We had the good fortune of connecting with Sheenee Cotton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sheenee, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Typically, as we grow older we gain more wisdom and that has truly been the case when it comes to my perspective on work-life balance. In my early adult years, I was team “no sleep,” “hustle real hard”, “I’ll sleep when I die.” All these mottos sound nice and appear to demonstrate the qualities of a highly motivated person, but in actuality are very damaging, detrimental, and counterproductive. I used to believe that the longer I worked, sacrificed sleep, and poured myself into my dreams/work, the more quickly I could achieve my goals. With this mentality, I would get very little sleep, at times miss meals, drink less water, and push my body past its limit even to the point that I became sick.
Now I’m team “work smarter not harder” and “self-care is productive.” This shift began in my early thirties. The following anecdote is an analogy to best describe how I view work-life balance: We are similar to a bank account, where there are deposits and withdrawals. If we keep making withdrawals (being a workaholic, never taking vacation, not getting proper rest and/or sleep, working while sick, being a yes person, taking on too many tasks at once, not delegating, poor eating habits, not being physically active, not being true to who you are, etc) without putting in an equivalent amount of deposits (taking time off, sharpening your skills, enjoying time with friends/family, scheduling time to focus on your health and wellness, saying “No” to tasks or people that don’t bring you joy or peace, meditating, scheduling alone time, scheduling self-care activities, eating foods that are beneficial to your overall health and wellness, giving back or volunteering, being authentically you, etc) you’ll eventually go into the negative or become bankrupt. Sticking with this analogy, when you don’t have enough positivity or inflows into your account, you are unable to flourish by investing yourself into everything you have going on.

When I operate from a place of fullness, I’m able to think more clearly, be more creative, perform at a higher level, have better health/stronger immune system, and more. It’s also a great feeling to be present in life’s precious moments, which can come in many forms: (a) making time to be alone with yourself, (b) creating memories with family or friends, (c) scheduling time to focus on a hobby, etc.

This is something I have to remind myself of daily because there are still times where I feel a sense of guilt when I’m practicing self-care and not working on business or career-related tasks. The more that I see the benefits of operating from a place of fullness, the easier it is to commit to a healthy work-life balance.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Cotton Creations is a lifestyle brand focused on providing healthier food alternatives in the plant-based space. We specialize in plant-based cuisine and products. We believe food is medicine. So it is our mission to provide our customers with healthier options that will help provide a better quality of life without compromising on the taste.

Our customers can learn about the positive impacts of a plant-based diet as well as enjoy our vegan cuisine at one of our traveling prix fixe plant-based brunch and dinner parties known as the Cotton Creations Vegan Dining Experience. Additionally, customers can also enjoy our easy-to-make vegan packaged products such as the Cotton Creations Vegan Honey Pecan Cornbread mix from the comfort of their homes.

While we have experienced some significant milestones in a relatively short time span, it hasn’t been without challenges. I believe there are many lessons to be learned and skills that have been developed through challenges, both internal and external.

I started business operations at the beginning of 2020. As we all are aware, Covid-19 brought our world to stop at this time. Due to covid restrictions and guidelines during the pandemic, I had to cancel most of the 2020 event dates for the Cotton Creations Vegan Dining Experience. But I learned early on in life -when faced with adversity you have a few options, quit or adapt to the change. Quitting was not an option for me, so I repositioned the strategic direction of the business and decided to pivot into the development of vegan packaged products for retail distribution. The first packaged item under this product suite is the Cotton Creations Vegan Honey Pecan Cornbread mix.

Other external challenges include unsuccessful attempts to secure capital funding, identifying reliable manufacturers to process the product, and building credibility with customers and retailers. I was able to overcome most of these obstacles through perseverance, a lot of patience, and steadfast determination. I believed in myself and in my business. I knew it was only a matter of time before others did as well. I am still working to secure a capital pipeline to fund the continued growth of the brand, but I know it’s only a matter of time before my hard work pays off in this regard.

With respect to internal challenges, there were times when I was discouraged and had to overcome feelings of self-doubt. I had self-doubt for a variety of reasons, mostly stemming from an adverse impact of the external challenges noted above. Sometimes it was from my inability to locate a manufacturer in the early stages of product development. Sometimes it was from the obstacles associated with securing a patent and trademark for my business. Sometimes it was from hurdles faced as a result of packaging and shipping concerns. But I am proud to say that no matter how tough things became or how many times I was told “no”, I never gave up.

