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Let’s Eat: “It all started with a hug” (15 photos)

Home-based baker Julie Colquhoun talks about her cookie business, Sonshine Sweets.

The owner of Sonshine Sweets, Julie Colquhoun says she made cookies over Christmas in 2020 as something to do during the pandemic. In the beginning, she was giving them to friends, family and neighbours, but after the holidays, she still had the itch to make the beautifully decorated cookies. 

“It all started with a hug,” she says with a laugh. She made round cookies and piped the top half of a gingerbread man on it, along with the words, “cookie hug.”

“I mass produced those and whenever I went to an appointment or to a lab, or anywhere where there were frontline people, I would give a little bag of hugs out,” she explains. "One of the fellows I gave [them] to was screening at a clinic. He burst into tears and said, ‘You gave me a whole bag of hugs! I haven’t had a hug in such a long time!’ It was so impactful for me, how meaningful such a simple thing could be.”

Recipients of her cookies started asking her if she could make cookies for special occasions such as birthdays and bridal showers. “It’s really taken off,” the home baker says.

The cookie base can be vanilla, chocolate, gingerbread, lemon or strawberry flavoured, and some customers have asked for cookies with lavender, or with cardamom. Colquhoun also  experimented to come up with delicious vegan and gluten-free options. The icing is usually lemon or vanilla flavoured.

In addition to enjoying cooking and baking, Colquhoun says she has always loved painting. Sonshine Sweets gives her an opportunity to combine those two. “I’m a single mom of two teenage boys, who, at the time that I started this, both started working part time,” she says. With her children busy at school or work, the cookies became a creative and enjoyable way to fill time.

The cookies are popular for holidays such as Valentine’s Day or Easter, and clients also order them for a variety of occasions, such as graduations, retirements and bachelor parties, to name a few. Special cookies for a “girls’ night out” are also a thing, she says.

She also makes “paint your own” cookies that come with an outlined picture, a tiny brush and a set of edible paint. “People send pictures back of the results,” she says, which she appreciates. Those are popular with kids, but some clients have requested them for seniors as well. “It’s an activity for them to do, and they can enjoy the cookie afterwards as well,” she says.

Sonshine Sweets is a home-based business, and most customers pick up their orders at Colquhoun’s home in the Mariday Park area, on the Port Arthur side. Delivery is available upon request, and Colquhoun has even shipped cookies across the province, to Ottawa, Huntsville and Sudbury. “I’m surprised that they order from here, rather than find someone in Ottawa,” she says gratefully.

It has been a little over a year since Colquhoun started her cookie business. “It’s been more than I could have hoped. I have to say, I’m enjoying the creative process of it tremendously,” she says. She still has a full time job in addition to Sonshine Sweets, which can be challenging at times, but she says it’s all worthwhile when customers contact her to let her know how much joy the cookies brought the recipients. “I’m so grateful that I’m able to do this,” she says.

Although decorated cookies have been her mainstay so far, she has gotten a few requests for cakes and cupcakes, and she hopes to branch out a little in the future.

“Cookies are my passion. I get a lot of pleasure out of doing them, the creative process,” she says. “I just enjoy people coming and challenging me to come up with different creative ideas. It keeps me engaged and keeps me enjoying it!”

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