We had the good fortune of connecting with Shahira Marei and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shahira, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The Dirty Cookie was born from the desire to turn something small, into something meaningful. It was born from my personal aspiration to change lives. When I was 10 years old, on vacation in Egypt, I witnessed the devastation of hunger and homelessness first hand. I was shocked that children my age were living on the streets, that they were deprived of basic food and shelter. I begged my father to give them money, and he conceded, but not before engraving the single most important statement I would hear, to date. “If you really want to help them, give them jobs, not money.” It was monumental enough for me to decide to build a company. One that I vowed would be centered around the people I employ. From an early age and thanks to the influence of my father, I knew that I was meant to have my own business.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Dirty Cookie is known for our custom branded cookies in the shape of a shot glass, that you can fill with any beverage of your choice; from milk to liquor. Our cookies are the perfect unique, fun, and delicious gift item for any occasion. When I look back at how The Dirty Cookie was started, it feels so unreal. Everything flowed so perfectly that I knew I had to go on this journey. When my daughter was 5 months old, I signed a 5 year lease to our first brick and mortar store. At that time, I had the perfect corporate career as an aerospace project manager and now a beautiful baby girl. I felt like I had everything but my true deep desire of starting a business. So I jumped into a 5 year lease without exactly knowing what I would put into that store front. I knew it would definitely be dessert because I was the type to go into a restaurant and order dessert first, to make sure I didn’t get full from my meal. I also knew it had to be unique and different. When the idea of the cookie shot came to me, I had my aerospace friend help me design and manufacture a mold, to give us the perfect cookie shot every time. When we launched we got a lot of traction and went viral with the help of different influencers and celebrities like the Kardashians posting about our brand and products. We were fortunate to have a unique fun product that was able to get picked up easily by a ton of media outlets. Starting and running a business is definitely not easy. One of our biggest challenges was educating consumers about our cookie shots, a product for the most part they have never seen before. To start a business you need to be mentality prepared about what you are getting into. I feel it’s like having a kid. People always tell you having a child isn’t easy but you can’t really prepare for it, till you are actually in it. The biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way is to always ask for help when you need it. I’ve learned how important it is to go out and talk to other entrepreneurs and share experiences. For me, it feels like every conversation I have with other entrepreneurs leads me to something better or a connection to a challenge. I’ve gone through a lot of challenges over the last five years; the way I feel like I have gotten through all those challenges was due to a lot of prayer, having strong faith and believing in myself, and meditating daily to keep calm even when issues arise. The Dirty Cookie was born from my personal desire to help people. This business has given me so many different opportunities to help people from just giving people advice to giving people jobs and working with a lot of cool non-profit organizations. My favorite part of starting The Dirty Cookie, is witnessing the joy our cookie shots bring to people. We receive countless emails and reviews about how much fun they had with our products and that alone gives me the strengthen to keep going no matter what.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite spots in LA is walking down Rodeo Drive. I love to see the different tourists and people enjoying LA. I love taking walks in Santa Monica. Walking around the Grove on a nice summer day is something I enjoy as well.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The first person I would love to give a shout out to is Truong Kim. Truong is co-founder of Milkbox and founder of Berry Brand. Truong was one of the first people I expressed my deep desire to start a business and when he saw how passionate I was about getting started, he made an introduction to who became my future store front landlord. Truong helped me get started on this amazing journey and I’m forever grateful. Thank you Truong!