Cotton Creations has experienced significant milestones within a relatively short amount of time:

– Cotton Creations Vegan Honey Pecan Cornbread mix was placed on shelves in retail stores within the first year of product launch. All Cotton Creations products can be purchased at Uplift Us Marketplace in the Westfield Mall in Culver City, CA.

– The Vegan Honey Pecan Cornbread mix and the NEW Cotton Creations Vegan Pancake & Waffle mix is also available through our direct website www.CottonCreationsllc.com as well as www.Walmart.com.

– Our cornbread mix was a featured product in The Black Box subscription box and The 8th annual Cedric the Entertainer’s Golf Classic.

– In addition, it is an honor to give back to our community during the holidays by including our cornbread mix in food drives.

– In 2021, we visited 4 cities across the U.S. to provide a prix fixe plant-based private chef event as part of our Vegan Dining Experience. We are currently in the midst of hosting our 2022 Vegan Dining Experience tour to 10 cities including Washington DC, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Charlotte, Las Vegas, & more. 2022 Tour dates and tickets are now available at www.CottonCreationsllc.com.

– We launched our Vegan Pancake/Waffle mix in May 2022, which is our second packaged product.

– We recently launched our vegan educational programs and services where we partner with programs that focus on early childhood development and college readiness. In May 2022, we partnered with the Upward Bound program at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore to bring their students and parents an educational vegan workshop and mini Vegan Dining Experience. In June 2022, we partnered with the Judy Centers of Dorchester county to bring their students and parents an interactive Vegan Workshop & Cooking Class.

One of our biggest accomplishments is getting messages from our customers letting us know that after attending one of our Vegan Dining Experiences, Vegan Workshops, or Vegan Cooking Classes that they’ve decided to adopt a vegan diet. Also, for those that have not yet made the transition to veganism, we are delighted when we receive follow-up messages noting that they have incorporated more plant-based meals into their weekly meal plans. In addition, we have followers that watch our YouTube cooking tutorials and leave comments stating that it was because of our recipes that their families were inspired to be open to eating plant-based alternatives. Building generational health is our goal!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Since moving to Los Angeles from Maryland in 2011, showing family and friends a great time in LA is something I’m very familiar with. Here’s a sample itinerary of what I would plan, but note that I cater the activities based on what the friend enjoys doing.

When it comes to activities, I like to include a nice variety from physically-involved to relaxing.
Broad Museum
LACMA
Peterson Auto museum
Grammy museum
El Matador Beach
Santa Monica Beach
Runyon Canyon
Sports game (Lakers, Rams, LAFC, etc.)
Universal Studios or Disneyland
LA Fashion District
The Grove
Burke Williams Day Spa

Eating great food is a must! Since I am a vegan chef, I usually cook once or twice while my friends visit, and I love getting fresh produce from our local farmers’ markets. When I’m not cooking, these are a few of my favorite vegan restaurants in LA.

Hollywood or Studio City Farmer’s Market
Crossroads
Something Vegan
Nic’s on Beverly
Kale My Name
Donut Friends
Dear Bella Creamery
Yoga-urt
Vegan Street Fair

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?
“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.”

Many small business owners can relate to having a lack of resources or access to critical resources, but despite these shortcomings, these entrepreneurs persevere and build successful and efficiently running business. We don’t let those challenges stop us. In the early stages of building a business, sometimes you just need someone to reach back and help you up to the next level. I’m forever grateful for the individuals that were generous enough to do that for my brand. I would like to dedicate this shoutout to all the individuals (i.e. celebrities, influencers, actors, etc.) that have used their platform to bring attention to my brand without wanting anything in return. This includes Tabitha Brown (iamtabithabrown), Dondre T. Whitfield, the cast of the CW show All American (Bre-z, Daniel Erza, Chelsea Tavares, Greta, Karimah Westbrook, Kareem Grimes, Samantha Logan, Michael Behling, and Alexis Fields), Chef Joya (cookingwithjoya), Arleisha Marshall (arleisham), Britt (BfoReal610), Desiree (icanyoucanvegan), Nzinga Young (veganzinga), and Dee (blackgirlsintraderjoes). I truly appreciate everyone who has, in some way, invested in the Cotton Creations brand.

Website: www.cottoncreationsllc.com

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/CottonCreationsIG

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cottoncreations

Youtube: www.YouTube.com/c/cottoncreations

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