You've got mail: Sweet Treat delivers tasty greetings
Local entrepreneur will appear live on Fox Morning News
|Christine Couto bakes all her cookies in her home kitchen. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)|
January 20, 2010NORTHFIELD — Would you rather receive a greeting card that plays music, or one that comes in a keepsake tin with a jumbo, homemade cookie? That's the question Christine Couto asked herself after plunking down $8 for a musical greeting card, and her answer came in the form of Sweet Treat Greetings.
In September, about a month after being laid off from her full-time job at a residential rehabilitation center for women, Couto came up with an idea that would get her back in the workforce doing the things she loves – baking and making people happy.
"I'm not one to sit around doing nothing," said Couto, who lives in Northfield with her husband Mike. "People have been bugging me for years to do something (with my baking skills) for a living."
Couto now uses those skills to bake six varieties of jumbo cookies that people can purchase online and have sent to someone special.
Despite her knack in the kitchen, everything else it takes to make a Sweet Treat Greeting has been a learning process for Couto.
"I had no idea what an LLC was, but I had to become one," Couto said with a laugh.
She was also told she needed to retain a lawyer to establish a trade name and trade logo. Couto almost dropped $700 on a lawyer who would have filed the paperwork for her, but at the last minute called the state and was told all she had to do was fill out two forms, for $50 each, to get her trade name and trade logo.
"Something I learned is you can do the research yourself," Couto said.
Having worked in the food service business, Couto already knew how to order products to make her cookies, but it took some creative thinking and trial and error to perfect her product. At first she used a sealing machine she already had to seal the cookies in bags but found it was mission impossible trying to get them back out. A new sealing machine she found online cut the sealing time down to seconds, and now the packaging looks better and is much easier to open.
Couto also discovered that muffin-top baking tins are the best way to ensure her cookies bake into a perfect circle, something she hadn't really thought about until it came time to bake her trial recipes.
Sweet Treat Greetings arrive in the mail in a colorful bubble-wrapped envelope.
"I wanted people to get it in the mail, like a card … I'm all about the Kodak moment," Couto said. "When you get it, it looks like a present."
Open that present up and you're looking at a keepsake tin decorated with one of four original paintings created by Couto's artist sister, Donna Self. Open the tin and there's a personalized greeting card imbedded in the lid, and of course, the jumbo cookie. Customers can choose from Intensely Chocolate, Simply Superb Sugar, Outrageous Oatmeal, Marvelous Molasses, Phenomenal Chocolate Chip, and Stupendous Peanut Butter. Couto chose the kinds of cookies her four adult children have always liked.
"I just wanted to keep it basic, homey," Couto said, "that 'mom' kind of thing … they're recipes that have been tried and true over the years."
Those recipes helped land Couto on Fox Morning News in Boston, where she'll chat with Morning News co-host Kim Carrigan Jan. 25. The day the news team received the Sweet Treat Greetings Couto had sent to them, the show's producer called and invited her on to talk about her business. Couto has also sent cookie greetings to WMUR Channel 9 News and Ellen, among others, but hasn't heard back from them.
Couto said her husband will go with her to the live broadcast but will not appear on television. He has been very supportive, she said, and even had shirts made with the Sweet Treat Greetings logo for their trip to Boston.
Couto hopes the show will help spread the work about her business, which has been slow in its beginning stages.
"I'm not out to make a million dollars," Couto said, but she would like more people to know that there is an alternative to pricey greeting cards that typically get thrown away after a few days.
Once business gets rolling, Couto would like to donate some of her profits to charity and has a special place in her heart for soldiers who come back from serving overseas. Her younger sister served in Germany for six years and had trouble transitioning back to "normal" life in the U.S.
"She had nothing when she got here," Couto said.
Couto is also looking into the technicalities of shipping cookie greetings to soldiers currently serving the country and said that if it's possible, she'd like to offer a discount to customers who are sending greetings to military addresses.
As business increases, Couto said she plans to offer gluten free and sugar free cookies, as well as more artwork to choose from. She'll also start attending wedding shows, using the tins she'll make for her son's October wedding as samples. Those tins will be specially made with magnets featuring the bride and groom and their wedding date, and Couto said customers will be able to order similar personalized tins in bulk as wedding favors.
Ordering details can be found online at sweettreatgreetings.com. The cookie, card and tin retail for $9.95, including postage.
Couto will appear on the WFXT Fox 25 (Metrocast Cablevision Channel 6) Morning News at 8:20 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, to talk about Sweet Treat Greetings.