Maddy (left) and her sister Mariah (right) bask in the success of their newfound cookie business they started in December 2020. The pair now sell in a local store, have a booming online presence and just started factory manufacturing. Photos courtesy of maddybear.com
Sisters in power, the businesswomen and the baker — this local cookie business expanded from momma’s kitchen and is now taking the local LA area by storm.
Maddy Bear Bakes is a predominantly online cookie and sweets business run by Maddy and Mariah at just 12 and 13 years old. After Maddy was diagnosed with a milk allergy, she wanted to create sweets that everyone could enjoy. The company offers dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options for their customers. The duo’s mother, Abi Smith, is a Communication professor and coach of debate team at Pepperdine University.
Maddy and her sister Mariah — the business manager — got their start in December 2020 when they began to bake and give away cookies for free in order to contribute to their community.
COVID-19 stay-at-home orders left the sisters more time for whisks in their hands and flour in their hair — and now they have a business license.
“It was a really hard time and we thought it would be something great to make people smile,” Mariah said. “People really loved our cookies and they wanted to start buying them to support us so we could get cookies out to more people.”
These girls are not only reaching massive accomplishments early on, such as recently signing the lease to industrial kitchen space, but local support has been flowing through.
They received a grant from the JLH Foundation, a nonprofit organization that donates to local businesses and they have their cookies in stock and ready for sale at the Waterlily Cafe in Topanga, Calif., Mariah said. The girls are recognized as a 2021 Black Plate Finalist, a voters-based award that highlights the best Black-owned food and drink crafters in the area.
Even with the outside accolades and awards, Maddy finds the most enjoyment in the simple and sweet.
“I like to bake with Mommy, that’s my favorite part of it,” Maddy said.
Pepperdine’s Student Government Association was the first client to place a big order — over 20 dozen cookies for a social media giveaway. This eventually led to Maddy Bear Bakes catering two large Pepperdine events, including one at the Year 2 Welcome. The University partnership aided them in launching PayPal and other financial accounts for their business to progress.
“That’s when Mariah set everything up online for people to start ordering, so it really is because of Pepperdine that it became a real business,” Smith said.
Pepperdine involvement led them to eventually perfecting their gluten-free recipe, Mariah said, due to the fact that ingredients were expensive and timely to fashion.
To make her cookie dough unlike any other, Maddy said she cuts the vegan butter smaller with no chunks and then lets it sit in the sugar mix for a while, as well as experiments with recipes.
Maddy’s current goal is is to expand her menu and provide cookies that accommodate the top eight allergies. She spends about 40-plus hours a week baking.
Maddy said one of her favorite customers is her local church, Freedom Church in Chatsworth, Calif.
“We will make over one hundred dozen cookies just to give out to the cars waiting in line to get food from the pop-up pantry,” Maddy said.
When Mariah isn’t busy solidifying the next big order or helping Maddy brainstorm new flavor ideas, she enjoys most people’s favorite part of baking — especially when Maddy is whipping up a jar of her favorite edible cookie dough.
“I love to taste-test Maddy’s creations,” Mariah said. “That is my favorite part.”
Next up on the sisters’ to-do list is perfecting their upcoming sugar-free cookie recipe and maintaining their promise to their customers of being affordable, using sustainable packaging and baking only with the highest quality ingredients.
“This was not a path we even saw for ourselves,” Smith said. “Now all of the sudden we have this business and an amazing community of support around it as well.”
Reporters Beth Gonzales and Rachel Marek tasted and rated five of Maddy Bear Bakes’ cookies on a scale of one to five “chocolate chips.” Read below for their ratings.
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