Muriel Kingery turns baking hobby into a business with Sundog Handmade – Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Linda Kingery says her daughter Muriel has always been interested in baking. Now that little girl has turned that passion into a side job that is growing in popularity.

“She’s been a helper in the kitchen for most of her life,” Linda said, “and I think she’s adding a lot of creativity to it. I really admire how she has developed her creative skills, especially in the decorating side of things. ”

Muriel, 38, started her Sundog Handmade business last year after receiving her Minnesota Cottage Food Producers Association certification. She works full-time at Bemidji State University as an associate director of the Hobson Memorial Union.

After work, she gets busy in her home kitchen, creating a variety of baked goods that are sold on her website. Her most popular items are sugar cookies, which she intricately decorates for all occasions.

Sundog Handmade bakery owner Muriel Kingery decorates sugar cookies for a space-themed fifth birthday party.

Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

It makes for a busy life, with support (and dishwashing) from her husband, Bryan McCoy. But Muriel says she has figured out how to handle both jobs.

“One of the things I really like about the work I do at BSU is that I have a very flexible schedule,” she said. “I am the advisor to the Campus Activities Board. Some nights I work later into the evening. I try to plan out ahead of time. “

She added that if she has too much BSU work in a week she makes sure not to take on too many orders, because it’s not fun if she is doing too much of both.

“I know when I take the order what the needs are,” she explained. “So some orders I can just bake them and package them up and have them ready to go for the next day.

If I’m doing some pretty intricate cookie work, for example, that’s usually a two- or three-day process. I bake them one night, then put on a base coat and then do the detailing later. I’m trying to be really good at planning in time to photograph them before I send them out the door. I’ve gotten a lot better at it after a year. “

Muriel’s introduction to baking began when she was a preschooler at the family’s home in Puposky. She also learned from her grandmothers when she visited them.

“I was really privileged to have two really wonderful baking grandmas, and my mom is an incredible homemaker of all sorts,” Muriel said. “Both of my grandmothers and my mom were really strong women and really good inspirations for me.”

Muriel graduated from BSU with a degree in creative and professional writing and earned a master’s in public administration at the University of North Dakota. She worked for the UND Foundation for two years before the couple moved to Bemidji in 2018.

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Sundog Handmade bakery owner Muriel Kingery decorates sugar cookies on Tuesday, March 15, 2022, at her Bemidji home.

Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the BSU campus during the winter of 2020-21, and Muriel was working from her downtown Bemidji home, she made the decision to apply for the Cottage Food Producers certification and to start Sundog Handmade.

With a marketing plan that included mostly social media and word of mouth, she made her first sales during the first week of February 2021. She launched her website, sundoghandmade.com, a few months later.

“I’m really thankful to some of my first customers who shared with some of their people and kind of helped spread the word,” she said. “So it was pretty organic in the beginning. It’s been working really well, and because this is something I do on the side I can’t take every order.

“Occasionally I do have to turn people away. And occasionally they ask for something that I just can’t do. I can’t do a four-tier wedding cake. If you want little stacked cakes I can do that.”

Muriel recently joined the Minnesota Cottage Food Producers Association board of directors.

She explained that the MCFPA certification is not a license, but an exemption from a license.

“We have some really strict labeling rules,” she said. “Everything we produce needs to have a label that says this is from my home kitchen and it’s not inspected. It has to include your address or cottage foods registration number. We really hold ourselves to the same food safety standards. ”

Feedback from customers has been especially rewarding. Many Sundog Handmade sales are for special occasions like birthdays.

“I think it’s so fun to be a part of people’s special celebrations,” Muriel said. “Many of them send me a picture of their loved one holding the cake or the cookies. There’s nothing better than getting that picture of little kids holding their very best cookie. “

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Sundog Handmade bakery owner Muriel Kingery decorates sugar cookies for a space-themed fifth birthday party.

Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

She’s up for just about anything, like the woman who wanted a German chocolate cake for her mother’s 80th birthday.

“That was one of the later nights where I asked, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ The coconut pecan filling was just giving me a little bit of trouble and I really believe that my Grandma Georgie was watching down on me from heaven. She made the best German chocolate cake. I think she would have approved of this one. ”

Muriel also has started doing cookie decorating classes. The first one was held on March 12, and the next two are planned for April 9 and April 30. Details are available on her website.

From that early start at her mom’s knee, Muriel has turned a hobby into a budding business.

“We did a lot of baking together,” Linda said. “But none of it was as fancy and as creative as what she’s doing now.”

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