Alex Copeland tried numerous “day jobs” before becoming a full-time entrepreneur. On this quest to find something that fulfilled him, one thing remained constant — cookies. Eight years ago, Alex decided to combine his two passions to create Plenty O’Cookies, a drag queen cookie-decorating business. Read about how he turned his side hustle into a full-time gig!
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Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
Plenty O’Cookies is a drag queen cookie-decorating small business. It provides custom-decorated cookies for any event. Alex, aka Plenty O’Smiles, is a drag queen who hosts cookie-decorating workshops showing individuals how to decorate cookies from start to finish.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I’ve always loved baking and I wanted to work for myself doing something I am passionate about. I went home and looked up some recipes and techniques on how to decorate cookies and practiced in my free time. I started selling my cookies to clients and at Bambi’s Farm Market. I’ve now been decorating cookies for eight years.
What inspired you to combine making cookies with doing drag?
I’m not exactly sure. I just remember thinking, I have these two passions so why not see if I can make them work together.
How did you fund your business at the beginning?
I worked a day job. Before I started cookies full-time, I was working at a bank as a teller. I always said decorating cookies was my side hustle. But now cookies and drag are my only job!
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
I don’t know if there was a moment, but seeing people’s faces as they pick up their cookies always confirms this is what I want to be doing.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
Being an entrepreneur and business owner means I can use my platform to spread joy, awareness for LGBTQ+ and social justice issues, and try to make the world a better place. I want to use every day to be better and help people.
Is that how you define success as a business owner?
I never thought I would be able to help with cookies and drag. Success means helping any way I can while doing the things I love.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
The city of Columbus has been so supportive of me and my business. The community continues to build me up.
Are you from Columbus?
I am from Canton, Ohio and I came here to attend Ohio State University.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Find something you’re passionate about because it makes the “work” so much more rewarding. I love to bake and it allows me to find love and joy in my “work.”
What were you doing before you started Plenty O’ Cookies?
I was working different jobs on and off trying to find something I enjoyed. I had worked at a multimedia consulting firm, restaurant, credit card company, jewelry store, and bank. I bounced around but cookies were always my constant.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
I wish I knew how to set aside time for myself. It’s so easy for me to work from when I wake up until I fall asleep every day.
What’s the most challenging part of your business?
Turning down clients. I always want to be able to make cookies for people.
How did you find/grow your client base?
It was all word of mouth and social media. My friends and family helped to spread the word and then I would share my creations online and my base grew.
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
My flaw is working too much. I think if you asked my friends and family they would say I’m a workaholic.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
I think you have to work harder than you think and some people don’t expect that when they start their own business. My parents have instilled a very solid work ethic in me and I put in the time and effort to grow.
What has growth looked like over the years?
It continues to evolve over time. Whether it’s orders or people following my progress, it all grows as I grow.
What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
I don’t think I’ve made a big mistake. Knock on wood.
What tool has helped you the most for your business?
Honestly, my friends and family have helped my business the most. They are always there to bounce ideas off of, help me when I need it, encourage me, and even advise me on small business tips they’ve learned through their own experiences.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
I knew it was time to expand when I was so busy I was getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night (or no sleep at all). I knew I needed help or to make changes to sustain my business.
What did these changes look like?
Delegating tasks, I had way too much on my plate.
What is something that you did that was a game changer for your business?
I bought a house in 2020 and converted my basement into a kitchen devoted only to my business.
What was an idea that you spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference in your business that didn’t pan out?
I really research everything thoroughly so I don’t think there has been anything that didn’t pan out or have a positive impact on my business.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
I spend a lot on kitchen tools like a large mixer and a cookie printer, and they have both been worth it. Over the years, you discover what works and what doesn’t, so every cost has benefits.
Is there a kitchen tool you bought with high hopes that you ended up barely using?
My dough sheeter – it rolls out the dough for you but rolling the dough out by hand is actually easier. the
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
I am very excited to work on having monthly sets. I want people to be able to submit orders through my website for monthly themed cookies.
What tools/resources have been integral to your entrepreneurial journey?
My entrepreneur friends have been integral to my journey because they all have different knowledge that helps me to grow. They understand my journey, which is so helpful and awesome.
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
I use Instagram and Facebook mostly.
Who is your best Columbus resource?
My friend Natalie is the owner of Natterdoodle and she is my best Columbus resource. Her small business skills have helped me so many times and she is a wonderful human being.
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
My family and close friends. They are always so supportive.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
I see my business in a storefront. I want to expand and continue to grow my skills and baking knowledge.
What was the single worst decision you made regarding your business and how’d you recover?
Not making big moves earlier. It’s good to research and make sure it’s the right fit but sometimes you have to make the hard decisions and just go with it.
What held you back from making big moves? And what convinced you to finally go for it?
I think it was always just mental blocks. There’s always the thought of, what if it doesn’t work? But I planned and made sure I would make it work and then made the moves.
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?
Sometimes I take a nap, sometimes I find something to make me laugh, I will go on a walk, or just talk to my mom. Take some time away from work to breathe.
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
The saying, “If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life,” is so wrong. You will push yourself to work harder than you ever had when you’re passionate about what you do.
What’s your end goal with the business?
My end goal is to have a shop and bake lots of goodies for the people of Columbus. I want to change the world with baked goods.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
I have two friends who are entrepreneurs. Natalie of Natterdoodles and Ty of Queerencia.
If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?
I would tell them to have some Jeni’s ice cream, walk through the Short North or German Village, and just enjoy the community.