As a little girl, Sara Leand loved her Easy-Bake Oven so much that it helped spark a passion for baking that would propel her to eventually found a cookie business—out of her college dorm room.
At the University of Arizona, Leand sold her homemade cookies on campus. “It sure beat working at McDonald’s,” she says. “Soon I was selling my cookies all over campus and at local stores.” However, she became a victim of her own success; her college cookie biz usurped all of her time. So the cookies were shelved, and Leand went on to build a successful career in television production on both coasts. Still, in 2009 she decided to return to her first calling. “I was living in New York, pregnant with my first child, and knew I wanted to continue working—but commuting to Los Angeles was not going to work for me. I was so stressed that I started to bake.”
She coined her nascent cookie biz Sara Snacker Cookie Co. (sarasnacker.com). “I had a very hard time finding a commercial baker. One day a Food Network special mentioned a small facility in New Jersey. They helped me develop a larger volume recipe for my signature cookie, the Chipn’etzel”—made with potato chips and pretzel bits. Leand has since moved Sara Snacker’s production to New York.
Because she outsourced to a commercial bakery, the initial investment was modest—in the range of twenty-five thousand, she says. “However, as the business has grown, it has required more capital, which we have funded through our own money. At this point, we are looking at leasing and other alternatives for the investment required for additional equipment.”
Headquarted in Rye, today Sara Snacker employs 28 and produces one ton of cookies each month. Sara Snackers are available at retail locations throughout the East Coast and Midwest, including D’Agostino, Zabar’s, Gourmet Garage, and, most recently, The Fresh Market, a national, upscale gourmet grocery chain with 110 locations. Sales volume has doubled in the last three months alone. Leand says the company is now “looking into getting into more and more supermarkets across the country.”