When cookie lover and vegan Maya Madsen couldn’t find the perfect vegan cookie to fulfill her cravings, she took matters into her own hands. In 2015 Madsen, a self-taught baker who had been in the fitness industry for nearly 30 years, opened Maya’s Cookies in San Diego.
In the beginning, her cookies, which she sold at area farmers markets and through her website, were a way to bring in extra income to help get her three sons through college. But when the pandemic hit and many farmers markets were shut down, bakery life seemed uncertain. She cut her staff to a skeleton crew and tried to remain positive.
That’s when things heated up, in more ways than one.
In June 2020, during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, actress Kerry Washington tweeted a list of Black-owned businesses to support. Maya’s, which Madsen lists on her website as “the “No. 1 Black-Owned Vegan Cookie Business in the country,” soon went from a few dozen online orders a day to more than 3,000.
Madsen admits going viral overnight set her into panic mode, as she didn’t have enough staff, let alone enough supplies or boxes. But through hard work and a lot of overtime hours she made it work.
What makes Madson’s cookies unique is more than just their ingredients – it’s the passion she bakes in from her personal experiences. “I am inspired by the world around me: from travel, to different cultures, to art, people, nature. And I love seeing over the top, beautiful, plated desserts,” she said.
Along with traditional flavors like Chocolate Chip, Birthday Cake and Snickerdoodle, her cookies feature famous naming conventions. For example, the Hank Aaron is an ode to the baseball great with popular ballpark treats like Cracker Jack pieces, roasted peanuts and butterscotch chips baked into the mix. The >Debbie Allen, another popular flavor, pays tribute to the icon’s Black Nutcracker with a marshmallow-packed hot chocolate cookie. And just like the world was enthralled with Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at the Biden-Harris inauguration, Madsen created a cookie in Gorman’s honor. The lemon-raspberry flavored cookie is a nod to the yellow coat and red headband Gorman wore on the podium while reciting her powerful poem. The three were part of Madsen’s Black History Month collection.
Also worth mentioning: the top-selling Chocolate Chip S’mores, which won the 2020 PETA Libby Award for Best Vegan Baked Good. All cookies can be shipped nationwide, and gluten-free versions are also available.
Baking, said Madsen, is how she shows her love for people, and making people happy is what fuels her passion. To that end, a portion of proceeds from her bakery goes toward DETOUR Empowers, a mentoring program for girls of color.
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