Life-Changing Baked Goods: Janie’s
You may see it as a delicious treat -- and believe us, it's delicious -- but to Janie Deegan of Janie Bakes, "This cookie is my future."
Janie originally started baking as a form of self-care during a period of recovery, after struggling with addiction and homelessness as a young adult. Slowly, as her skills and confidence grew, she began to nurture her baking hobby into a fledging small business.
What started with Thanksgiving pies and selling special-order cakes to neighbors and at small markets has evolved into a success story, thanks to her creative product, hard work, and a couple of life-changing opportunities.
When a friend suggested that Janie try to make the best part of a pie into a cookie, she accepted the challenge and began experimenting with recipes. After several round of development in the kitchen, the Pie Crust Cookie was born. Janie entered a competition sponsored by Stacy's Pita Chips and was awarded a scholarship that provided her with the financial support to focus on perfecting her signature item. She also participated in the food business program at the International Culinary Center. During the final presentation of the program, a top food industry expert proclaimed the pie crust cookie to be the "next Cronut."
Photos by Isabel Epstein
Through a passing suggestion from another vendor at a local market, Janie got connected to the Harlem Local Vendor Program (HLVP), a business development initiative of the Columbia University-Harlem Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Janie applied and was accepted into the HLVP 2018 cohort. Said Janie of the experience, "There's no price you can put on that program, to take a course at the Columbia Business School -- it's an education in building a business."
Janie now works on her product at the Hot Bread Kitchen Incubates, a shared kitchen space and business support program located in East Harlem dedicated to helping budding food entrepreneurs. HBKI is a partner in the HLVP.
Even though she's since completed the program, the network of support Janie found through the entrepreneur community, HLVP, and at Columbia has continued to grow. Following the HLVP vendor showcase in January 2019, the Pie Crust Cookie was selected for retail at Columbia Dining's Uris Deli at the Business School. "I grew up 10 blocks from Columbia. I was not an Ivy League student -- I barely made it through college. So to not only participate in a course at Columbia, but to have my product sold to best and brightest is so cool -- it's like coming home to me."
Janie behind the scenes at Hot Bread Kitchen Incubates; photos by Studio Smith Photos
What does success look like for Janie? Beyond sharing the love of the Pie Crust Cookie with as many as possible, she wants to share her passion for baking and lend support to others who may also be struggling. As her business grows, Janie is dedicated to developing relationships with local shelters, halfway houses, youth centers and rehabs through mentorship and second chance employment. "Learning to bake and developing a business has changed my life -- and I want to help give that to others," she says. "I'm a warrior now."
Learn more about Janie and her products at janiebakes.com.