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Cincinnati, OH, 45227

Ohio Explored's mission is simply to awaken people to the beauty of Ohio.

little red bird

Ohio Made

little red bird

Kate Bresnan Messa

little red bird is a Cleveland-based company that creates incredible small batch, customized funfetti cookies. We interviewed business owner Sarah Kijinski to learn more about her delectable treats.

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Tell us about your business.

little red bird is my custom cookie business. I have a "licensed home bakery" in University Heights (on the East side of Cleveland). I sell custom cookies, participate in local markets, teach classes, and give free help and support to other cookiers (and other women small business owners, and other human beings...) whenever I can! FREEBIRD by little red bird is an offshoot of LRB that caters to my fellow humans with dietary restrictions. Because of some food allergies, food intolerances, and an autoimmune disease, I don't eat gluten or dairy - so I wanted to make junk food for people like me! FREEBIRD has various options for people who are gluten free, vegan, paleo, and dairy free.

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What drew you to your craft?

I've always been a creative person and a maker, and I took art classes from elementary school through college. I bake to unwind and to express love! Last fall (i.e., fall 2017) I started watching Food Network's Christmas Cookie Challenge and got deep into some online tutorials and got reaaaaaally into the idea of teaching myself how to decorate cookies professionally. I think I'm drawn to it because it combines making and baking :) And so then I started LRB!

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What is your favorite thing you have ever made?

It's so hard to choose! I really enjoy designing cookies for other local makers and businesses, though. I made some Emily Roggenburk shirts for her store opening that still have quite a bit of real estate in my heart! Also, I did actually cry with joy over something I made once - which sounds very narcissistic, I know - I was working on a gluten free and vegan sandwich cookie recipe and I teared up when I figured out the creme filling because I hadn't eaten a real Oreo in 6 or 7 years, ha!

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What did you want to be when you grew up?

To be clear, I'm still growing up! When I was little, I wanted to be an artist. I've wanted to be a lot of other things since then! I'm sort of an artist now, right?!

What is your creative process?

I have a whiteboard in my dining room (which is my main workspace, as our kitchen is pretty small) and I write on it all the time. Words, little sketches, random ideas, etc. I yell "Hey Siri," and have my phone write down my ideas for me when I have my hands full (which is really often, considering I have a toddler). Or I ask Amazon Alexa to remind about a thought later. I take (phone) photos of what inspires me when I'm out in Cleveland. And I follow a lot of makers and foodies, especially local ones, on Instagram. I love finding other cookiers on social media and there are so many talented people to connect with and get inspired by - the internet can be the worst sometimes, I know, but I really love the community I'm finding.

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What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

My advice to myself 10 years ago is more personal than business-related (but then again I think for a lot of us who see ourselves as creatives or who start our own businesses it's inherently personal, for better or for worse). I'd tell 22 year old Sarah to just give in and be herself, to not take it all so seriously, to stop trying to figure it all out immediately, and to recognize that she is enough and she is worthy of love. Also would have been nice if I had gotten diagnosed with ADHD earlier than age 25, so...I'd advise myself to address that too? Ha.

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Why is it important to support local artists & makers?

Because human connection is magical! I mean that, as sappy as it sounds. And when you support local and small, you're showing love to your community. You're directly impacting a life of another person and that person is so grateful for you (even when we appear to simply be a frazzled and exhausted person behind a market booth!). In a more practical sense, you're putting money right back into your local economy and that benefits you, too. All that being said, having a household budget or extra cash that allows you to support local artists and makers is a privilege that not everyone has, and I fully respect that.

Why do you love doing what you do?

I love working with my hands, I love food, I love making friends, and I love being my own boss.

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What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?

On the business side: make it legit (licensing, LLCs, etc.) as early as you can, and familiarize yourself with the boring stuff like taxes. Otherwise it's all going to sneak up on you at some terribly inconvenient time, so take care of it before you get too busy.

On the personal side: don't forget you're a human being and not a human doing. You are not defined by your productivity or your to-do list! Prioritize and triage so that you can still practice what makes you happy while owning your own business.

What is your favorite thing about exploring Ohio?

The people exploring with me, the new friends we meet, and the snacks we eat along the way!