Lauren Roumayah is the founder of the Detroit Cookie Company, a gourmet cookie bakery that specializes in one of a kind cookie creations. Lauren and her husband opened their first bakery in Detroit, MI and always dreamed of expanding their business to multiple locations. After overcoming some challenges in the last year, Lauren and her husband opened their second Bakery in Ann Arbor, MI in February 2021.
How did your company come to be?
Lauren Roumayah: Before launching my company, I was going to school for fashion merchandising at Wayne State University in Michigan. After graduating, I landed a job in my field, but it wasn’t a creative outlet for me, and I began feeling stuck and unhappy. My husband was starting to realize how my spirit and attitude were changing. He sat me down one day and asked me, “If you can have any job in the world, what would it be?” I quickly responded and said I want to bake cookies for a living. I grew up baking and playing around with new recipes with my family. We always spent time together in our kitchen and it was where I felt warmth and happiness. Without any hesitation, my husband encouraged me to launch my own cookie business and recommended I start with nailing down one flavor and creating a website with GoDaddy. This is how the Detroit Cookie Company came to life.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
LR: 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.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
LR: If I can go back in time, I would tell myself to stop thinking small as it relates to the growth of the business. At the beginning, I thought my husband and I would be the only faces to the business. I honestly wasn’t thinking about long-term business growth and hiring a team of people to help us grow. I wish I would’ve considered this when we first opened. I felt responsible for everything that had to do with the business and started to run myself thin. To truly grow, you need a team that believes in your work and will help you reach your goals.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
LR: To me, success means conducting business with the same standards I followed while scaling the business. We used to operate at a much smaller scale and now that we’ve grown, I want to make sure that I’m putting the same quality, love, and attention to my cookies. Ultimately, success for the business means maintaining the same values and standards of quality while continuing to grow the product line and business overall.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
LR: Since the conception of the Detroit Cookie Company, my husband and I work together full-time. At the beginning, it was very challenging as we often didn’t see things eye to eye. It was hard to make decisions for the benefit of the company as partners. For any business and partner relationship, it’s all about communication, understanding and a shared goal of where you want the business to go. As an entrepreneur, you are your own boss and it’s your responsibility to manage yourself and your business relationships. I knew that where I lacked motivation, I had to be disciplined and keep going at it – even when next steps were unclear. The truth is, nobody is going to tell you want you need to do so you need to make sure you have a clear path in front of you to continue to grow your business. For building and leading teams, you need people with the right mindset. At the end of the day, as an entrepreneur, you need to train and coach your team to show them what you need for the business. At the same time, you should also encourage your teams to couch you and help you through the growth of the business. I like to involve my teams on the decision-making process to make them feel valued.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
LR: My motivation stems from making people happy. I know that sounds cliché, but it truly is what keeps me grounded. I want to make people happy from every aspect of the business – from my team to my clientele. For me, it’s important to stay true to myself and give my customers what they want. When I started the business, my goal was to evoke nostalgia from childhood desserts into my cookies. This motivates me to continue doing what I’m doing for my clients and making them happy in good and bad times. I also find motivation when I support and motivate my own team. I work closely with my team to ensure their voices are heard and are as involved with the business as they can be.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
LR: One day, I visited a friend in California before starting the business. I was talking to her and her then boyfriend about my dreams and aspirations. Her boyfriend’s advice to me that night is something I still reflect on today – even with my business already and up and running. He told me every time you make a big leap and do something out of the ordinary, it’s going to be scary and challenging at the beginning. However, after you overcome this leap, you will only learn from it so when the next challenge presents itself, you’ll feel more confident to overcome it.
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