Lifestyle & Culture

Baking Up Icebreakers

July 20, 2015

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Bushel & Peck Baked’s macaroons. / photo by Grace Donnelly

A GOOD COOKIE can a good meeting make.

As professional leadership coach and mom, Sara Lacombe knows a thing or two about both. What surprised her was how well the two can go together.

“Cookies in meetings are usually an afterthought – they’re big and often part of a packaged lunch that you eat because you’re bored,” says Lacombe, 43.

But put out a plate of good cookies and you’ve got yourself an icebreaker.

Realizing this, the former HR executive decided to pour her business savvy, love of cookies and baking talent into a side business, Bushel and Peck Baked. And since launching last September, her tasty conversation starters have livened up many a conference room.

In her past life  she was always striving to build engagement and a sense of belonging, make routine meetings better and increase connection. How? Offer something special — a  dulce de leche macaroon, a fresh ginger cookie, a tray of shortbread. “People see food as a reflection of how the company feels about them,” she says. “It’s not about spending a lot of money, but picking really good food that people want to eat. It’s also a way to get to know your employees.”

It may keep her in the kitchen of her Bethesda home until the wee hours of the morning, but making cookies that bring people together – both at the office and at home – is what she feels driven to do.

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Chocolate sea salt thins. / photo by Grace Donnelly

“Starting Bushel & Peck Baked taps into a couple of visions – the first being an opportunity to integrate the beauty, strength, talents and elegance of three generations of women, past and present, in my family,” she says. “The second vision is around love and belonging. Cookies bring out our innermost child.”

Food is her family tradition, says Lacombe.  Her grandmother connected family members by  preparing elaborate feasts, and her mother, who made everything from scratch, made it a point to make each meal better than the last. Her parents were pros at entertaining. A favorite tradition was a New Year’s Day party serving the game her father had hunted and her mother prepared, and, of course, an array of desserts.

Lacombe’s career of nearly 20 years has been focused on human capital, organizational design and leadership coaching. She held several senior HR positions and completed a leadership-coaching program at Georgetown University before going independent in 2012 with her coaching and organizational consulting business, DreamBig HR.

All the new possibilities excite her.  “I love the idea of this (cookie business) being the creative outlet to the other half of what I do,” she says.

For now, Lacombe offers only a few scrumptious selections, such as the chocolate sea salt thins and macaroons, that greet visitors to the Bushel & Peck Baked site. She’s tailoring her core items to her customers’ palates.

“The real person emerges when they are connecting with me or someone else over a cookie,” Lacombe says proudly. “In the beginning I thought it was circumstance. Then I noticed the pattern. I just continue to be blown away by it.”

–Mía R. Cortez



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