Red Rooster Cookie Jar

Red Rooster Cookie Jar

Making the move from even a successful home-based business into a brick-and-mortar, commercial space can present a major challenge for any entrepreneur or small business owner. There is a business plan to revise, a location to find, a landlord to negotiate with, permits to be acquired, and much more. And so it was for Yvonne Conti-O’Brien, the founder and culinary genius behind Red Rooster Cookie Jar, a unique and now prized bakery in Lady Lake, Fl, when she decided to take the risk and make the leap. Fortunately for her, early in the process she turned to the Sumter County office of the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF (FSBDC at UCF). It made all the difference.

Red Rooster Cookie Jar is no ordinary bakery and Yvonne Conti-O’Brien is no ordinary baker. Specializing in a wide variety of delicious cookies and other treats, this small, hometown bakery makes everything from scratch, hand stirred and, according to Yvonne, packed with “a whole lot of love”. With an owner who is a resident of The Villages and active in the local community, Red Rooster is locally owned and sources its ingredients fresh from local businesses and farmers. There are no bakeries within a 40-minute radius that provide anything like what Red Rooster has to share with its community. With over 100 cookie recipes, and a special and different “cookie of the week”, Red Rooster’s business recipe of fresh ingredients, friendly service, and love allows the company to crow that it offers the “best treats you will ever put in your mouth. We guarantee it.”

After a career as a middle school Spanish teacher, Conti-O’Brien founded Red Rooster in 2018, baking from her home. Business was good selling at farmers’ markets and fairs, but space limitations began to infringe on the company’s growth. When she began searching for a commercial property, her real estate agent raved about the assistance she could get from the FSBDC. “I am just so grateful to him that he suggested it,” Conti-O’Brien recalls, “because I didn’t know where I was going to get the help I knew I needed.”

Working with her consultant Jamie Mead, the Sumter County area manager for the FSBDC, Conti-O’Brien received assistance with understanding her lease, obtaining necessary permits, completing Florida Department of Agriculture filings, reviewing financial projections, and going over her revised business plan. “Everything from A to Z, you name it business wise, Jamie helped me through the whole process,” she shares today. “It just made things so much easier for me, so much easier to understand because I knew I could trust her, that she was going to help me and get me through, that she had my back. I would not be sitting here right now or even be in my shop if it wasn’t for the FSBDC’s and Jamie’s help.”

Red Rooster Cookie Jar celebrated its grand opening in November. Customers were three deep at the counter and the line was out the door, and business has stayed strong. “We are selling out all the time,” Conti-O’Brien says proudly. “We have a constant flow of customers coming through the doors. It’s just been wonderful.”

“The SBDC helped me so much,” Conti-O’Brien concluded. “When I was working out of my house, I was very limited, especially in the space I had for production. Being able to get a commercial space has helped me not only grow our customer base but also our product line. If I didn’t have this space and the SBDC’s help, I would never have been able to realize all of this awesome stuff that’s happening to us. Thank you, Jamie and thank you, FSBDC.”

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