From behavior analyst to cookie decorator, why one Hawaii mom made the switch during the COVID pandemic

HONOLULU (KHON2) — “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

It’s a quote we’ve all heard before but rarely act upon. While most people opt for something more stable, one local mom is taking the leap — in the middle of a pandemic — to do what she loves. It’s something, she says, will be worthwhile, but be ready to put in the work.

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“Decorating sugar cookies takes a lot more time, physical work, and concentration than a lot of people realize, and I honestly believe that I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this full-time if I didn’t truly enjoy creating custom edible artworks for people’s events,” she said.

For 12 years, Cat Langan has worked as a behavior analyst, most recently helping children with autism and their families during the day, while decorating cookies at night. Though she enjoyed working with them, she also loves being creative and providing treats for people.

“I’ve always been artistic and have dabbled with hand lettering and drawing, but when I started to work with royal icing I knew I found the art medium for me,” she said.

In July 2021, Langan decided to put her career on hold to pursue her cookie business, with the support of her husband who she credits with giving her the confidence to do it.

“The pandemic also helped to influence my decision to do cookies full-time,” she added. “My kids are six and eight years old, and I wanted to have the flexibility to be able to care for them if they needed to quarantine at home or do distance learning.”

Cat Langan made her kids Santa beard cookies with some extra dough she had in December. (Courtesy: Cathryn Langan)

The 37-year-old mom behind Sugar Cookie Co. says running her business from home allows her the freedom to cater to their needs. While she has no regrets making the career change, it wasn’t all sugar and sprinkles in the beginning.

“The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was dealing with imposter syndrome,” Langan explained. “I started selling my decorated cookies just two months after I first started decorating, so I went through a period where I doubted my abilities and felt like a fraud.”

But as more customers kept coming, Langan learned to get over that hurdle because she knew they wouldn’t continue to order if her cookies weren’t worth it. She says hearing feedback from customers is what keeps her going and helps to remind her that she’s putting out quality product.

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my cookies,” she said, “but I’m learning to realize that it’s okay if my cookies aren’t 100% ‘perfect’ because I’m not a machine, I’m a human being who creates cookie art. That being said, I still strive to produce cookies that will ‘WOW’ at your event.”

Cat Langan’s DIY cookie kits in December included 12 vanilla bean sugar cookies, 5 colors of icing, 2 ramekins of premium sprinkles, and a brief instruction sheet. (Courtesy: Cathryn Langan)

Langan says business stayed busy during the holidays while she worked on custom orders and offered DIY decorating kits — she also offers these for holidays like Valentine’s Day and Easter.

Currently, Langan only teaches private decorating classes in her customers’ homes. She mostly teaches beginner’s classes where cookies and icing are provided and is starting up intermediate decorating classes where she’ll review different techniques for airbrushing and painting.

Her long term goal? To open a cookie studio to teach these classes, a dream of hers.

“I started looking into potential brick and mortar spaces in February 2020 right before everything closed down in March,” she said. “This year I am renovating to have a designated cookie studio in my home with more oven space, so I am looking forward to being able to take on larger orders this year.”

For those also looking to make a career change, Langan offers this advice: Look for a career that you are passionate about or find joy in doing.

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

“Even if you aren’t fully in love with the new potential job, if it’s something you’re interested in and can find joy in doing, I think it would make the career change worthwhile,” she said.

From behavior analyst to cookie decorator, why one local mom made the switch during a pandemic

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