Story by Gary Budzak
A Sunbury woman is successfully running a licensed home bakery and promoting her products on social media.
Marna Cakes has attracted a following on Facebook and Instagram for custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies. Word-of-mouth raves had led to classes and videos, as well. She even supplied cookies for swag bags at the Sunbury Big Walnut School District groundbreaking for a new elementary and high school earlier this year.
“I grew up baking with my maman (mother) and have always loved baking and decorating,” said Marna Niese (pronounced “niece”) from the dining room of her home. “Some friends and family were like, ‘You should sell this.’ I’m like, ‘Oh gosh no, who would buy from me?’”
A former pediatric nurse who has lived most of her life in Sunbury, Niese is now a stay-at-home mother of three sons: Rick, 6; Benjamin, 4; and Will, 1. About two-and-a-half years ago, Niese was baking a batch of cupcakes that she didn’t want to eat, and she told her husband, Rick, to take them into his workplace. One of his co-workers asked if Niese could make some Pokemon-themed cupcakes.
“It kind of snowballed from there,” she said. “I made a Facebook page, and it took off and kept me really busy. We have some really great customers who keep coming back. So now it’s good that it’s not just sitting here, but we can give it to other people and try new stuff.”
Niese estimates she spends 20-30 hours a week working at her business, but it’s broken up each day. Mornings might be spent baking, while decorating and packaging is done around her children’s nap times and bed times. Husband, Rick, an engineer, helps as well.
“It’s so nice to be able to do this and stay home,” Niese said. “My boys take up a lot of time. It is nice to go at your own pace and do stuff in stages.”
Self-taught at decorating, Niese watches baking videos online to get lots of ideas and inspiration.
While most of her customers are local, Niese said a Facebook follower from Cleveland ordered cookies for her daughter in Lewis Center; and cookie orders have been shipped out of state.
Her sons love getting the extra cookies that may not be shaped or decorated perfectly.
“My little ones will say, ‘Mom, did you mess up? Can I have a mess up?’ They get their fair share.”
Niese sells cookie-decorating kits for kids and families to try their hand at it — a dozen baked cookies, with bags of icing and sprinkles. In addition, she has begun teaching others how to decorate baked goods in classes at Sunbury restaurants PJ’s and Firehouse Tavern. She said there will be future classes to come, including one at the Hobby Lobby at Polaris Fashion Mall.
“I’ve done it since Valentine’s Day,” Niese said. “People kept saying, ‘Oh, you should have classes.’ I was surprised how much I loved doing it, just to see people’s reactions that I can do this, too. They might say mine don’t look like yours and I’m like, ‘I’ve done thousands.’ I don’t think there’s a secret — I think anyone can do it. It just takes a little practice.”