“From receiving 20 orders a day during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I woke up on June 4, 2020, to 10,000 orders! Thank you, Kerry Washington,” said Maya Madsen, founder of Maya’s Cookies based in San Diego.
Maya’s Cookies is currently recognized as America’s #1 Black-Owned Gourmet Vegan Cookie Company. Being a vegan with a sweet tooth wasn’t easy and this prompted Maya to make her own perfect “ooey, gooey and delicious” vegan cookie to satisfy her (and others) sweet tooth. However, Maya’s journey has not been an easy one. It’s her hard work, passion and dedication to giving back to her community that has fueled her successful business.
In honor of Black Business Month, our BlackWallSt@Roth Coworker Resource Group (CRG) invited Maya to speak to the group about her inspiring journey of becoming an entrepreneur and operating her business since 2015. BlackWallSt@Roth empowers, supports, and develops our fellow Black/African American coworkers while promoting learning and engagement for our allies. Part of our growth and understanding is to learn about expanding businesses. We want to highlight small and medium businesses and share our support of businesses that make a difference.
Maya grew up in a small town and often experienced food insecurities during her childhood. This is what inspired Maya’s “love language” of food. “Being able to provide someone with something delicious and meaningful is my way of saying I love you; I care about you, this is going to make you feel better,” said Maya.
Maya spent 30 years as a fitness instructor with an emphasis on nutrition. As she focused on her diet and nutrition, she realized she might want to try a vegan lifestyle and decided to focus on vegan recipes. While it was hard to find plant-based and vegan items in grocery stores, Maya started taking traditional recipes and made them vegan using plant-based ingredients. This was the start of her buttery and delicious cookies – Maya’s Cookies.
With her sons off to college, Maya wanted to generate extra income and decided to enter her cookies at the local fair. Lo and behold, everyone loved her cookies and Maya even snagged 1st and 2nd place ribbons, showcasing how delicious her cookies really are. This gave her the confidence to start selling her cookies more often.
What began as a booth at the farmers market slowly expanded to an online store (with the help of her loyal friend Shelly) due to national demand and eventually led Maya to produce her cookies in a commercial kitchen. To note, to sell food products, you need to get certified and to get certified, you need to produce goods at a commercial kitchen, and a kimchi factory was her best bet at the time.
When the global pandemic hit, Maya and Shelly baked, packed and shipped 20 orders a day. On June 4, 2020, she had 10,000 orders in the queue. With the ongoing social unrest and social awakening happening, Maya’s Cookies was on a list of Black Owned Businesses to support which was tweeted by actress, Kerry Washington. Maya was able to scale her business six times over.
This was a very significant time for Maya. Her business kept growing which meant she needed to grow and fulfill orders to ship the cookies to customers on time. With such an influx of orders, Maya was overwhelmed and felt the pressure of performing especially because she didn’t want to potentially cast a negative shadow on other Black-owned businesses. While sharing the overwhelming response on social media, Maya was pleasantly surprised by all the support and warmth she felt from the community. Seeing this love and support kept her going…. and going.
The hours were long, and the pressure was on to deliver cookies, not only within a reasonable amount of time but also the high quality that was expected of Maya. The whole community came together to help Maya and soon she expanded to a 5000 sq. ft. space and hired 30 employees (athletes, band performers, and valedictorians who all unfortunately lost internships because of the pandemic) to help Maya with her business.
Maya’s Cookies continued to grow and expand with the media talking about her business and more people finding out about her cookies. For Maya, product quality and customer satisfaction were the most important. Maya wanted to make sure that the customers that supported her would get Black Excellence. Being a Black-owned business, the last thing Maya wanted was to give people a reason to say that her product was sub-par. She not only didn’t want to let her business down but didn’t want people to have a reason to put down other Black-owned businesses.
With so much going on with her business, Maya still did not forget about her community and giving back to people in need. While she always donated to causes that include marginalized communities and food insecure communities, now she is able to give back with more resources and partner with charities that help underserved communities and marginalized groups. She hires from organizations that support people trying to turn their lives around as they come out of incarceration, homelessness, addiction, abuse and foster care. They are taught life skills at this organization and Maya’s Cookies helps to give them a second chance to use these skills and live a productive life.
Maya’s Cookies has always been community-support-driven. Maya’s passion to help her community and give back is always a priority and something that stems from her childhood and fuels her passion for philanthropy. She sees herself in all these people and she wants to make sure that she is able to use her resources and talent to support groups that are meaningful to her.
Maya’s advice to young entrepreneurs is, “Don’t listen to anyone but yourself. You have an instinct and gut that no one else has so don’t let others’ fears impact your decisions.” As Maya’s Cookies continues to grow, she hopes to see her product at grocery stores one day. She currently has two storefronts in San Diego. We are so honored to have Maya join us for our BlackWallSt@Roth (CRG) meeting in August to celebrate Black Business Month and share her message. It’s exciting to have our CRGs bring in guest speakers for robust conversations and awareness.