Meet Viktor, his wife Jacqueline, their daughter Isabella and their cookie business Meu Doce Pará. They make a living by baking and selling minuscule cookies, of which the baking is done in a small kitchen of their apartment.
This family lives in Belém, in an apartment with two rooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Yet they have enough space to invite travelers on a regular basis through Couchsurfing, which is how we met.
Size and Quality
Initially we can’t take these cookies seriously. I mean, a cookie the size of the top of your little finger? Is there anything to savor at all? Viktor opens a package and we politely pick one, although it is tempting to take a handful. That temptation grows as we taste the cookies. Boy, they are good!
In fact, I think the size is a great feature of the product. While I appreciate one biscoito at the time – that takes discipline, I admit – I know I can take another, and a third without stuffing myself like I tend to do on regular cookies (of which you also want more than one, right?).
“What we like about our business is that we earn according to how hard we work. If we bake many, we sell a lot and earn good money. If we want to take it easy, we make fewer and are happy with that. We control our own lives,” Jacqueline explains.
From IT to Baking Cookies
Viktor used to work for an IT company. His work was okay but not too exciting and the pay wasn’t great either. When the company had to cut down on expenses and employees were laid off, Viktor had figured out how he could live his life more rewardingly. He decided to be his own boss so he could do something he liked doing and would have control over how much money he would earn.
He grew up with cookies baked by his mother. Viktor remembers how everyone had always loved these biscoitos, and his mother often gave them away as presents. As Viktor stood on his crossroads, he figured he could make a business out of it. By then he had met Jacqueline, and she had already been initiated by her future mother-in-law into the secret of the recipe.
They decided to give it a try and simply started baking and selling. In Brazil this is called a producto artesanato: a handmade product produced on small scale that is sold at fairs, events or through direct contacts.
All they need is a table for Jacqueline to prepare the dough (“It’s not the ingredients but the proportions that matter,” she tells me), to unroll it in narrow slices and cut it with a knife in the tiniest pieces. With a speed that betrays practice she lays out the pieces on the baking sheet, which is then handed to Viktor.
Meanwhile he has prepared the maracaju juice, which will be added to the next batch of dough. He sits on a bar stool and gives the cookies the extra bite by putting the tiniest pieces of cupuaçu, para nut, goiaba or other delicacies on top. Or, if clients like custom-made cookies, Jacqueline and Victor will prepare those as well.
Let’s not forget the overly important role 2-year-old Isabella has in all this: She is the confirmation of good dough: she eats it by the handful!
The baking sheet goes into the oven, only a short time because of the size of the cookies, and ready they are.
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
When one afternoon Viktor and Jacqueline return from a fair we can judge from the size of bag they haven’t sold an overwhelming number of packages. Here comes the spirit for which I have come to love this couple. To our question “How did it go?” they don’t say they haven’t sold much.
Viktor says, and I can see it comes from the heart, “We sold a few. That’s great, isn’t it?”
We hope Meu Doce Pará will continue to do well and keep that spirit.