming response: her colleagues, blown away by her beautiful cookies, encouraged her to turn her passion into a formal business. One colleague was so intimidated by Jessica’s cookies, she didn’t want to share her own!
From there, A Jess Cookie was born. “I’m Puerto Rican, born and raised in the Bronx; New Yorican is what we would call ourselves. I like to incorporate Puerto Rican flavors into the cookies I make and sell,” Jessica said. Her most popular product is an homage to her background: Gua-Berry cookies, made with Jessica’s homemade strawberry guava jam. The Jess Cookie menu also includes dulce de leche cookies and “besitos de coco,” which Jessica compares to coconut macaroons.
“You don’t realize how much support is out there until you participate in such a great workshop.”Jessica, Owner & founder of A Jess Cookie
In 2020, Jessica decided to take her business to the next level and start an LLC. Around the same time, she received a newsletter from Hot Bread Kitchen about our new small business program, HBKi: SEED. “I’ve been making and selling my cookies for 10 years, and I decided I want to see where I could take this business and where I want to be,” Jessica said. “I’ve been following Hot Bread Kitchen since the beginning, so I joined SEED and started working on a business plan, which was great.”
She found SEED’s self-guided modules to be an easy way through each phase of early business development, and much more specific than other workshops she had participated in before. “The program was a very nice hands-on approach,”Jessica shared. “Since everything was taught in different sections, it was easy to focus on specific areas [of running a business] at a time without feeling overwhelmed. SEED showed me what I wanted to do with my company versus what I thought I wanted to do.”
Having the ability to participate in SEED virtually was also beneficial to Jessica, but she learned from in-person components of the program as well, like a food styling event with our partners at Brewing the American Dream. “You don’t realize how much support is out there until you participate in such a great workshop. In addition to the SEED program, having small business experts come in and talk to us was incredibly eye-opening. She shared, “I really learned a lot about branding; I’m not very social media or photography savvy, but I got some really great tips on what to do for social media that have helped my business a lot.”
One of the most useful resources for Jessica during the SEED program was the one-on-one mentorship with industry professionals. “It’s great to just speak to someone about what you want to do and how you think you can do it, and then have them help you come up with other concepts and ideas,” Jessica said about her relationship with her mentor. “It’s nice to have a little back and forth conversation.”
As Jessica continues to grow A Jess Cookie, Hot Bread Kitchen will be right by her side through all phases of her business’s growth. “There is so much more I want to do with the company,” she said. “I’ve just got to start somewhere and this is where I’m going to start. It’s made it easier with Hot Bread Kitchen because I can really see where my product cost is, see what I can sell it for, and see that I can make it a business.”