Fortune Cookies the Size of Footballs
In today's Smart Women Conversations video, my guest shares a story that starts with the love of a grandmother, a love of art, and a sweet journey to becoming an entrepreneur. Her site is a dream to behold!
Sue Reed is the Founder of Sweet Fortune Cookies, and we'll get to that in a minute. Let's start back at her grandmother's knee, because, well, I'm a grandmother and we don't hear enough about grandmothers.
Sue learned more than an appreciation of art from her grandmother. She learned that 'old' people were smart, and talented, and not ready to throw in the towel, though society at the time might have been nudging them to do just that. Yes, this is mid-20th century, when we still viewed people over 60 as withered and used up. When, of course, they were (and are) not.
Sue grew up and she worked with the organization Children of Aging Parents, about the same time as the Gray Panthers rose up to support seniors and those who cared for them. That's what it was about - caring for senior citizens who were neither 'old' as society wanted to term them, nor 'done' as business wanted them to be. These were smart, talented, intelligent, active people who still had much to give to the rest of us.
I remember also being interested in gerontology, back when my kids were little. I felt, as Sue demonstrated, that our senior citizens weren't ready for the front porch, at least not 24/7. I didn't follow up on it the way Sue did. She was deeply involved in serving that community and it gave her great satisfaction.
But, let's move on to how she became an entrepreneur
Hers is a story of breast cancer and a strong desire to move forward turning lemons into lemonade (or you could say, turning the average Chinese fortune cookie into a work of art the size of a football). There is a good bit of the story that is told in the video that I will not include here. It's best to watch Sue tell it and see her face light up when she talks about children, and art, and museums.
It wasn't until fate took a turn that left her wounded, distraught, and lost. At 50, she went through a sudden (to her) divorce. She was one of those women who were blindsided by the act of a husband she still loved. It set her into a phase of wondering why and finally seeking help from a nun. Yes, a nun. And the nun helped by giving her great advice. Watch and learn. It's advice we all need to hear at some time in our lives.
And, as she took the advice, the wheels in her head started turning. She wanted to become her own boss. She wanted to be in business for herself. No, not just an entrepreneur, what she first thought of was becoming a franchisee. This way, she says, she would have a template to work from. It wouldn't be starting from scratch.
While she was considering her options, a close friend approached her with the idea of baking fortune cookies.
Fortune cookies. After all, she tells the Democrat and Chronicle, her first word was "cookie."
Her immediate reaction was: "Me? A baker? And fortune cookies of all things?"
As she tells us, "Making dinner for five was something I can do but baking ancient cookies of Asian descent had never occurred to me."
However, the more she thought about it, the more she became very attracted to the concept of starting her own business as a fortune cookie baker, which involved everything from creating the cookie to marketing it. She began to see the fortune cookie as less of a dessert and more as a means with which she could connect with people.
So, as anyone would, she first set out to find the perfect pastry chef. Next, she searched for kitchen space. She found a wonderful kitchen with ovens suited for baking; the only catch being that this kitchen was on a boat known as the New York Waterway Ferry.
Road Trip! Well, sort of.
Here's where it gets interesting folks, Sue did something I fully admit I could never do, for 20 months she drove from Rochester, New York to Manhattan joining thousands of commuters on their way to work. Every Wednesday. Rochester to Manhattan.
And then, she needed a cookie template. Next she needed to find the best chocolate to drizzle on top of the cookie. She knew the cookie was perfect when she had to stop herself from eating her first orders.
In the past three years of business, Sweet Fortunes has had the pleasure of working on some very interesting ventures including MTV. Sue's delicious, beautiful, and versatile cookies can be used as wedding favors, business promotions, holiday gifts, birthday presents, and much more. Personally, I think they are perfect for our civil servants. I think communities across America could deliver them to their homegrown heroes - especially since we are the ones who get to write the fortune inside. What a great thank you that could be!
Watch and be inspired. Sue started with just an idea. A brand new idea. And she created gold out of it. You can do the same. It just takes education, perseverance, determination, and a little luck. Easy peasy.
Oh, at one point in the conversation, you'll hear a great story that involves Pilot Sully Sullenberger. Remember him?
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As always, my outfit is chosen weekly by Fashions by Francesca. My 8 year old granddaughter.