Details key to Moffat County businesswoman’s sweet success
March 1, 2018
CRAIG — Combine art, sugar, a computer a cellphone and what is the result? For one Craig woman, it’s a successful, 10-year-old cake decorating and baking business.
"I see the cake. I see a toy or something, and I don't see anything else; I see the cake. The majority of my business is online,” said e-commerce business owner Shirley Cromer.
Armed with homemade fondant, sugar gum paste, modeling chocolate, frosting sheets and edible inks, Cromer makes highly detailed cake decorations. Her flowers, snowflakes, and butterflies are particularly popular with customers.
When Cromer started her online business — Sweet Edibles — in 2007, home-based e-commerce was relatively new.
"There weren't many people selling online at the time," she recalled.
Ten years on, and the competition has increased, but so have Cromer's skills, and she believes it's her attention to detail that keeps customers coming back.
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"Details are my favorite things. I don't slack. It takes time. I don't like to rush things," she said.
She sells 20 to 50 boxes of gum paste decorations per week, depending on the season, and makes enough income to stay at home to raise her children.
"It picks up in April and stays like that through December. January and February are quiet," she said, as her phone chimed with a question from a customer.
Creating beautiful and yummy decorations is part of the job. Another part is keeping up with the latest global marketplaces.
Instead of using her own website, Cromer sells her creations under the Sweet Edibles name on a number of sites, including Etsy, Artfire, Ebay and Facebook.
While she's tried other sites, they haven't always work for her small business.
"A lot of people try to underprice, and it wasn't worth it," she said. "And Amazon charges so much. I'm thinking about it, but I haven't done it yet."
Customers can save money by making their own cakes and buying Cromer's decorations.
She's shipped her products to Russian, Finland, China and Thailand and is currently preparing a large rush order that will ship to New Zealand.
Her flowers, butterflies and other motifs may look delicate, but once dried, they harden with a shelf life of 6 to 9 months.
"They will keep longer as keepsakes, but I wouldn't eat them. I pack them very carefully, so they don't break," Cromer said, explaining she uses her creations on the entirely edible homemade cakes and cookies she sells to customers in the Yampa Valley and people willing to come to Craig.
She's very particular about the ingredients and was making her own vanilla extract with vanilla beans from Madagascar and high-quality spirits purchased locally.
"It eliminates the food dyes and additives and helps keep costs down," she said.
At Christmas, she began offering "paint your own" sugar cookie kits. They were such a hit locally that she's planning to create cookie kits for other holidays, such as Easter.
After a decade in business, she's learned that, at times, she has to refuse an order.
"I tend to get too busy and the price thing — I know what I'm worth and what my skills are," she said.
She's also learned to love the advantages of having a digital storefront.
"I don't like being bugged. If the door is open, I'd never get anything done," she said. "And I like my freedom."
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.