Sarah Van Horn – Van Horn Cookies and The SodaBar

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What’s the origin story of your business? 

You wouldn’t believe it, but my business all started with a birthday! Back in 2014, I made decorated sugar cookies for my daughter’s first birthday. I was totally hooked on the process – the details, the creativity, it was all so fascinating.

A few months later, someone asked me to make cookies for a marriage retreat. Word spread from there, and I started getting a steady flow of custom orders. Fast forward to 2020, when we moved to Murfreesboro. I knew I wanted to keep baking, so I started selling my cookies at the farmers market. It was important to me that people knew my cookies weren’t just pretty, they were delicious too! So, I’d hand out samples – and that strategy worked. Orders kept growing, and things were really taking off.

Then, in August last year, we decided to take a leap and get a food truck. That’s where the cookie ice cream sandwiches came in – a delicious combination of my cookies and locally-sourced ice cream from Nash Family Creamery. We’ve been serving them up ever since.

Just recently, things got even more exciting! Scott Rainey approached us about buying his business – a family-friendly spot. He knew we already had ice cream expertise, and he wanted to see the legacy continue. It was an incredible opportunity, and we’re so excited for this new chapter!

What’s an obstacle that you’ve had to overcome to build your business?

 There’s no instruction manual! You might think there would be a clear path to follow, but nope – it’s all about figuring things out on your own.

In the beginning, I just wanted someone with all the answers, someone to tell me exactly what to do. But quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. It’s all about trial and error. There were things I had no idea about, like filing taxes every month (and the penalties for not doing so!).

Starting a business from scratch meant dealing with everything, from the creative side to the nitty-gritty administrative tasks. That was a huge challenge for me – the behind-the-scenes stuff wasn’t exactly my strength.

But guess what? Learning the hard way is what builds resilience. It’s what makes or breaks your business. And the fact that I’m still here shows that I truly wanted this.

What is unique about owning and running a business in Murfreesboro?

One of the most unique things about running a business in Murfreesboro has been the incredible sense of community. It’s like everyone wants to help each other out. We started small, selling just a few cookies at the farmers market, but from the very beginning, things just grew organically. I met my first employee there, thanks to a recommendation from her dad!

Word-of-mouth spread quickly, and I’ve been so grateful for the warm welcome we’ve received. People here are friendly, supportive, and genuinely kind. It’s no wonder our motto is ‘step zero is networking.’ Getting out there and meeting people is incredibly easy in Murfreesboro – it feels so natural compared to where I’m from. In fact, I even met the Boro Business Lab team at a local event! It’s a place where connections happen organically, and that’s been a huge blessing for our business.

If you can wave a magic wand and make one problem go away in your business, what would that be?  

If I could wave a magic wand, I would make the administrative tasks disappear! There’s so much bookkeeping and emailing involved in running a business. But the best part of my business is that I get to integrate my family into it. My kids can come hang out in the kitchen after school and help with little jobs. They even come to vendor events with me! I love that they get to see me working hard and that they can be a part of the business. They’re like my own little marketing team! In fact, my daughter is even interested in working on the food truck with me. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

What’s one thing you’d say to a person starting a new business?

My biggest piece of advice for someone starting a new business? Just do it! There will be obstacles, but the difference between success and failure is the determination to keep going. It won’t be easy, but having someone who believes in you, like a spouse or partner, can be a game-changer. Believe in the bigger picture and focus on building something that will last.

For those who’ve been in business for a long time, the key is to adapt! Listen to your customers, their needs change and so should your business. The economy and customer preferences are constantly evolving, so be a lifelong learner and embrace change. Never get stuck thinking you know it all!

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