Name: Maya Madsen
Location: San Diego, CA
Business: Maya’s Cookies—America’s #1 Black-owned gourmet, vegan cookie company!
Describe yourself in three words: Driven, creative, and passionate.
Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?
I founded Maya’s Cookies in 2015. As a vegan with a sweet tooth, I had not been able to find the perfectly delicious, soft-baked vegan cookie I was looking for, so I spent years developing my own recipe. Additionally, the added income was a way to contribute to my 3 sons’ college educations.
What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year?
The biggest lesson I learned in that first year is to stay organized and keep on top of your books. Having a tight grip on your finances is incredibly important in creating something both successful and sustainable.
What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?
Both the outpouring of support I received from the community and how many people doubted me. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and drive, so when others openly doubted my abilities, it just served as motivation to keep pushing myself forward.
How does running your own business make you feel?
Exhilarated! Knowing that I am in charge of my own destiny is definitely motivating and inspires me to keep going.
What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome?
Every day there’s new challenges. A big step was learning and understanding the financial side of the business, not just the creative. QuickBooks has truly been a major help in guiding me through those obstacles.
What challenges do you feel are unique to Black small business owners?
The challenges that Black business owners face are so complex and deep-rooted that it is challenging to summarize briefly. If you go to a big chain coffee shop and the barista messes up your order, you will still be back the next day. The same leniency is not offered to me or my peers. As Black entrepreneurs, if we don’t meet and exceed expectations every single time, we won’t receive repeat customers.
What are your proudest moments?
My proudest moments would have to be watching all three of my sons go to college. My two oldest sons have since graduated—one is working with me now as the Director of Finance at Maya’s Cookies and the youngest is currently studying at Marquette.
Regarding the business, it was a huge honor to be named Black Business of the Year 2021 in San Diego. We are so thankful for the community supporting us and it was incredibly rewarding to be recognized in that way.
What are the next big plans you have for your business?
Grow, grow, grow! We are always looking to expand our business while staying true to our core values and mission—providing delicious vegan cookies and giving back to the community.
When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?
My sons are the driving force, but my faith and my staff also play a major role in pushing me forward. The entire team is passionate about what we are creating and it is inspiring to see everyone share a vision for the business.
How can Black business owners support each other and their community?
As Black business owners, we need to support one another and grow together! Building a community of business owners and like minded individuals can be beneficial in so many ways. Mentor relationships, networking, and sharing resources are ways we can thrive together.
What advice would you give to other Black business owners just starting out?
Find a mentor and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. There are so many people out there willing to lend a hand—all you have to do is ask.
How do you make time for yourself while running a business?
I prioritize self-care so I can be the best version of myself for my team. For me, self-care looks like daily exercise, meditation and eating right. When my body feels good, I feel good.
What advice would you give new business owners about balancing work and mental or physical health?
Like I said, self-care is important for a number of reasons. Finding out what that means to you and then setting aside time for it each day or each week will allow you to be the best version of yourself.
What is the single most important healthy habit you’ve developed that has made you more successful?
Exercising regularly is vital to my success as a business owner and leader. Moving my body daily provides mental clarity that allows me to make decisions, be creative, and get things done!
What’s your “power song” and why?
“I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan. The best feel good pump-up song!