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Interviews with Shey: Ashley Thomas-Seltzer

Shealynn Benner

Tell me a bit about yourself. (Married, kids, hobbies, etc.)
Hi, I’m Ashley from Let’s Bake Shit! I’m a wife, mama, graphic designer, cookier, and true crime junkie based out of Fort Worth, Texas. My husband Alex and I have been married for 13 years and we have two kids - a seven year old
son and a three year old daughter. I grew up as a military brat and moved to the North Texas area from the East coast in 2004 to go to college, and I’ve been here ever since!
What are you most passionate about?
Definitely my kids! I’m so grateful to be able to stay at home with them and it has been amazing to watch them grow into these amazing little individuals. They are learning something new every day and I am floored at some of the ideas that they come up with. I hope they stay curious and eager to learn new things forever.
What sparked your interest in making cookies? Did someone specific inspire you to start?
I started making cookies after I took a holiday cookie class with Krista (@allthesugartx) in November 2019. A friend had an extra seat for the class, asked if I wanted to join, and I haven’t looked back since!
As a cookie business owner, what are you most proud of? And what has been your biggest challenge?
I’m honestly most proud of the fact that I work hard to continue to learn everything that I can with regard to the creative and business aspects of cookie-ing. Custom orders make up the bulk of my cookie schedule these days, but I have tried to take as many classes (in person, virtual, and via digital guides) as I can to learn from different cookiers. Everyone has a different approach in how they decorate and I’m a firm believer that there is always a way to grow your skill set. The biggest challenge to date has been pricing. I’ve talked with a lot of other cookiers about this subject and I think this is an issue that we all struggle with at one point or another. Anyone who makes and decorates cookies knows it takes time. A lot of time. Customers see the finished products and not necessarily all of the steps that go into creating a set. I was nervous to establish a price point when I first started selling cookies and I was undercharging. More often that not, I felt trapped in between not wanting to be “expensive” but also wanting to make sure I was making enough money to cover the time, effort, and supplies that went into orders.

Do you have a logo? If yes, what is the significance of it? How did you come up with the name of your cookie business and brand image?
I do have a logo! I reached out to bay-area illustrator and designer @drawjessdraw for help capturing the look and feel that I was hoping to convey. Let’s Bake Shit! is pretty bold, and fun, and a little cheeky. I hated every font combination and design that I made for myself, but Jess has a background in hand-drawn typography and I knew she’d be able to take some of what I had conceptualized for the brand and translate that into an aesthetic. I love that my logo is custom and I love that I was able to support another small business in the process! Anyone who knows me in real life, and I guess online, too, knows that I use my fair share of four letter words. My account name started off as a joke - my husband pestered me for months to start a cookie page and I would say “no one wants to see the shit I bake.” That evolved into Let’s Bake Shit! My brand is true to myself - a little cheeky, there’s a little sarcasm, and enthusiasm for all things art and cookies.
How long have you been decorating cookies?
About 8 months!
Do you decorate and sell cookies full time? If not, what do you do when you’re not baking?
I don’t sell cookies full-time; I work as a graphic designer for a government organization. I really enjoy designing and through my job, I have been able to work on a wide variety of programs and projects that range from sea turtle conservation to company magazines and recruitment materials. It’s a great feeling to see that something you’ve created has made an impact on the intended audience. No two days are the same with regard to design requests and I love the creativity that stems from that type of variety. I decorate and sell cookies part-time (#teamnosleep) - nights and weekends are usually cookie-filled!

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the cookie decorating
My favorite part of the cookie process is decorating, especially when making sets that include airbrushing! I get so excited to have a tray of freshly flooded cookies. The creative possibilities are endless and it’s a blank slate to literally create art. My least favorite part is the clean-up process. I HATE cookie dishes! Thankfully, Alex is becoming a pro at being a cookie husband and willingly does the dishes and washes cutters. His efforts help me maintain my sanity and keep me focused on baking, decorating, and packaging.

