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

Hi Sheenee, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My grandfather played an important role in the launch of my vegan products and services business, Cotton Creations LLC. I was very close to my grandfather and after his passing in 2016 due to several health-related illnesses (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more) that are prevalent in the black community, I decided to adopt a vegan diet in my quest to begin a healthier lifestyle. The more educated I became on the connection between food and health, the more I felt a responsibility to share this information and educate my community on healthy eating solutions.

Initially, I sought to fulfill this obligation through the dissemination of my vegan recipes and cooking tutorials on my Cotton Creations YouTube channel. As part of this process, I quickly realized there were many misconceptions and false beliefs surrounding a vegan diet: such as, “a vegan diet doesn’t have much protein;” “it’s hard to get full on a vegan diet;” or “healthier food lacks flavor and doesn’t taste good.” This feedback fueled my determination to demonstrate that these assumptions about veganism are just not true. After about 2 years of promoting vegan food choices through my Youtube channel, I desired to make a greater impact on the broader community. So I decided to turn the Cotton Creations brand into an official business as an LLC and created an in-person private chef experience known as the Cotton Creations Vegan Dining Experience. This service offering is a traveling plant-based brunch and dinner party, with event dates in major cities across the entire country.

What should our readers know about your business?
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. It can also be purchased at Uplift Us Marketplace in the Westfield Mall in Culver City, CA.

– The Vegan Honey Pecan Cornbread 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 will be expanding the 2022 Vegan Dining Experience tour to 10 cities including Washington DC, Atlanta, Tampa, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Charlotte, & more. 2022 Tour dates and tickets are now available at www.CottonCreationsllc.com.

– We will be launching our Vegan Pancake/Waffle mix in Spring 2022, which is our second packaged product. More details coming on this rollout.

One of our biggest accomplishments is getting messages from our customers letting us know that after attending one of our Vegan Dining Experiences 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!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
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
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
Something Vegan
Nic’s on Beverly
Kale My Name
Donut Friends
Dear Bella Creamery
Vegan Street Fair

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
“Teamwork makes the dream work.” This quote is certainly true in my life and in my business.

First, I have to shoutout my parents. From the very beginning, they have been my biggest supporters in all that I do. My parents have made many sacrifices throughout my life that have helped to get me to where I am today. It was because of my mother’s journey as a single parent with a low income that ignited the entrepreneur in me. Watching her journey and her resilience taught me so many life lessons about perseverance and determination that I continue to use every day.

Currently, my mother, Cornita Price, serves as my Sous Chef traveling across the country helping me prepare delicious vegan cuisine for the Cotton Creations Vegan Dining Experiences. My father, Maurice Cotton, helps with scouting venues. Both of my parents equally promote my products and services as well as provide counsel on recipe development. Outside of business-related tasks, they provide me with sound advice, love, and support; and this foundation is absolutely necessary when building anything.

Second, I have to shoutout the Cotton Creations team/staff – April, Amber, Krystle, Patrice, Allan, and our amazing team of taste testers. Without these individuals, Cotton Creations would not be where it is today! Our team is amazingly talented and have a winning attitude that is a joy to be around.

I would like to say THANK YOU to my parents and the Cotton Creations team for all that you do for me and for Cotton Creations!

Website: www.CottonCreationsllc.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/cottoncreationsIG

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cottoncreations

Youtube: www.YouTube.com/c/cottoncreations

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