Stories of Small Business New Zealand

The Story of Yelena & Cookoo Sweets

The Story of Yelena & Cookoo Sweets

​Let’s start with who you are?  Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I'm Yelena. I was born and raised in Kazakhstan, and moved to New Zealand nearly 10 years ago to study my Masters and have called it home ever since. I live in Auckland with my family and raise two wonderful kids (and two cats that also think they're kids)

And what is Cookoo Sweets? Tell us more.

My little venture is Cookoo Sweets - I handcraft cookies with royal icing for any occasion (and 'no occasion' is reason enough to treat yourself to some edible art). I operate from my registered kitchen in Kumeu (Auckland) and deliver nationwide.

What encouraged you to start your business?

Like many kiwis, COVID made its adjustments in my life. I was about to return to my full-time job from maternity leave in April 2020, but my position was disestablished (like many others in my company). Back in 2015 when my son was born, I started doing cookies and thought at times I may turn it into more than just a hobby. Now I didn’t have any other excuse not to give it a go!

Interesting fact, the name cookoo is from Russian “kuku” – a peekaboo equivalent that my youngest one loved to play.  

What did you do before creating your business?  Tell us your journey from there to here.

I'm a digital analyst with 13 years of professional career in government, research and media industries. In my last role I was looking after digital analytics and insights for one of NZ’s biggest media companies.

The Story of Yelena & Cookoo Sweets

Knowing what you know now. What would be one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Believe in yourself, it's going to work out even better than you ever wanted.

What are some of the highs and lows of running your business?

For me, the biggest high is to be able to work around my kids’ schedules and spend more time with them. I can’t stress enough how I appreciate it now that I don’t spend two hours a day in traffic. My biggest low is not being able have a clear separation between work and home. I’m a one (wo)man band and do everything from social media to packaging. It’s very important to have down times and I’m trying to work on finding this balance. 

What the biggest lesson you have learnt in your small business?

Take breaks to refill your inner self. Operating your own business is a 24/7 job and if you can’t give it your 100%; if you’re only running on 50%.

What is one piece of advice you would share with someone just starting out?

Don’t wait for the perfect Monday, 1st day of the Month or next year. Start today with something small – just one tiny task will make this whole big mechanism work.

What do you love most about your business?

My customers. And the ability to bring their ideas to life. I absolutely love that I have orders for baby showers, hard rock birthdays and corporate cookies all within one week!

The Story of Yelena & Cookoo Sweets

Share 5 things that bring you joy?

My family, travel (oh I miss it so much), laughs with friends, food (especially Eastern European and Central Asian), my couch (I’m a potato couch ninja).

What do you do for some time out or when you need a break from your biz?  What resets that light inside you?

I always plan to tidy up the mess in the house, but end up meeting with friends. I also love spending evening on a couch eating sunflower seeds and watching some trash tv.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee. I currently only work during my little one’s day nap and at nights after kids go to bed. So coffee is the only thing that keeps me alive.  

How do you balance business life + motherhood?

It’s a hard one. Unlike corporate world where work finishes at 5pm, here you’re always ON. I won’t lie, it’s a big struggle and continuous fight with mum guilt feeling, but slowly I’m trying to find this balance (we have a “no phone” policy during dinners now).

What is one quote are you are always drawn to?

Friendship is like peeing on yourself: everyone can see it, but only you get the warm feeling that it brings

What can we expect from your business in the future?

The first on my list is a website for better and smoother customer service. I also have lots of ideas for new additions like decorating classes and various kits! So, bring on 2021!


You can get in touch with Yelena via Instagram!  (And make sure you go check out all the cookies, they are A-MAZING!).

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