Have you ever been gifted something and then wanted to know everything you could learn about its creator? That's how we felt the first time we tried one of Jasmine Cho's adorable (and delicious) sugar cookies. There was something quite magical about what she was creating, and we knew we needed to know more.
And then, as it so often happens, we began to see Jasmine's name pop up all over Pittsburgh.
We took it as a sign that we needed to meet Jasmine and learn more about her and her business, Yummyholic.
All we can say is this, girlfriend does NOT disappoint. The more we've gotten to know Jasmine, the more we want to spend time with her and learn from her. We also want to be a fly on the wall of her kitchen and watch her work. Because her cookie creations are, simply put, magical.
We hope you enjoy getting to know Jasmine as much as we have. And if you ever get the opportunity to try some of her cookies, jump on it. PRONTO.
For those that don't know you, tell us about yourself and your work.
A phrase that would best summarize who I am would be "cupcakes and drop kicks." You either know me from my crazy, cute pastries or through my father who is a world renowned martial artist and Grandmaster in Tae Kwon Do. Gradually, over this first year of my business though, I think more and more people are specifically identifying me as my business, Yummyholic (i.e. "Oh! YOU'RE Yummyholic!).
Yummyholic currently operates as an online bakery, where I specialize in creating custom cookies and cupcakes that taste as amazing as they look! My mission with Yummyholic is to spread joy throughout the world by filling it with both happy tummies and happy hearts.
In order to make this a reality, I follow three core values that guide my business: Creativity, Culture, and Community.
When it comes to creativity, I play with both the designs and flavors I create so that they deliver delight to all five of your senses. The one product that really distinguishes my work creatively from anyone else, though, would be my portrait cookies. These are basically edible hand drawn portraits completed on cookie canvasses with royal icing and sometimes includes painted detail with food coloring. The biggest compliment I've received regarding my work with portrait cookies would be how I managed to somehow capture the soul of a person with sugar.
Culturally, I strongly identify as Asian American (more specifically as Korean American), and I naturally draw inspiration from my background. However, incorporating culture into my business and brand is also done intentionally in order to do what I can to address issues that are important to me, like encouraging diversity and inclusion.
By creating flavors like my Korean Fried Chicken & Waffles Cupcake and building a cookie portrait gallery to celebrate Asian Pacific Americans whose stories are deeply underrepresented, I'm aiming to engage people to learn more about Asian-American history and identity in the most inviting ways possible.
Finally, the "happy hearts" I create through my work are primarily made possible by official partnerships I have with two local non-profits: Beverly's Birthdays and The Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. Beverly's Birthdays organizes birthday parties and baby showers for children and families experiencing homelessness. I wholeheartedly agree and support their belief in making sure everyone feels loved and celebrated. One of their agency partners happened to be the Women's Center, which supports women who are victims of domestic violence. Being a survivor of an abusive relationship myself, there was an immediate personal connection, and it was a natural fit when they were looking for someone who could regularly provide birthday treats for the children and families they serve.
A cookie or cupcake might seem like a small thing, but the joy and light they can bring into people's lives is a testament to how baked goods can move the world in the sweetest ways!
Have you always been an artist and/or a creative person?
Definitely! I remember being able to draw for hours on end and constantly using my parents' typewriter as a child to write Shel Silverstein-esque poetry.
My childhood dream was being an artist, but it was quickly deterred by my parents who preferred that I pursue a career in medicine or law instead. It's terribly ironic though, because both my parents have artful, creative tendencies, and it was only after I was in my early to mid-20s that my dad admitted it might have been nice if I had studied art to become an art teacher since I clearly had a gift. But he also is known for saying, "Too late can be on time," so I'm pursuing my gifts and passions now without any remorse. :)
At what point did you decide that cookies were your medium?
In retrospect, I'm not sure what initially inspired me to really focus on cookies, but the way an un-iced sugar cookie works just like a blank canvass for me probably had a lot to do with it. When I was just starting to own up to the fact that pastries were the one thing that truly made my eyes light up and heart flutter, I decided that I had to get a job at a bakery in order to really explore whether or not my excitement was just infatuation or the real deal.
