We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristy Greenwood Bortz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristy, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I know, or at least I think that I know, that typically a participant in SHOUT picks a question that they are “good at”. But for some reason I feel that this question about risk, something I am really NOT good at, is the question I should address. I grew up thinking that I had to be perfect in order to be loved (typical Virgo) so taking risk was not a part of my MO. If a person takes risk and then fails, well, then clearly that person is not perfect and the shame of it was just not something that I was ever comfortable with. That was, and probably still is, to a degree, my thought process. But part of what drove me to open my own business was to make people realize that they are amazing, exactly as they are. That life is amazing, that we are all doing the best that we can and what we do and who we are is AMAZING. So, those two ideas – the first one: trying to be perfect, which is confining and doesn’t allow for many risks, and the second one: recognizing that we are all amazing, are constantly battling one another. My business was born out of challenge – breast cancer. Prior to getting ill I was working as a baker but always thinking that eventually I would have to leave the culinary world to do something “more”. What was “more”? I don’t know – go back to school for a Masters in something, get a “grown up” kind of job. But after getting sick I came to realize that if we, all of us, just did what we really love, what we really feel inspires us, we would be contributing so much more to the world and to each other than if we simply got the 9 – 5 job, brought home the paycheck and the 401k. I’ve been in business now for 13 years and I can tell you that there have been a lot of ups and certainly some moments that were down. Right now, things are pretty scary. But I’ll still take scary over bored and uninspired. I’m not sure you can call that taking risks but its the closest I can come!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My business is about fostering connection through the gift of cookies – whether that gift is from one customer to another or simply for the customer to herself. In my heart the cookies are much more than something to eat; they are a delicious way to say “thank you” or “I love you” or “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m so sorry for your loss”. I do sell cookies at the retail counter every day to folks who eat them before they even get to their cars but the majority of my business is customers who wish to send a gift. And that really resonates with me. I have been baking for other people since I was a child and I know very very well the joy in both the giving and the receiving of cookies. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that what I work to create is manifesting delight and comfort to people all around the country – folks I will never meet but who send emails or call to say how much they enjoyed their shipment. As for the cookies themselves, I am a bit obsessive. I love to eat and I love to create unique flavors that aren’t the usual offering at other shops. This morning for instance I will have 23 varieties available ranging from the classics like Chocolate Chip with Walnuts to the more unusual like Mango Sour (a sourdough cookie with tamarind and candied mango), Salty Maple Pecan Shortbread, Cowboy Joe (an oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and pecans and rolled in cornflakes), and Diablo (a dark chocolate cookie with cayenne and cinnamon and black pepper). Each day as I take a look at my orders, set up the retail display, answer my emails, I try to give each person, each cookie, my best. I remind myself that each person is special, take no one and nothing for granted.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wow, this is a question that is so very different today, in the middle of the pandemic, than if you’d have asked me when restaurants and bars were thriving, fun places. When I personally visit a city I have a whole agenda prepared for where I want to eat, whose food I want to try. Right now here in Denver we are still in the middle (although coming out) of social distancing, restaurants able to operate only at 25%, etc. I would say that the best food right now, in this moment, is in my house as my husband is a trained chef but we don’t even have guests in our home at this time. Food people are giving folks, people who want to feed other people so this time of no gathering is particularly hard, I think, on us. But to get back to your question if I did have a friend visiting, I am still blessed to live in Colorado. Simply driving through the state is awe inspiring.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d have to say that there are two people that really stand out in the picture of my business. The first is obvious to even the most casual observer. My husband Greg is my everything. I worked for him in his bakery (The Denver Bread Company) for a decade before opening VLC (and also before marrying him) and when I decided I wanted to create something for myself he graciously made space in his bakery for me to start and grow my own business. It was the perfect fit for someone with no capital and still on the mend from cancer treatment. I was a one person business for that first couple of years; being with Greg and his bread crew was a comfort as well as simply convenient. The second person is a man named Dan. If I were an actor I would say Dan gave me my first “big break”. I had never met or even heard of Dan until the day he called me saying he was looking for a cookie business to send out corporate thank you gifts. He said he would need approx 120 boxes of two dozen cookies a piece shipped each month and that he expected that number to grow with time. Could I do it? Frankly, I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off but I said “yes, absolutely, I can do it!”. And that number did grow. Pretty quickly the orders increased to fifty or sixty boxes PER DAY. I hired, I trained, I honed. Dan really gave me and my crew an opportunity to see what we were capable of – we loved it. Sadly after three years, Dan sold his business so we are no longer baking for him but we know that we are ready when the next big break comes.
Facebook: Victory love + cookies
Other: For a quick take on what we do / who we are check out the Wild West Sweets episode (season 3 / episode 8) of the Cooking Channel!