In a situation that many entrepreneurs have likely found themselves in, Lauren Roumayah wasn’t feeling fulfilled in her current job.
Unmotivated and in a career that didn’t fuel her creativity, Lauren was down and out about where her career was headed. When her husband asked her to think of what job she’d pursue in a perfect world, Lauren just wanted to make cookies.
“What started with the idea of making cookies for our career, I started with one product and I focused on that product. I had a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I felt was just the No. 1 chocolate chip cookie recipe.”
Starting in a shared commercial kitchen space, Lauren began by making her perfected chocolate chip cookies and selling them online. She knew, though, that her ultimate goal was to open a brick-and-mortar bakery location for customers to visit and browse in person.
“I was constantly saving and with the idea that I wanted to open up a bakery, but I never knew if I was going to do it,” Lauren recalls. “I had this idea that it was so close, I could taste it. But I wasn't quite sure if I was ever going to get there.”
Then, one day, as Lauren and her husband were taking a bicycle ride, they spotted an old bakery and began to inquire about the location. After a year of persistence, the owner of the building gave them a tour of the vacant bakery.
The building had all of the equipment and space they needed to get started, so they signed the lease immediately.
"In hindsight, was it the best-calculated idea? Maybe not because we weren't selling that many cookies to open up a business, but we were really willing to take that risk and give it a shot and luckily our hard work paid off," Lauren said.
Inspired by the warm memories of baking cookies with her mother growing up, Lauren set out to grow her cookie company with fun flavors inspired by her own childhood.
”When I'm coming up with flavors, the question I always ask myself, what would the kid in me like? What would the kid me want to eat for dessert? Or what would the kid me want to eat that I wasn't allowed to eat, that was hands-off, and my parents wouldn't let me have?”
With over 25 flavors on the menu, and two to three seasonal flavors per month, Detroit Cookie Co. was growing quickly. And with that growth came new employees and new leadership expectations for Lauren.
"Becoming a leader is very challenging,” says Lauren. “It's something that I'm constantly working on, but I truly think that having an amazing team to boost you up will make your job a lot easier. Being a leader is like anything. It's like practicing. The more you practice, the better you'll become and my biggest thing that I had to learn is not acting on emotions."
The COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 brought on a new set of challenges for Lauren’s growing company.
“One of the biggest struggles that we faced so far, I have to say, is probably COVID,” Lauren said.
Abrupt business closures early in 2020 meant no more customers in the brick-and-mortar store she’d worked so hard to get started.
However, Detroit Cookie Co. was uniquely situated to shift to an online order model.
When Detroit Cookie Co. was initially starting out, the only way to purchase cookies was through Lauren’s website.
“We bought our domain through GoDaddy,” Lauren remembers. “When my husband and I first started the business, we worked out of a shared-use kitchen space — taking online, wholesale and catering orders only. As we continued to grow, we moved into our own brick and mortar location and at that point, we were receiving a mix of online and in-person orders. Though we already had a website, 90% of our sales came through our brick-and-mortar store.”
“When the state closed due to COVID-19 guidelines, we were nervous about the impact to our business. However, since we already had our online store with GoDaddy, we encouraged our customers to place orders online. We received an influx of sales and support. With many people home due to mandated stay-at-home orders, many of our customers would order cookies to send to loved ones. When the community started to open, we installed a takeout window at our brick-and-mortar store and started to take preorders online as well.”
Through everything the past year has thrown at her, Lauren has kept a positive outlook. When asked what it means to be an entrepreneur, Lauren answered:
“For me, being an entrepreneur is constantly challenging myself and pushing myself to grow more and more in my career, which is something that I chose. So there [are] lots of times where things are very challenging and I may complain about it because everybody complains. But ultimately, I chose this career path and I'm the only one that's stopping myself. And I'm the only one that's going to motivate myself. I mean, obviously, our customers motivate me. Our team motivates me. Growing the business and seeing people happy motivates me, but I ultimately have to be the one moving forward. Stepping with one foot in front of the other. That's what being an entrepreneur is to me — constantly striving for success.”
Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your story! Check out Detroit Cookie Co. online to see what Lauren's baking up next.