Arlana Brooks of Arlana’s Gourmet Cookies: They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway
…I would create a community and environment that would get individuals and families off the streets. I envision a housing complex I would not mind living in myself. This complex would meet individuals and families where they are financially, meaning they would pay for the home/apartment based on what they can afford.
As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arlana Brooks.
Arlana Brooks is a multifaceted woman — a devoted mother with a career in civil engineering and a lifelong love for baking. Inspired by her own mother, Arlana learned early the culinary techniques that would later serve her own company. She founded Arlana’s Gourmet Cookies in 1993 when a simple gift of cookies led to substantial orders for individuals and future events. Arlana’s elegant style is demonstrated in her high-end packaging that is made with beautiful accents and personalized accessories.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?
I am a Civil Engineer and have been working in construction for 27 years. I’m a single mommy of a smart, chatty, witty, creative five year old girl. The concept of Arlana’s Gourmet Cookies came about during my last year of college in 1993 when I started baking as a hobby. I have always had a passion for baking which came from my mom. Over time, that hobby developed into a business. Today, I still work full time, but now I know my niche and direction.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently finishing the Community Impact page on my website, which will allow customers to donate to local organizations close to my heart such as single mothers, STEM, and breast cancer awareness. Each charity we partner with receives 25% of sales in their designated month and the customer will receive 10% off their next purchase of Arlana’s Gourmet Cookies. It’s a win-win!
In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?
That’s easy: the ornate packaging, delicious cookies, authentic style and excellent customer service!
Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?
Time and time again I heard, “Oh, you’re still doing the cookie thing. Are you making any money?” The continuous doubt I received from others was astounding: “You’ve been doing the cookie thing for a long time; you should be in stores by now.”
These comments were hard to ignore.
In both instances, I was silent and paused before I responded. Internally I was enraged, thinking that they had no idea what they were talking about, no idea what I’ve done, they don’t understand the life of a business owner and they don’t get the many steps it takes.
My response for both was simple: “Yes, I’m getting there.”
I overcame their doubt by turning their negative comments into positive thoughts. It became fuel that kept me going. I knew the progress I was making and the hurdles I was overcoming. I didn’t need their approval.
That is when I learned that not everyone is worthy enough to hear the progress of my business. I can keep my successes to myself and surround myself with likeminded friends, building my own support group. We encourage, support, motivate, brainstorm and understand — it’s a breath of fresh air!
In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)
I attended events where my cookies were displayed and saw photos of people I had met along the way, some of them naysayers filled with judgement and doubt, receiving a box of cookies with a big grin. That’s when I knew I had done something right.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
During my recent phase of revamping the cookie business, a college friend offered to invest. It took me years to take her up on the offer. When I did revisit the offer, she said “I was just waiting on you.” It was then I knew what I had to do to be successful and grow. I am so grateful for her patience and her belief in me. Accepting her offer meant that I was aware of where I wanted to be and how to get there.
It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?
Being a black, petite, female engineer working in construction has built my resiliency. My cookie business thrives on the confidence I established in myself from working in construction, a male-dominated industry. I had to prove myself over and over again, which for me was just doing my job.
The proof always came from them. I could see a light go on within them each time they were forced to realize that I knew what I was doing and had a deep understanding of the profession. Proving myself to naysayers became second nature.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)
- Follow Your Passion: Your passion is something you enjoy. It’s something you’re good at. Perhaps you’ve noticed several people complimenting you on the same thing — dive into that. Follow your passion and watch it blossom. Know that hobbies can be passions too.
- Take One Task At a Time: Make a list and tackle one thing at time. You can only master multitasking once you’ve figured out how to check singular things off your list first.
- Stay On Your Course: Only you know your true course because you feel it from within. Stay true to it.
- Network: Get involved with relevant organizations and attend trade shows. Vocalize what you do and associate with likeminded people. When you’re asked what do you do, be sure to include your passion (business or hobby).
- Set Weekly Goals: This will provide you with weekly direction. If you feel you didn’t completed your weekly goal, that doesn’t mean progress wasn’t been made. Just add it to the following week’s goals and in no time you’ll see your goals being met. Keep it realistic and understand you’re only human: as long as are are doing something to meet the goal, progress is being made. 😊
What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?
“Character is power.” — Booker T. Washington
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would create a community and environment that would get individuals and families off the streets. I envision a housing complex I would not mind living in myself. This complex would meet individuals and families where they are financially, meaning they would pay for the home/apartment based on what they can afford.
The surrounding community would offer the components of finding jobs, skill training, education, healthcare, childcare, financial planning and any other needs. The idea is to build up the confidence they may have lost by letting them know that they are seen and heard, and there is a team working as fast and as hard as they can to provide help if they want it.
Can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!