These Cookies are too Pretty to Crumble
Everywhere NECC alumna Renee Terry ‘13 looks, she sees design inspiration for her sugar cookies.
Even a simple image can send the Amesbury resident’s mind to imagining layers of royal icing in vibrant or muted shades kissed with sanding sugar to create original designs. Each cookie is a diminutive work of art that the owner of Sweet Cheeks by Renee hand decorates herself.
As so often is the case with entrepreneurs, the 30-year-old’s journey from early childhood education graduate to cookie and cake company owner was a happy and successful accident. The Haverhill native came to NECC after starting at a four-year college where she hoped to channel her creativity toward interior design. Unhappy with the program and the debt she was incurring, she enrolled at NECC with the thought of pursuing a childhood vision of becoming an educator.
“When I was younger I thought I wanted to become a special education teacher having grown up with an uncle who is deaf and intellectually challenged,” she says.
While attending NECC full time, the self-taught cake decorator also worked full time perfecting her talent and creating a style at food market bakeries and a cake shop. It was there that she began experimenting with custom cookies.
“I started to accept that this was my talent,” Terry says. ”This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what makes me happy.”
For the next two years, she supported herself as a substitute teacher while developing her business plan and beginning to bake cookies, first in her 600 square-foot apartment and, when she outgrew that, in her parents’ kitchen. She also got married and started a family.
Once she and her husband Joshua and son Bryson settled in a house with a small but efficient kitchen, she grew the business.
“In the beginning I was using basic cake decorating knowledge, but now I look to artwork for inspiration,” she says. “I’m constantly changing my technique and look. My designs aren’t stagnant. I never do the same thing twice. The textures and dimensions I use set them apart. Every time I create a new set of cookies I say ‘This is my favorite set so far.’”
With more than 15,000 Instagram followers (@sweetcheeksbyrenee), it is clear others have their favorite sets too. Terry is building on this momentum and developing classes, workshops, and private video tutorials.
And what about that NECC degree?
“One great thing I’ve carried with me from Northern Essex has been time management. That’s where I learned to juggle school, work, and life,” she said.
Now that the family has rounded out with the arrival of baby Jolie this summer, Terry anticipates using her early childhood education training while raising the children. Bryson has already learned a lesson – in the Terry household, cookies are all business.
She will be teaching cake decorating classes for NECC this June through our community education culinary classes to be taught at The Heights at Haverhill building which is currently under construction on Merrimack Street. The second and third floors of the Sal Lupoli building will be the home of NECC’s new culinary arts certificate program in the spring of 2020 and the hospitality management associate degree program in fall of 2020