Six years ago, on a whim and inspired by cookies at an engagement party, Kim Bice Gilly sent out an email to friends and family. “I think I’m going to start doing cookies on the side. Let me know if you are interested,” it read. This was in early October. “By Halloween, I hadn’t slept,” she says. The following spring, she had to quit her bookkeeping job. Never in a million years had she expected to get so busy, so fast.
Gilly describes herself as an accidental, self-taught cookie decorator, “stuck in an alternate universe between being a stay-at-home mom and a working mom.” These days, the mother of three averages 300 to 500 handmade and decorated cookies per week coming out of her home-based business in Old Goodwood, Silly Gilly Desserts. She can design cookies to match any shape and theme, from Minions to maracas, Easter bunnies to bridal showers, superheroes to Sweet 16. One week last spring, at the height of wedding season, she had 800 cookies due. “I was farming my kids out all over town, hiring babysitters,” she says.
But don’t think that her daughters Katelynn, 8, Aubrey, 6, and Landry, 2, get the raw end of the dough. Gilly admits to staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. many a time to complete an order, just so she can chaperone a field trip the next day. “It’s hard for me to say I work full time, but I do put in 30 to 40 hours a week,” she says.
During the school year, Gilly gets the girls off to school, and then by 7:30 a.m., she starts making cookies in her pajamas. “Sometimes, I’m still in my pajamas at 2:45. Most days.” And she’s back at it when the kids go to bed.
To make it all work, Gilly is serious about her schedule. Email order inquiries are greeted with a very detailed auto response, which includes her booked dates and all the info needed to place an order. Her official email reply schedule is on Sundays only. Final quantities must be confirmed two weeks prior to pick up. “No has never been a word that comes easy to me, so just know that I don’t enjoy having to turn away a customer!” she writes in her auto response to last-minute orderers.
There’s so much that goes into each batch, starting with shopping for ingredients (14 bags of powdered sugar every Monday) then making, chilling, rolling and cutting the dough, followed by baking the cookies, cooling time, mixing the icing, drying time, piping on the detail… “This is a true labor of love,” Gilly says. Of all the stages, she says she is most in her element with a bag of icing in her hand.
Gilly doesn’t advertise. Her business is all word of mouth. If you check the Silly Gilly website, her “cookie counter,” which was probably really fun to update when it was in the double and triple digits, now reads: “Lost count at about 20,000.” Her chosen medium is Instagram. Its quick, no-frills, no-maintenance platform is perfect for the mom whose hands are usually coated in flour for most of the day.
One funny side effect of working from home, and home-ing from work, is that her girls are “immune” to cookies, Gilly says. But occasionally, at a party, they’ll ask permission to eat a cookie. “They’re so used to being told ‘no cookies,’ ” she says.
Recently, Gilly attended her first CookieCon—yes, there is such a thing—in Salt Lake City with 400 fellow cookie makers. Perhaps the most groundbreaking thing she learned is that there is a technical term for her profession. “Cookier! I am a cookier. I have a name!”
In the future, Silly Gilly Cookies may relocate to a commissary kitchen or hire a helper, but that’s far off on the horizon. For now, working from home with the company of her “best friends—television characters, usually some sort of housewife of any given city’’—and her family in the afternoons works just fine for her.