Who is the biggest supporter(s) of you and your cookie business?
Definitely my family and friends. My husband and sister have been encouraging my business from day one. They have pushed me to learn more, work harder, and branch out. Every single time I’ve said that I can’t do something, they are there to ask why not and to remind me that success is a result of stepping outside of your comfort zone. My mom and friends have signed up for cookie classes with me, and routinely ask for text updates on order designs, cookie designs, and finished pictures before they hit Instagram. I’ve had friends and customers who go out of their way to share their cookie order pictures and refer me to others, which has made a huge impact. I tell people all the time that I have met some of the best people through cookies (friends and customers alike) and it is the absolute truth. I’ve also found a group of cookie friends who have been nothing but supportive. Cookie friends are real - they are there for 1am pep talks and design advice and are the first to cheer you on when you hit a creative milestone.

Is there someone that has inspired you in the Cookie Industry? Why?
I have a huge list of people who have inspired me! Mik (@mikandcookies)
was one of the first cookiers that I followed and her creativity still blows me away! We have different decorating styles, which has helped broaden how I decorate and design. The best part about her, though? She’s just as nice as she seems. Every time I’ve ever interacted with her, she has been warm, kind, and encouraging. Priscilla and Angela (@sarmiesistersweets) are another HUGE inspiration. They’re wives, mamas, cookiers, and advocates! I’m in awe of their creativity, and this is another instance of people being as nice as they seem. They’ve been nothing but kind and supportive and I love that their artwork also serves a purpose. I also LOVE Sandie (@youcancallmesweetie). I’ve taken four painting classes with her and I feel like I learn something new all the time. Her painting classes have taken my cookies to a new level and her talks about business operations and management have influenced how I market and price my work. I appreciate her talent as much as I do her candor and willingness to share what she knows.

How do you balance everything? (Kids, husband, activities, working
out, cookies etc)
I don’t! Honestly, I don’t and that’s okay. Everyday is a juggling act and some days, my kids are happy to color, read, and play while I work or make cookies. Those days are usually really productive. Other days? I get absolutely nothing done around the house, at work, or for cookies because I have a clingy toddler and a seven year old who need their mom to just sit with them, read, or watch a movie. I’ve started to cut myself a little more slack, which took quite a bit of time, and I’m letting go of the mom guilt. I’m really lucky in that I work remotely and my boss and team mates understand that I have little ones at home who are my first priority. I’ve been in the habit of working after my kids go to sleep since I was in grad school and coupled with the fact that I’m a night owl, it works well for me. I am also lucky that my husband is my partner in all of this. He scoops up the kids the second he comes home from work, cooks, cleans, builds forts, and makes sure that meringue powder and cookie boxes stay stocked (I’m kidding, but not really - he does)!

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 things (not people) would you bring with you?
I’ll assume we’re focused on non-essential things; I'm not cut out for survivalist life, guys. I am a true crime podcast junkie, so I’d say my phone because my podcast library is FULL of all things crime related and I’m listening to episodes any chance that I get. I’d also take a hammock (I can sleep almost anywhere, which is probably a function of cookie exhaustion), and a stack of books. When I finished grad school and realized that I could read for fun again, I made a list of books and I’ve been reading my way through them!

What is your best advice to someone wanting to start making cookies for profit?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I was so nervous starting out - there were so many fantastic cookiers around me and on Instagram and I’d be curious about techniques or color palettes or products, but I didn’t reach out. Looking back, that was such a mistake. There are so many resources in the cookie community (story highlights are a huge source of inspiration, mini-tutorials, and pricing information), but I’ve always found that people are willing to share what they know! Curious about someone’s workflow? Research and ask! Wondering what to charge, research and ask! I’m a HUGE proponent in community over competition and part of that is being willing to help and encourage others. If I can share something that may help someone else in their business, I’m here for it!

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