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Life & Work with Shari Weyrauch

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shari Weyrauch. 

Hi Shari, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Prior to starting Smart Cookies Bakery in 2009, I was in corporate sales for about twenty years. My passion has always been baking. Both my mom and grandmas helped me navigate my way around a kitchen where I learned the finer points of making sweet treats from scratch. Lucky for me, each of these talented women had their own specialty so I soaked in lots of lessons and knowledge about the importance of high-quality, fresh ingredients and the time it takes to bake something really special. 

Since I started Smart Cookies Bakery, I have been involved in all aspects of running a full-time business from the back end to the front end. Building up my customer base fast has been key to my longevity. A large part of my customers are from the corporate world, by referral, or we met at some of the various holiday shopping events where I have been a vendor. I do offer shipping and delivery for my customers. 

Ongoing training is essential to my bakery as well. I have attended the Chocolate Academy by Barry Callebaut in Chicago, several in-person decorating classes, a painting class, and multiple cookie conventions that are held nationwide. I was an electives teacher at the latest CookieCon that was held in Orlando, FL in September. 

I am part of a collaborative group of “Cookiers” based in the Kansas City Metro area. Within this group, we trade ideas for how to become better decorators, bakers, and business people. When we are booked with orders, we can send out a call for a cookier who may be able to fill the order for our customer. This way the customer gets taken care of by someone we trust. 

I also recently was invited to become a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international organization for women in food and hospitality. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I think we can all agree the Covid struggle is real. With so many corporations shutting down, and people working from home, the need for the larger corporate treat trays has subsided. I have shipped quite a few ‘corporate care packages’ nationwide and that has been fun. I am still looking to replace some of the lost corporate business and I have a few things that are in the works. After twelve years, I am still having a blast at what I do! 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am known for my hand-crafted candies and bars. I make a variety of old-fashioned candies; English Toffee, Cherry Smash, Peanut Butter Balls, Cinnamon Sugared Pecans, and Sea Salt Caramels to name a few. Each year I do try to add at least one new item to the menu; last year it was the popular Hot Cocoa Bombs. If you haven’t had one…get to the website and order! 

I exclusively use Callebaut and Ghirardelli chocolates for any of my chocolate needs from Chocolate Chunk cookies to my candy coating. This flavor elevates the dessert or treat to a different level. Using real chocolate does cost more than using ‘bark’ commonly found at the grocery store, but it is definitely better in flavor and mouthfeel. 

While candy is a primarily a large part of my fall and winter business, I am making and baking cookies all year long. I offer custom sugar cookies, traditional drop cookies, and a variety of brownies and lemon bars. This time of year, I am knee-deep in Pumpkin Bread and Hot Cocoa Bombs! 

One thing that is unique to my bakery is that I operate from a commercial kitchen that is in my home. It is fully licensed and inspected by the city, without the overhead of a traditional bakery space. This does mean that ALL orders are custom made and I do not have cookies and other treats in a bakery case ready to be enjoyed. My calendar does fill up fast so it is best to book for your event a few weeks in advance. 

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
Starting a business from scratch, by myself, during the mortgage crisis was certainly a risk. I had the full support of my husband who is my biggest cheerleader! Each time I purchase new equipment for the bakery, attend a class, or travel for business, there is a risk. I am constantly learning and evaluating my ‘ROI”; return on investment. I have to make sure what I am doing in the bakery makes send for me and benefits my customers. 

Each time I have added a piece of equipment or traveled for training; the experience has been positive! 

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