Maya Madsen

Founder of Maya's Cookies

Raised as a foster child, Maya experienced a difficult childhood. To help her stay positive, Maya looked for beacons of light in her life. She found herself praying for guidance and relying on the kindness of strangers to help her stay focused on her goals. As she grew older and began to raise her own family, she knew that she needed to earn an income to contribute to her sons’ college education. As a vegan with a sweet tooth, she noticed an opportunity in the market to create a delicious, soft-baked gourmet vegan cookies and with the support and encouragement of her family and friends, Maya’s Cookies was founded.

Where did the idea for Maya’s Cookies come from?

I spent 30 years in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and fitness model and would work really hard all week, but was looking for a treat on my cheat days. As a vegan with a sweet tooth, I just wasn’t able to find what I was looking for on the market, so I started creating recipes at home. Eventually I started sharing with friends and they were so popular with vegan and non-vegan friends! As a black woman and mother of three boys, I knew college was tantamount for them to be successful and I needed to find a way to contribute to their college tuition. So, Maya’s Cookies was founded!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Typically starts at 4 am. That’s when my alarm goes off. I take time to meditate for 20 minutes. I enjoy some tea, then head to the bakery. I start in production baking cookies until around 1 pm. Then at 1 pm, there’s typically meetings with management to review projects and any other. pressing issues. Then back to production with the afternoon team. If we have any large corporate orders, then I typically stay until about 6 pm. I try to relax for some time after I get home. Dinner with the family, then emails until I can’t keep my eyes open. Rinse. Repeat.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Dive in and make it happen. I love being creative in the kitchen and trying new things. I feel very strongly that anything can be accomplished with hard work and dedication. I don’t like negative talk. I mean, we put a man on the moon! Anything is possible!

What’s one trend that excites you?

The growing veganism in America! It’s exciting to see new innovations in meat alternatives, more restaurants with vegan options, more vegan restaurants and people interested in learning more about a plant-based diet.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Exercise and meditation. Taking time for self-care.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t listen to anyone tearing you down. Believe in yourself. No matter your current situation, that’s not all you’re meant to be. DREAM BIG!

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That vegan food is delicious and there’s PLENTY of protein in plant-based dishes. There’s more variety than people realize. In fact, some of the strongest animals in the world are actually vegan – gorillas, hippopotamus, elephants, horses, cows, bison…So you can be strong and healthy on a plant diet!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I would say: Follow through on my commitments! Whether it’s a toddler or a business ally. I keep my word and show up for whatever I’ve committed to doing.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Operating lean. Not wasting money. Pay attention and know my financials. I’m the backseat driver to my accountant and bookkeeper. It pays to be involved with your financials.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Oh sheesh, honestly, there have been many moments where I mis-stepped and that’s part of the growing pains of being a small business owner, but I think the failure that hurt the most was bad hire. I like to hire critical thinkers, problem solvers with good character. Once I hired a person that I knew was having a hard time in life and I really wanted to give him a chance…but it ended up a disaster. I let my guard down and was taken advantage. I still believe that people deserve a second chance, but they have to prove that they can step up.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A COVID mask that I can wear in the bakery that has a cooling agent! It gets hot in there!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A kayaking tour with the family. With such a crazy, busy summer, I really needed time to be in the ocean and spend time with my family. It’s so important to reset during hectic and crazy times, pressing pause is so necessary.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Slack. There’s so many moving parts to the business – it helps us stay connected. Each department can stay on top of what the other department is managing through and it helps stay in sync.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

MAUS. It’s the story of survival, compassion and the aftereffects of one’s actions. It’s a story of humanity. What people are capable of perpetrating but also what people are capable of surviving.

What is your favorite quote?

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzsky

Key Learnings:

  • Maya’s passion and determination comes through. I love her quote about when times get tough, you just put your big girl pants on and get it done!
  • Cookies Make People Happy!
  • Don’t give up. Find a way to keep moving. Your feelings are valid, acknowledge them, but don’t let them hold you back.
  • Be a STUDENT of your business. Keep learning and studying.
  • YOU DO YOU! Don’t let anyone dull your shine.