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Anne Yorks, of Flour Box Bakery, to Keynote Ag Springboard

Posted: April 2, 2014

Entrepreneur to tell her story of custom, creative cookie decorating business April 10 at student business plan competition awards banquet.
How do you build a successful custom cookie business from scratch? Listen to Anne Yorks tell the story of Flour Box Bakery during the Ag Springboard Awards Banquet April 10

How do you build a successful custom cookie business from scratch? Listen to Anne Yorks tell the story of Flour Box Bakery during the Ag Springboard Awards Banquet April 10

Cookie designer Anne Yorks’ bakery business in Zion began with a simple goal: Find a fun, creative way to earn money that allowed her to be at home with her young children.

Done. 

And along the way, over nearly seven years, her custom cookie design business took off. The popularity of her specialty and custom-decorated cookies has led her to expand to teaching her design techniques to home bakers, sell the cookie cutters and decorating tools she uses and to a Facebook following of more than 367,000 and climbing. 

Yorks will tell the story of building her own cookie design studio and business from scratch during her keynote address at the Ag Springboard finalist event and awards dinner April 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Nittany Lion Inn. 

Ag Springboard is a student business plan competition that awards a $7,500 grand prize to a student team with the best ideas and plans for a new business in the food, agriculture and bio-renewable energy sectors.  

Five finalist teams selected from 17 entries will present their business plans to a panel of judges, receive valuable feedback and mentoring and compete to win the top prize, and a $2,500 second place prize. 

“Ag Springboard represents an opportunity for students to gain valuable resources to start their own ventures,” says Dr. Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar & Entrepreneurship Coordinator at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. 

“They can gain real-world experience, network with potential investors, receive valuable advice — and they have great odds to win the $7,500 prize.” 

Check out the student teams and their business concepts. This year’s competition is the third. Previous Ag Springboard competitions were held in during the fall semesters of 2011 and 2012. 

From the outside of Anne Yorks’ Zion home, the garage like any other. But inside is a registered bakery kitchen all decked out in pink where Yorks designs, bakes and decorates her custom cookies. 

Yorks has dreamed and decorated a cookie version of just about anything you can think of: lovebirds decorated as a bride and groom, blue and pink baby carriages, princesses, peacocks, flowers, butterflies, superheroes, sports jerseys, iPhones, leprechauns, hardhats, saws, hammers and houses for the Home and Garden Show. 

Yorks was always the cookie-baker in her family, especially at holiday time. 

Six years ago, she left her position as executive officer at the Builders Association of Central Pennsylvania, to start a family with her husband Topher Yorks, a senior producer and director at Penn State Public Media, and started making cookies for family and friends. 

“Our goal was to do whatever we could to raise our family and have somebody home with our children,” said Yorks. Once her oldest daughter was born, Yorks began experimenting with decorating cookies with royal icing and worked on communications part-time for the builders association. 

Yorks started Flour Box Bakery — named for her love of flowers and the main ingredient in her cookies — about four years ago. In time, the cookie-making operation outgrew the family’s small kitchen. 

With the help of a neighbor and carpenter, plus a lot of sweat equity, the Yorks converted their garage to a cookie studio. 

“There were tears. There was some blood. There was a lot of sweat,”  says Yorks. “I don’t know if we would do it again.” The project entailed hanging and finishing drywall on all four walls, installing a new floor, finding and rehabbing kitchen cabinets and counters, installing metal counters, a sink, commercial oven, commercial mixer, and a corner for office space. 

“I remember coming out here and thinking: ‘It’s not going to get done if I don’t get started,’ ” says Yorks. Now, she is uplifted as she steps into the sugar-scented air of her own bakery with its commercial oven, pink cabinets, pink commercial mixer, and a giant cookie cutter of a gingerbread man decorating a wall. 

Shelves hold Yorks’ collection of about 1,000 cookie cutters. In the last year, Yorks has also seen and answered demand for instruction in her royal icing cookie decorating designs and techniques. 

She holds classes at the Flour Box Bakery cookie studio, taught classes in March at CookieCon, a cookie art convention and show held in Salt Lake City and this fall will travel to Madrid, Spain, to teach at a small private event. 

Yorks has also started to sell instructional videos and the cutters and decorating equipment she uses via her website, flourboxbakery.com. 

“The reality of owning your own business is that you have that control to set your schedule and decide what you want to do,” says Yorks. “But if you want your business to move forward and actually be productive there’s a reality check. This is what I need to do and I have to get it done.” 

Add Yorks: “The one thing I’ve really learned is that there is absolutely no replacement for really hard work,” says Yorks. “There is no way around it.” 

Now, a lot of that work is starting to pay off. Yorks is booked with orders through July and is a Facebook cookie phenomenon with a soaring following. Yorks will share her story and its lessons to the student competitors at the Ag Springboard finale April 10.