Without any culinary training or prior work experience, I just jumped in and started creating YouTube videos of me making cookies and animating them via stop-motion. These videos eventually became my portfolio, and I e-mailed links to five local bakeries to try and get any job that would help me learn the ropes of the business. I heard back from all five and ended up becoming the Head Cookie Decorator at a bakery in Aspinwall. I lived and breathed cookies pretty much nonstop for the couple years I worked there, and it confirmed that my love for them was for the long run.
When it comes to the work you do, what makes your eyes light up and your heart beat a little faster?
(That's so funny, I pretty much wrote exactly this phrase in my previous answer before realizing this would be the next question).
I'm not sure I can completely explain why, but desserts have always captured my heart. I've always had a sweet tooth, so when I'd look at pictures of cakes, pastries, cookies, and more, I'd automatically start salivating, imagining how exquisite each treat would taste. The beauty and mastery that goes into the assembly of most of the desserts I'd gawk at would also inspire me. That flutter in my heart would transfer to a trembling in my hands to want to get into the kitchen and start baking.
I guess what I had always imagined as the end results that motivated me so much were 1.) gaining complete personal satisfaction in having created something beautifully delicious and 2.) being able to multiply that satisfaction by sharing it with people I loved and wanted to gift joy to.
When it comes to my work, I'm fulfilled knowing that I'm not wasting away a talent and gift I've been given, and that I'm doing what I can to multiply my blessings by sharing them with the world. It just feels like I'm shining the way I'm meant to, and that's an incredible feeling that's hard to explain with words.
We've been so inspired watching your business grow. What has been your biggest lesson as you celebrate your first year in business?
So. Many. Lessons!
The biggest lessons for me in my first year were deeply personal, really revealing my raw self when I didn't feel quite ready to have such an honest look. Being an entrepreneur introduced me to whole new multi-layered levels of vulnerability that made me face up to the most uncomfortable realization that I owned very little self-worth. I valued others and others' (assumed) opinions so much more that it reflected most in my business through under-pricing. I suffered a great deal of feeling completely overworked and underpaid, frequently working through a lot of regret after the completion of projects when I wouldn't have enough money or energy to take care of myself.
Realizing how little self-worth and self-care I practiced was the first step. The second part was to own up to my true value by replacing all the self-criticism with recognition and celebration. As difficult as some parts were, I undeniably had a fantasmical ass-kicking first year. I won a grant that allowed me 5-6 months of free commercial kitchen space, had a successful crowdfunding campaign for a dough sheeter and then manifested the equipment completely for free the day my campaign ended, I was featured in a WQED holiday documentary, met Hines Ward, donated nearly 2,000 cookies and cupcakes to charity, and this is just a handful of highlights from so much more that happened!
The first year felt like a constant uphill journey, but I gradually felt like I was starting to level off toward the end of the year and am now more on a happy skip and stroll. It all came down to making shifts necessary to make sure my inner well of love was abundant enough to draw from!
Is there anything you would have done differently?
As challenging as it got at times, every step I took and every hurdle I overcame was a huge lesson that got me to the more serene place I'm now operating from. When I think of looking back in order to make changes, it feels like I'm yielding power to regret. I rather keep present and keep pushing ahead, pivoting where I need to in order to make my venture sustainable.
Where do you see Yummyholic going in its second year? Any big dreams that you'd like to share with us?
Ensuring that Yummyholic can continue for not only a second year but many more years to come is a definite priority. Immediate growth plans are to slowly open up to wholesale and participate more regularly in events. Yummyholic operated at a loss in its first year, so the focus is on generating profit in order to actually work as a business.
Aside from business logistics though, I've been contemplating returning to school to earn a degree in Art Therapy. I don't believe that you necessarily have to have a degree in order to pursue your dreams, but I actually just really want to learn and connect with others in the process of that journey.
I'd love to then build a Bake Therapy program that I hope can bring healing to all the communities I'm already connected to now through my charitable partnerships (children and families experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic violence). I also hope to impact local refugee and immigrant populations and envision the Bake Therapy program naturally transitioning into a workforce development program, where whoever I might strike a chord with in the world of pastry will want to seriously pursue their craft and work as a Yummyholic joyologist helping me create a vast amount of happy tummies and happy hearts throughout our community. <3 :)
Famous last words... What advice would you give to other women who are looking to find their joy in this world?
Look and journey within.
A quote that anchors me is: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do that. Because what the world needs is more people to come alive."