We had the good fortune of connecting with Sanny Lai and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sanny, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Growing up, I have always had an interest in arts and crafts whether it was a handmade stationary set or homemade treats made in our kitchen. Throughout my childhood, I tried almost every craft related hobby; I got into baking, sewing, knitting, cross-stitching, scrapbooking, painting, drawing, laser cutting wood/glass, and the list goes on. As I got older, I kept my interest in handmade crafts and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects but had to put most of it aside until I finished school. Fast-forward into my post-college career, I started working full-time for a corporate company and realized I had no other hobbies except for working, eating, and sleeping. I began to pick up all of my old crafting and DIY projects again and started picking up 2 new hobbies: learning calligraphy and baking cookies. I started with calligraphy first and really got into it until I started seeing videos of lettering on sugar cookies and thought that would be a fun way to add my love of baking into the mix. Once I started getting into decorating sugar cookies, I realized I found an artistic and creative path that I was extremely passionate about. Now that I’ve spent a couple years improving my skillset, I’ve taken the next step of turning this hobby into a small business. It’s always been a goal of mine to have multiple incomes through small businesses and going down the artistic and creative path made the most sense with what I’m passionate about doing. There is something about homemade products that make every item unique and special in its own way, and I’m happy with how much I’ve grown just within the last few years. I look forward to continuing my artistic and creative career to see where it takes me next; I have so many plans to start venturing into the digital space with digital products and online classes and I’m excited to keep growing as I try new things to expand my small cookie business!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I make decorated sugar cookies and I am most known for my flavor profiles and my freehand work which is also what I am most proud of. I develop my own cookie recipes and my most popular flavors are blueberry, strawberry, lemon, chocolate, and snickerdoodle. This started when I wanted to try something festive for the holidays and I wanted to offer more than just a vanilla flavored cookie for gifts to my friends and family. I began experimenting with other ingredients and would bring my samples to work for coworkers to taste and give me feedback. Now, I have developed over 15 different flavor profiles and I already have 5 more ideas lined up for the next month to test out. Every holiday sale, I always offer flavor sampler boxes so customers can try the different seasonal flavors throughout the year and they end up being my best seller. In addition to my different flavor profiles, I also enjoy personalizing cookies and adding a little freehand work to each of my designs. Every custom cookie design is done freehand meaning I don’t use any projectors or any tracing methods. I prefer to freehand because it makes every cookie unique in its own way. It’s definitely a challenge trying to replicate more complex designs or characters, but doing everything freehand pushes me to find new ways to be creative so I don’t have to keep relying on a template for my designs.
Some important lessons I’ve learned throughout my cookie journey are to always remember why I started this journey in the first place, don’t play the comparison game, and cookies aren’t meant to look absolutely perfect they’re meant to be eaten. Cookie decorating has always been a fun project for me to continue improving my baking skills while finding ways to create different designs on each cookie. The challenge has been playing the comparison game as there are so many talented bakers and cookie decorators out there. Instead of comparing myself to others, I kept focusing on only comparing “present self” against my “past self” and it works really well. I enjoy looking back at my past work and seeing how far I’ve come.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am a world traveler, and I love exploring new cities and traveling long distance just to try really good food. Because I travel out of state frequently, I am still discovering new locations in my home state Arizona. Every time I meet up with friends and family that come from other states, I try to find new places or local events to take them to. One of my favorite activities to do outdoors when it’s cool enough is to check out local markets such as farmer’s markets and handmade craft markets. Lately I’ve been loving the Gilbert farmer’s markets and the Made With Love holiday market is one of my favorite markets to attend each year. I am a huge fan of anything that is handmade, homegrown, or freshly baked. I also love trying out new restaurants and enjoy food trucks as well. A few of my favorite places to eat at are Ghost Ranch, Spiga, Truland, and Sakana.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Every family member, friend, and customer who has encouraged me to start my cookie business and has supported me along the way deserves all the credit and recognition; I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Big thanks to my fiance for being my partner through this journey and for pushing me to find my passion which turned out to be decorating sugar cookies. Another big thanks to my parents for always volunteering to help package cookies during busy holiday weeks and assisting with pop-up events and markets. Lastly, a huge shoutout goes to the online cookie community where I’ve developed many great relationships with friends around the world who continue to encourage each other throughout everyone’s cookie journeys. I’m truly thankful for the continued love and support you’ve all shown me these past few years.
All images were photographed and edited by Treats by Sanny