Each ding of the oven generates more buzz for this whimsy-frosted bake shop and creamery in South Kansas City. But it’s the soft, sticky sweet treat that fills small tubs and lines the store’s shelves — (hand) spinning the entrepreneurial dreams of its owner into a sugar-rush of a reality.
“I really hit the jackpot,” Kiffany Bosserman said, recalling five years of success with Cottontale — the all-natural cotton candy company she founded alongside her husband, Steve.
“It’s whimsical and fun and magical and nostalgic,” she continued, adding that when people eat cotton candy they’re often living — or reliving — some of the best moments of their lives, in some of the best places they’ve visited.
“Theme parks, carnivals, fairs, baseball games, football games — it really brings back great memories and fun.”
Two years into cottage operation, demand soared for catering and pre-packaged Cottontale treats — ranging in flavors from Classic to Root Beer to Party Cake and such seasonal nibbles as Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread among dozens of others, Bosserman said.
The confection, however, is admittedly niche. And Bosserman knew its airy novelty couldn’t carry the weight of a dedicated storefront all its own.
“[We thought,] ‘What if we had a workshop for Cottontale and were also able to capitalize on some foot traffic to sell other treats?’”
The result: Cookies and Creamery, a wildly-popular sweets and gift shop at 533 E. Red Bridge Road, located within the bustling Red Bridge Shopping Center. The space serves up fresh-baked cookies, ice cream from partners like Lawrence, Kansas-based Sylas and Maddy’s, and its signature “Creamwich” ice cream sandwiches.
The quaint and creative shop opened its bakery case in fall 2020.
“It’s kind of like a showroom for what Cottontale does. … It’s a platform to talk about events — whereas [before] I would have to go out in the community and do events to even get a spotlight on what we do,” Bosserman explained.
“Now, Cookies and Creamery is that place.”
Click here to learn more about Cottontale or Cookies and Creamery.
A mural by Whitney Manney, local artist and textile designer, covers a wall in the space while a lineup of products made by other woman-owned businesses fill shelves on another next to the shop’s ice cream freezer, rounding out Bosserman’s commitment to eating, shopping, and supporting local — and providing her a platform to give back to the greater Kansas City business community that has eagerly welcomed her into its mix.
“I’m from Las Vegas. My husband’s family is from the Kansas City-area and we ended up moving here eight years ago,” she said, noting up until that point she’d worked as a middle school social studies teacher, but struggled to find work when she first arrived in the metro.
“I ended up in this really awesome role over at Town Center Plaza in Leawood, helping with marketing and events. I was given the opportunity to plan some really cool things — especially [for] kids,” Bosserman recalled, noting such work is ultimately what inspired her to launch Cottontale when she couldn’t secure a cotton candy vendor for an event.
“No one was really doing the kind of cotton candy and the style that I wanted to present at the event. So I thought, ‘Why not me?’ And I got a machine.”
With its low cost of entry, requiring only a cotton candy machine and a few additional pieces of equipment, Bosserman found herself in full-time business with Cottontale just three months later.
“I believe Kansas City has something so special. … Everyone I’ve met has really cheered me on and wanted to see me succeed,” she said, calling out support from city leaders that include Nia Richardson, assistant to the director of small business and entrepreneurship at the KC Bizcare office, champions of entrepreneurship such as Lauren Conaway, founder of the InnovateHER KC social network and resource hub, and community builders and resource experts like Morgan Perry, business specialist at Mid-Continent Public Library.
“There are so many amazing people who want to help,” she said, highlighting the ups and downs and lessons learned throughout her career transition and path toward entrepreneurship — an opportunity, she said, her time in the classroom helped prime her for.
“My teacher’s mindset never turns off,” she laughed, noting she’s been able to use her skills as a teacher-turned-entrepreneur to mentor other rising founders, working with organizations that include The Porter House KC.
“I love mentoring, I love teaching and I love helping others. … I really believe [in entrepreneurship] there is room for everybody. I love sharing what I’ve learned. And I believe if anyone is going to blaze a trail they should turn around and help those behind them.”
Having successfully kept both operations baking amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bosserman said she’s grateful for the opportunities before her. And with success ever-sprinkled, she can’t imagine a future where she isn’t spinning cotton candy or connecting with Kansas Citians over dripping cones and cookie crumbs.
“It is a literal party,” she said of the experience – both for customers and from her view on the other side of the counter.
“Every time you walk in it smells like sugar, because we’re spinning cotton candy everyday. And people think it’s a franchise. They’re shocked that its a local concept — and I feel very flattered by that,” she said humbly.
“The reaction that we are getting really is giving us confidence to — probably — open another store in the next two to three years. I don’t even want to speculate about what part of town or where,” Bosserman continued, excited by what the future could hold, but adamant about enjoying where she’s at now.
“I do know that there’s a lot of areas of town where something like this, showcasing local products, where everything we have in the store is locally made, would do well.”
Looking down the road, five, or even 10 years, Bosserman isn’t sure where she or the business will be. But she’s confident her mission to authentically connect with her community will be stronger than ever.
“Whatever business I have or wherever I am in life, I know that my joy comes from serving others and being able to serve others — whether that’s my employees or my guests — that is where my joy is,” she said.
“I know we’ll be serving others and it’ll be making me happy.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.