Tanya-Lee Holmes: Business of the Year 2022

Tanya-Lee Holmes: Business of the Year 2022 L-R: Renee Dempsey BurMac Financial Services, Tanya-Lee Holmes Winner of Business of the Year and Ami Zielinski CWM Credit: Diana Smith Photography

Tanya-Lee Holmes is a mother of three and life coach living in Bathurst who acquired a disability six years ago, then found the determination to start a cookie business that now has a following throughout Australia and New Zealand.

“Having my own business gives me flexibility to work around my disability as each day can be so different, but the thing I love the most is the community and friendships that come out of it.”

Learning to live with a disability

Tanya Holmes at The Huddle with Sam from OHH Bulldust-0d75aa06

Tanya had teenage children when she went to bed one night with a migraine and woke up paralysed on her left side as a result of the spontaneous abruption of her C4 C5 vertebrae. Thankfully, her spinal cord was spared from being totally severed but it affected her four limbs and she was deemed a walking quadriplegic with ongoing spinal-pressure migraines.

“I started the business to keep myself sane after my injury because I went to so many job interviews afterwards and got knocked back because I can’t sit or stand for too long, some days I need a stick and on other days I use my wheelchair, other days I can’t get out of bed. Day to day can be so varied and that is a lot to put on an employer.”

The perfect recipe for success

Tanya Holmes elite athlete son-e722f55a

Tanya is upfront that she wouldn’t have her business if she did not have a disability and that if she was just someone running a cookie business for the sake of selling cookies it wouldn’t have the same impact as it has with her having a disability and running a business.

Baking has long been Tanya’s therapy for PTSD and anxiety, so it was also a friend while she navigated to her future – post injury – with children to raise and needing to be the carer with a disability and learning to accept her situation.

Now she celebrates her disability and gives credit to the start of her cookie business to her son’s wheelchair racing-coach, a Paralympian, because when she saw how much her son got out of that community it snapped her out of indecisiveness.

A role model in new circumstances

Tanya Holmes Lotties Farm-cc8e207d

“It’s really is a very different story when you acquire a disability to being born with one because there is a grieving process about the things you’ve lost, and it needs time to process, but now I am proud and I can show people through my business what we can do and I can demonstrate to my kids that they can do anything, too.”

Tanya feels fortunate to be a part of people’s lives and special events, and not just the birthdays and weddings but the things in people’s lives that are often not celebrated such as cookies for parents of kids with disabilities and parents of kids who are living limited lives.

She says she enjoys knowing that her cookies become a special part of their day and creates warm memories for those there, especially as some families don’t know how long that special person will be with them.

Helping vulnerable and at risk persons is close to her heart

Tanya Holmes Royal Australia Navy-77461adf

The shop has helped Tanya link up as a life coach with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and mental health groups, who fundraise by selling her cookies to support veterans and others in the community and their families, but she feels that the people the ADF help are more important to her than her product even though the cookies brought her to them.

She is also an affiliate member of the Bathurst RSL Sub-Branch (and known as the Cookie Lady) which mainly supports and fund raises for younger ADF veterans to help ensure they find their place in the community when they leave the force, as the suicide rate in this community is unfortunately high.

“It’s just so important that people feel like they’ve got someone who’s got their back and is contactable in their dark moments.”

Two of Tanya’s three adult children have cerebral palsy and require wheelchair assistance, and one of them has joined the ADF so she hopes there is support for him like this when he decides to leave, including weekly coffee and darts sessions in a family environment.

Themed parties and celebrations for good times

Tanya Holmes Breast cookies-2878adcb

“I’m very fortunate as this year we brought out a range of cookie cutters that are exclusive to us that bring inclusion into our community such as wheelchairs, prosthetic arms and prosthetic legs, so we can highlight those kids with disabilities now and send them out – and they think it is the coolest thing they’ve ever seen.”

To bring smiles to these young faces and know they’re included – and for them to feel included – means a lot to Tanya as it’s important, she says, that these “normal things” are visible because you can’t be what you can’t see.

“For a long time, disability has been hidden in the background and that’s made it harder for people with disabilities to be out there doing what they want to do because they haven’t really seen those role models showing them the way.”

And that is why the Imperfectly Perfect Sugar Cookie stays at the top of Tanya’s mind because they help remind people that just because someone has a disability, chronic illness and/or mental health issue they can still love and be successful.

Tanya’s community of cookie friends have some delicious surprises coming up

Tanya Holmes Inspiring Clever Strong-646078f7

The support the business gives Tanya is, in her words, amazing and she feels lucky to have her social media “wives” as well as very supportive family and friends to help her, plus the local community is behind her with wedding and weekly cookie orders via Instagram and there’s regulars who order a year ahead for birthdays and anniversaries.

There’s lots happening in the coming months at Tanya’s cookie company, so watch out for updates, and check all the options for dietary requirements, theme ideas and more…for they are bound to make someone’s day sweeter.


Diana Smith

I'm an Orange-based photographer, writer, face painter and book designer. I enjoy meeting the lovely folk of our community and have been involved in publishing/media/comms for about 15 years. I have done several exhibitions and in 2022 published my own childrens story, 'The Mouses Houses.'

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