We had the good fortune of connecting with Tammy Kotara and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tammy, what do you attribute your success to?
The word success can have so many different interpretations! I’m a small business mom who recently left her career as a music educator to dedicate more time for my son’s special needs at home. As a mom, success is in that work-life balance (still chasing this one), where I can be invested in helping my son and find personal fulfillment in creating something for others. As a small business owner, the resiliency of never giving up, hard, gritty, exhausting work, the never-ending creativity of being an entrepreneur, and the connections I’m making with my community all contribute to the growth and success of my cottage bakery.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Three years ago, my husband asked for decorated sugar cookies for Christmas. This was huge! He’s the kind of guy who buys himself what he wants, never asks for anything, and is really hard to gift the “perfect gift.” I’d baked a ton as a kid, especially as Christmas gifts, so I was excited at the prospect of finally making something I knew he would enjoy! After a night or two browsing YouTube and Pinterest, I was floored at how much decorated sugar cookies had changed since I was a kid. Undeterred, I dusted off my apron, watched a ton of videos, and started baking! Little did I know this would be the beginning of Night Owl Bakery.
At the time I owned a voice studio. I loved running my own music business and the relationships with my studio families! However, the hours were hard. I worked most days, nights and weekends; my poor little boy didn’t see much of me. I started decorating cookies at night after my son went to sleep as my “me” time to decompress. It was a time for me to learn a new craft while my husband worked late nights building his own business. I practiced, failed and kept tweaking recipes as I learned about fickle royal icing and decorating. Eventually I started receiving request for paid orders and Night Owl Bakery was born!
The pandemic hit and everything changed. My voice studio moved completely online and I lost about half of my studio in the transition. I started baking more to compensate for the financial impact. Everyone I knew had kids at home; cookies were a treat for a lot of families!
Working from home, I realized how much my son wanted to be with me and I struggled with work life balance. At the end of the 20/21 school year, I made the decision to end 16 years of teaching and close my voice studio. It was a tremendously difficult decision, but the right one for my family. My son is older and we are discovering special needs of his that require attention; I am so thankful I’m in a work situation that allows more flexibility to be there for him!
With the extra time now, I’m finding my groove as a cottage baker and cookie artist and figuring out the right business model for the bakery. I bake primarily for holidays and have a menu each month that features different kinds of decorated cookies. Logo cookies and custom orders are offered, as well.
Starting any business takes a ton of persistence and resilience. It’s so easy to have a few failures and think “I can’t do this.” One of the phrases I never let my voice students say was, “I can’t.” Something about singing could be new, challenging or abstract, but students were never given the choice to “not do.” When I first started baking, that became my mantra. “I don’t know how to do this yet, but I will.” Failures were learning opportunities and a chance to do it better the next time. Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He never gave up and saw failure as opportunities for improvement. That kind of persistence and resiliency can build anything with the right creativity, dedication to learning, and persistence.
Right now I am continuing to build my skill as a cookie artist, testing a few new ideas and dreaming big! It will be fun to see where this business goes in the next few years!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh no, I don’t get out much! Because of my work schedule these past years and child, I haven’t really had much adult time away.
If my BFF with family were to come into town, we’d do all the kid things during the day. In Dallas we love the Zoo, the Arboretum, the Perot Museum and Aquarium. We are parents of curious boys, so places to learn and let them run around are a win! In Frisco we have Hope Park, which is an AMAZING park for kids of all abilities, a perfect fit for our 3 boys’ diverse needs. We love Blaze Pizza and Rudy’s with our son.
After hours, I’d take my parent friends to Legacy West in Plano– lots of great places to hop around for food and drinks.
If I could schedule a girls’ day out, I’d take my mom friend to Skinn Bar Frisco for a facial (AMAZING) and Villa Nails &Spa for a mani/pedi. We’d stop by Poparella’s Gourmet Popcorn and Treats for fun popcorn for a home movie night.
Sometimes the Dallas Symphony Orchestra has matinee concerts that are kid-friendly. We’d for sure check the schedule to see if we could arrange an outing to a concert!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family, neighbors and friends who encouraged me when I first started baking! Had it not been for them, I likely never would have taken the leap to start a cookie business. My husband, Victor, who started this 3 years ago when he asked for decorated sugar cookies for Christmas and has supported me ever since! All of my amazing clients who support my bakery– thank you!
Facebook: Night Owl Bakery
Lauren Bethany Photography