In the realm of desserts, cookies and pies will always be at the top of the list. Imagine both of them combined into one type of dessert… Now THAT is a mouthwatering thought. Good news for you, it can be! After many trials and errors creating cookies, cakes, and pies in her home kitchen, Janie Deegan (founder of Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods) created something special: her famous Pecan Pie Crust Cookie.
But before we go into the details of this delicious cookie, Janie’s story needs to be heard. In her early 20’s, Janie was an alcoholic and an addict. Her addiction eventually lead her to being homeless and isolated, with no communication between Janie and her family and friends. Her life was at a standstill, and close relatives started to feel helpless after telling her multiple times to get sober. It was a dark time for Janie, who says that her problems with addiction had been building for years, due to her inability to deal with stress and anxiety. . But when Janie turned 25, something inside of her changed. She started to crave the desire to turn her life and to become sober one day at a time.
Janie found a job as a superintendent in a building in the East village where was taking people’s garbage out but “living life!”. She started to realize that she wanted to develop skills of her own and pursue a career. One thing was crystal clear to her though: in order to deal with her anxiety and stress as well as continue to combat her addiction, she needed to have control over the results in what she did. And that is why baking was perfect for her! She baked a lot of cakes as a child with her mom, so she knew she was good at it. And it turns out that baking is more than creating something sweet. Baking is accompanied with a broad amount of psychological benefits. Baking for Janie, and for many others, allows her to cope with stress, to express her love, to communicate better with others, and to give back to those who always loved and supported her. Baking gives Janie control in her life as well. It is a step-by-step process, always (well, most of the times) following the same metrics. If you put the right amount of sugar, butter and flour, you will always create that perfect cookie.
Years of gaps in her resume and very few work experiences were no excuse for Janie to not start taking her life back. “I mean, I wish I could put my sobriety on a resume because what I’ve learned from not drinking has totally changed my life. It is crazy for me to think of the person I was at 25 – always scared, meek, filled with fear and no concept of self love. What I have developed in the past six years is all about strength, courage and learning to follow through. I have found the real me – not the better me, not the worse me but the real me. And that is a huge blessing”.
Taking a leap of faith, Janie made her first investment in herself and purchased her very first $25 mixer. She started baking pies and cakes, the sweets that brought her the most joy as a child, and she would bring them to friends’ dinners and parties since it was all she could afford to offer. But people would immediately ask her where she bought these delicious treats! And they always kept asking for more. It was because of these friends and family that supported her that Janie started regaining her self-confidence and pride in her work that had been lost for many years.
“I was definitely scared to start since I did not go to culinary school. I would keep thinking: Who am I to think that I could be a business woman?! But it’s funny because whenever I think about what type of career I want, I always tell myself: one where I am able to work out in the middle of the day or grab lunch with a friend. But so you hear this word “entrepreneur” and it freaks you out because it is such a big word. But I’ve come to realize that if you are doing something you love, then you are already an entrepreneur”.
And so right before turning 30, Janie decided to fully focus on growing her business. She stopped working as a superintendent and as a nanny, and committed to her dream of being an entrepreneur. Since she needed financial help, Janie applied for the Pepsi’s “Stacy’s Rise Project” and won the grant because of her story. This program was specifically focused on elevating women in the food industry through an entrepreneurship program – and that is exactly what happened. For the past two years it has been a nonstop mission for Janie to be completely genuine and dedicated with what she is doing. She wants her story to reach as many people to encourage those who have struggled with an addiction or those who lack the courage to build a business due to self-esteem. “I think that is why people keep asking for more. I mean, the cookies are great but people really relate on a personal level with what I am doing. You need to find something that sets you apart from the others; that is how you succeed”.
As for what the future holds, Janie wants to continue doing corporate catering and selling at local markets but is looking to switch her products to consumer packaged goods to reach a wider audience. She knows that it will definitely get more challenging as the business grows since she is the chef, the sales person, the PR person, and everything in between. “It is hard to keep the business alive while trying to grow it. Seeing me on my Quickbooks is like pulling hair!” But New York City is the city to be when seeking business resources. There are so many programs for small businesses and people to connect with and Janie has found a lot of support in this community. The food industry, surprisingly enough, is very nurturing of each other – especially among female-owned businesses.
Past experiences have led Janie to value what is important for her, what her goals in life are and what it takes to pursue them. She intends to be a second chance employer, and work specifically with homeless shelter and halfway houses to be a resource for a community that she was once a part of. Janie is the perfect example that you do not need to have a particular degree to pursue a dream or discourage yourself if going through a rough time. Dedication, passion, and a genuine mission will get you far ahead of the game.
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