After 28 years of teaching in Canton and other school districts in five states, Toni Cotopolis wasn’t interested in returning to the classroom.
Instead, she found a new passion in baking, specifically gourmet cookies. She and a partner launched 4 Cookie Divas, which went from being a hobby to a full-fledged business in 2008 when it joined the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Her original partner left after a year for other endeavors. After 14 years in business, Cotopolis now has three part-time employees. 4 Cookie Divas is a home-based Canton business.
“With our specialized cutout cookies, we help promote businesses and individuals, assisting with their gift giving angst and celebrations,” said Cotopolis, who has a son Brian and a toy poodle named Cookie. “We only make one cookie, cutouts. Cookies are made to order and decorated by hand. No gimmicks or special tools. It is art on a cookie. Like an artist knows which brushes to use to get a certain effect, we have to know which decorating tips to use.”
She added that she will be 76 years young this year and has cut back on some activities.
“I am not ready to retire yet, but have slowed down a bit,” said Cotopolis, who graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1969 with a degree in art education and completed post graduate work in special education at Kent State University.
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How did you develop your recipe for your cutout cookie?
We make one cookie, butter cream cookie with butter cream icing. The recipe was in a cookbook that belonged to my aunt.
It was handwritten so I don’t know who she got it from. I tweaked it a little.
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Many people think your cookies are a work of art. Do you consider them a form of art?
Having an art background helps a lot when working out decorating ideas.
Knowing which icing tips to use gets the job done. We decorate for all occasions, showers, birthdays, graduations, weddings, all holidays, etc.
Would you share some tips for those who might want to start their own business?
I do feel I could contribute a bit to young entrepreneurs because I went from the classroom to being a business owner. The learning process was exciting.
Learn as much as you can about the field you want to go into. Scope out the competition. Join a professional organization, like a chamber. Also, get involved with the community by volunteering.
My business grew by having memberships in the CRCC, North Canton Chamber, Canal Fulton Chamber, NSME, and the Jackson Chamber (when there was one), Tri-County Restaurant Association, and at one time, being active in all of them. Currently we are members of CRCC and NSME (National Sales and Marketing Executives).
I would take cookie samples to most meetings. I found that branding through networking, a quality product and the best customer service are the key to success. Many people know “The Cookie Diva.”
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What have been some of your favorite events to setup at over the years?
We have also made our company known by volunteering for chamber events and community organizations such as Vintage Canton, Blues Fest, Light up Downtown, the Palace Theatre, Be a Better Me, Celebrity Cuisine, Canton Kindness Coalition, and several Hall of Fame events. We have also donated cookies and/or coupons to numerous fundraisers.
4 Cookie Divas also initiated “Cookie Capers.” At the beginning of the pandemic, with the help of other chamber members, we donated cookies to volunteers at Refuge of Hope, Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank, and Total Living Center, to name a few.
My favorite “set up” event was Celebrity Cuisine. The company participated in the event for three years, giving away 800 cookies each year. The exposure is fantastic because over 1,200 people attend the event. Now we work as volunteers for the event.
While your cookies are great for dessert, what are some of your favorite places to eat around the county?
Supporting locally owned restaurants is my priority. Many favorites are Arcadia Grill, Basil, Desert Inn, White Crown, Meyers Landing, Sparta, to name a few. In my opinion, they all have great food, service and prices.
Editor’s note: Five questions with … is a Sunday feature that showcases a member of the Stark County community. If you’d like to recommend someone to participate, send an email to [email protected]
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