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Meet Heather Kuklin of Madame Shugah in Silver Lake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Heather Kuklin.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Back in the early 2000’s it was just about impossible to find delicious gluten free baked goods, so I had to take matters into my own hands. I spent way too much money at grocery stores only to discover if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. At the time I had a cheesecake company that I started after my mother passed away so I knew a bit about food business, but I was just making cookies for myself. Once I started sharing my cookies with my friends, they told me I should start a cookie business just as I did with my cheesecakes. Once I graduated from CSUN I did Shugah Mama full time. I always say if you’re going to do something gluten free, it might as well vegan, and make it delicious! I was over supporting the dairy industry so I closed up shop with The Cheesecake Dude and put all my energy and love into The Shugah Mama. I had no idea I would be where I am today. I’m sold all over the Los Angeles area and you can even get my cookies on Amazon. It’s been a wild ride and I couldn’t be happier! I hope I continue to grow and evolve, I feel so blessed every day I get to do this.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Oh gosh, where do I begin? I think I spent more money-making mistakes than anything but it’s all been a valuable learning lesson. In the last two years I’ve totally reformulated my recipe to make it refined sugar free and I even had to totally rebrand myself when I couldn’t trademark The Shugah Mama. I knew I couldn’t give up and I didn’t want to! I feel that an advantage I do have, is that I’m a Los Angeles native. Having such great support from my friends and family has been everything to me, I don’t know how else I could do it! Since 2018 I have officially trademarked Madame Shugah and my cookies are refined sugar free and people seem to like them even more than the original! When someone that isn’t vegan or gluten free thinks my cookies are awesome it makes me so proud! There is such a stigma attached to vegan and gluten free and I’m trying to change that, one cookie and ice cream sandwich at a time. There have been so many times when I thought I should give up and this wasn’t the path I was meant to be on, but it absolutely is. This is what I’m meant to be doing and nothing can stop me. I always hear one word from successful business people, “perseverance” I will never give up. When things get tough I think to myself, “This is when people give up, but I’m gonna push through.” I repeat that to myself almost daily! Every single time I’ve wanted to give up, I don’t, and I end up reaping the rewards of my decision. A few weeks ago, my cookies were on the KTLA Channel 5 news and I thought to myself, “See!!! Keep it up!!”

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Madame Shugah by The Shugah Mama – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I make vegan, gluten free, and soy free cookies and ice cream sandwiches. I was vegetarian back in the 90’s and the only option was soy. I found out several years ago my body doesn’t like soy, physically and mentally. There are so many amazing options now, I just think soy is so 1992, ha! I am trying to end the stigma that vegan and gluten free is gross. I ate the plastic cheese back in the day so kids don’t have to today! I’m creating delicious baked goods so people don’t have to eat the dense, slightly sweetened cardboard we once did. Vegan gluten free is a hard sell, but what warms my heart the most, is when someone tries my cookies for the first time. First, their face has that look of disgust like, “Are you sure I should eat this nonsense?” Then I show them my belly and I’m like, “Trust me, I KNOW food.” Then they take a bite, their eyes light up, and it makes every struggle I’ve endured totally worth it. I love making people happy on the inside and I’ve been able to achieve that with my cookies! I want to share them with the world!

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I just hope to keep doing what I’m doing but on a much larger scale. I look forward to the day when I can hire people to help me. I want to be like Homeboy and Homegirl industries. I want to hire people who are convicted felons because I know how hard it is for them to get work. I always believe in giving second or even third chances. I would love to have my own co-packing facility someday and have everyone their ex-felons, people of color, women, and queer. I would love to be distributed internationally! Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be an international business woman. Little did I know that it could be done with my own company! I’m an only child so I played alone most of the time. I didn’t play with dolls all the time, most of the time it was playing office, now it’s real!! Good thing I had so much practice as a child, hahahaha! It would be such a dream come true to come out of a club in Berlin, pop into a convenient store, and see my cookies on the shelf!

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