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Interviews with Shey: Khadijah Ford

Shealynn Benner

Instagram: itssugarluxe

Tell me a bit about yourself. (Married, kids, hobbies, etc.)

I am married, approaching my 12th anniversary in a couple of weeks. I have 2 daughters in college and a son in high school. My hobbies and my business sort of align and overlap. When I'm not working I'm baking or cooking. I love to cook, I just love feeding people.

What are you most passionate about?

I'm most passionate about my family. I love hanging out with them and laughing and being silly. Also creativity and the arts in all forms. My background is in fine arts and fashion design, so if I was decorating cookies I would definitely be doing something creative.

What sparked your interest in making cookies? Did someone specific inspire you to start?

When I started out in business I baked cupcakes and cakes and I loved that but I remembered as a child decorating cookies and I wanted a little bit of that joy. I tried it and it was so hard and they didn't look anything like I thought they would and certainly not good enough to sell, however, I found the joy I was looking for. I started researching and in 2010 I found Sweet Sugarbelle and learned all I needed to know and from there I just kept practicing and learned how to make it my own and what worked for me as a cookier.

As a cookie business owner, what are you most proud of? And what has been your biggest challenge?

Not sure if it's as a cookie business owner or just in general, but last year I filmed a pilot along with my teammates and 2 other teams for Food Network called Cookie Wars. It was an amazing experience and truly a dream come true for me. I am generally an introverted person so I am extremely proud to have pushed myself to get out there in front of the cameras and do it! I'd say my biggest challenge has been not overbooking myself. I'm getting much better at saying no. It's hard to turn orders away when I am booked especially when it's a cool or interesting theme. I have learned the hard way that being overwhelmed is not the best way to function.

Do you have a logo? If yes, what is the significance of it? How did you come up with the name of your cookie business and brand image?

I do have a logo and I am super proud of it because I designed it myself and as simple as it is, it was a very thoughtful process. Coming up with the name was a week's worth of brainstorming with my oldest daughter. The word luxe came to me out of the blue so we just started throwing words up on the chalkboard to see what worked with it, and narrowed it down. Once we had the name I knew I wanted to focus on the S. Alicia Keys has a song "Superwoman" and in the song, she says "Even when I'm a mess I still put on a vest with an S on my chest. Oh yes, I'm a superwoman." I think we can all relate to that. I could see it on t-shirts and I wanted it to be an inspiration to women so it was perfect. The aesthetic was pulled from my fashion background. In looking at logos of designers that have been around for decades I wanted the same elegance and timelessness that they possess. A simplistic color palette and font with a little glam. I wanted it to feel luxe from start to finish.

How long have you been decorating cookies?

I celebrate 10 years of seriously being a cookier in January of this year.

Do you decorate and sell cookies full time? If not, what do you do when you're not baking?

Yes, but I'm also a Surgery Residency Coordinator so my hands are full.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the cookie decorating process?

My least favorite part is definitely rolling and cutting the cookies. I hate bake day!
My favorite part is when all of the cookies are based and waiting for their details. That's when I get in my zone and I look up and they're all done. It's so cool!

Who is the biggest supporter(s) of you and your cookie business?

My husband is my biggest supporter. He has no artistic skills at all so he thinks everything I do is so amazing. He pushes me to do what makes me happy and pulls me back to the ground when I start floating away with a crazy business idea. He's always promoting and telling people about me. He's my hype man and I love it!

Is there someone that has inspired you in the Cookie Industry? Why?

In the beginning, it was Sweet Sugarbelle I would have never really gotten started if it weren't for all of her tips and videos. But Angela of The Painted Box is truly inspiring to me. I had all of these skills from years of fine arts education but I could figure out how to apply some of them to cookies. When I found her I saw the light and the angels started singing lol. She's amazing and I love everything she does. Honestly, in the last couple of months, I have been introduced to so many cookiers that the whole community is just inspiring as a whole. So many talented people!

How do you balance everything?(Kids, husband, activities, working out, cookies etc)

I don't! That's the thing, I don't think you really can, I just get it done. Somedays I answer all of the emails but I make dinner at 9:00 and other days no emails get answered and I forget to post but I hang out with the fam. It's hard to find time for myself but I have to make that more of a priority. Even if that means putting it in my cookie schedule so that I'll actually do it. I think something is always going to be sacrificed and the balance has to be being ok with that. We can do all of the things, we really can, but we can't do all of the things all the time. I read the book "Present Over Perfect" and one quote that really resonated with me was "The very thing that makes you you, that makes you great, that makes you different from everyone else, is also the thing that, unchecked, will ruin you." It's easy to get locked into the craft because we love it so much but we can't forget about all of those other pieces. It's definitely a constant conscious effort.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 things (not people) would you bring with you?

I would have to bring my phone or some other device to play music and audiobooks on. Coconut oil; got to stay moisturized plus you can cook with it. A sharp knife for protection as well as chopping down food and supplies. This was a good question.

What is your best advice to someone wanting to start making cookies for profit?

Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. For a long time I didn't charge enough because I didn't think people would pay it. Guess what if they don't want to pay, they are not your people. Know who your customer is or who you want your customer to be. Cater to them and they will come.


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