SCOTIA – When Gianna Riegel couldn’t be in school at Sacandaga Elementary School during the spring at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, she spent time in her room, her living room and most importantly, her kitchen.
The 9-year-old baker took her culinary skills to a new level by creating new and interesting cookies along with launching her own successful cookie business – Gi Bakes.
“I’ve been baking when I was two-years old,” she said in the dining room of her family’s home on Wren Street.
In March her mom started her a Facebook page, GiBakesCookies, along with an Instagram page, Gi_Bakes_acookiebakery and this month’s launch of her own website, www.gibakes.com.
Her mom, Jaime, never expected the cookie explosion in sales or orders.
“When all this [COVID lockdown] started happening she would ask me, 'Can I make this chocolate chip potato chip cookie,'” Jaime Riegel said. “I work from home; I'm trying to home school three kids in three different schools and a newborn. Finally, one day, it was fine let's do it.”
But, like any mom, there were rules and a learning curve.
“You have to make it your own unique recipe, you just can’t find a recipe. That was to help supplement school. Then she had to decide what kind of cookie, light, dense or crisp.”
Her mom’s experience helped educate her.
“I bake a lot in the holidays, and I have my own recipe that has been passed on from my mom from her mom,” Jamie said. “We researched how do you get a cookie to do this, what ingredients do I need to add?”
From there a base Gi Bakes cookie was created and then Gianna’s creativity took over.
“I wanted to try a chocolate chip cookie with potato chips in it,” Gianna said. “Then I passed out fliers to the neighbors.”
The Pochocolate, a chocolate chip and potato chip cookie, along with The Party, a bubblegum flavored cookie, are staples to her regular-sized confections.
Her fliers and word of mouth advertising brought more requests – directly to her mom’s phone.
“People started text messaging me and Facebook messaging me, so then I said you need an email address because I need to work,” Jaime Riegel said. “Each morning she comes down and checks her email and then we set up a spreadsheet to keep track of her orders on the spreadsheet.
“We set up a supply cost tab and use that as a supplement to school for math.”
Gianna already was familiar with the cost of doing business.
She set up a lemonade stand and gave the proceeds to Schenectady’s Things of My Very Own charity.
“I thought it would be like that,” she said. “I had to give my parents money and I pay my sisters in cookies.”
She had help from her family to gain entry at Burhmaster Farm and is now a staple there daily.
“I asked my sister, Izabella, if she could bring a box to her boss' mom,” Gianna said. “She did and when we went to go pick her up that day, she said that we need to bring cookies in tomorrow. We did and they sold out.”
As the business grew, the kid baker learned about time management and sales demands for fresh-baked cookies.
“You have to make so many doughs at once,” she said. “I try to make them all in the morning, but when you don't do that, you either have to do it in the afternoon or late at night.”
Her largest single order was for 35 dozen cookies – 420 cookies!
“I had to take a couple of breaks and my dad had to run out and get more brown sugar because we realized that one bag of brown sugar does five dozen cookies,” she said. “We had to buy five bags of brown sugar.”
She also learned that some baking inspirations come from mistakes.
“I messed up one batch, but that's how I came up with the cherry cookie,” she said. “It was getting late and we have a cherry tree, so we went outside and picked some. I just made it a cherry cookie for Sunday, our cookie drop day and it was our cookie of the week.”
Each Sunday Gianna announces her cookie(s) of the week that are for sale and orders can begin on Monday, but once they are sold out. They are gone.
Her assortment includes regular large flat cookies like her CPB, a chocolate peanut butter cookie and a Power Up, cookie with oats, almonds, and cranberries. She also sells jumbo stuffed cookies and small cookie bites.
The young entrepreneur pays for her own supplies, her LLC, her logo, a new KitchenAid mixer and still put some money into savings.
What’s next for Gi Bakes? A place of her own – maybe.
“As things started picking up, she said to her dad, you can make me a 'She Shed' out back and that can be my bakery,” Jaime Riegel said.
Visit her newly launched website at www.gibakes.com.
Reach staff writer Stan Hudy at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @StanHudy.