Huong Nguyen never thought she would make a living by baking cookies.
The New Orleans native, who has lived in Ocean Springs for six years, started out making and decorating goodies for her friends and family. That hobby grew into her home-based business, Huongry Cookies, which she founded in 2019.
“Growing up, I was very creative in design and art and enjoyed watching my parents cook and bake,” Nguyen recalls. “I love to be in the kitchen cooking and learning new skills. Decorating sugar cookies was only a fun (activity) that I never expected to turn into a career.”
Her business boomed quickly, and Nguyen has found herself booked solid ever since. The talented baker went from making cookies for a Thanksgiving potluck to competing on Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge.
“It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she says of her TV appearance. Being on the challenge made me realize my work is being appreciated and acknowledged.”
A BAKER AND A LEADER
Nguyen has many other accolades to her name. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of New Orleans and has been a community leader in her hometown from the age of 15, when she got involved with the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans (VAYLA). She’s particularly proud of working with young people in the New Orleans East community on issues including the education system, health system, civic engagement, reproductive justice and quality of life. She also co-founded one of the first Young Women’s Leadership Program in New Orleans when she 17 and initiated the first women’s flag football tournament there — winning the most valuable player award at age 19.
To Nguyen, community means coming together to celebrate milestones and improve the quality of life.
“I enjoyed working with my community members to rebuild our neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina,” she says. “Giving back is important because it creates a sense of community that cares.”
SMALL PERSON, BIG ENERGY
As a business owner and Asian American, Nguyen makes a point of incorporating her culture into everything she does — including her baking.
“I wanted to make sugar cookies differently, so I tried making cookies with traditional Asian flavors: lychee, pandan, ube, durian and jackfruit,” she says. “And now, the traditional flavors are popular, and it’s what makes my cookies unique.”
Although she spends 12-14 hours per day baking and decorating her creations, Nguyen still finds time to contribute to causes she cares about — and her efforts have earned her numerous awards — including the Service Leader/Youth Ally Change Maker Award from the Gulf South Youth Action Corps, second runner up in the ASPIRE Outstanding Woman of the Year Award and the Youth Service Award from VAYLA and GCW’s 100 Successful Women to Know.
“I am a very small person but filled with lots of energy,” she says. “I am a hard worker and put all my effort into my work.”
Eventually, Nguyen aspires to open her own storefront and offer classes there, in which she would impart her cookie-decorating skills to others. Another goal is to hire young people and give them opportunities to achieve their dreams as she has.
“Continue to do what you love,” Nguyen says, “and your work will reward you in many ways.”