At 22 years old, 3 months after graduating college from the University of Southern California in 2006, the unthinkable happened: I was diagnosed with cancer.
While all of my friends were partying, playing, finding their first full time jobs — I was the youngest one at my doctors’ office. Out of no where I found a lump in my neck and my mom brought me to her doctor immediately. He looked at me and said “You either have nothing at all … or Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.” After a month of blood work, tests and a biopsy, they confirmed I had Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and would have to start 6 months of chemotherapy immediately.
My heart felt like it had been ripped out of my chest and stomped on the floor. Wasn’t I promised a happy, healthy life? The puzzling ‘why me?’ question raced through my head.
As someone who’s been a happy and positive person in the past, this turned my whole world upside down. The first couple of months I was very depressed; experiencing rock bottom for the first time. I felt alone, worthless, scared, numb.
I cried many, many times during those months, just slowly trying to accept what was happening. Even going so far as to mourn the future me, who, in my mind, would now be beaten up and scarred forever even if I was lucky enough to survive. After a couple months of feeling terrible, mentally and physically, I realized how terrible feeling terrible feels! I wanted more than anything in the world to feel good and strong again. I woke up the next morning and got inspired to do everything in my power to regain my health and happiness.
I learned many big lessons during this time, but the one that had the biggest impact on me was: Life is what I make of it, and nothing is promised. I began to take full responsibility of my life moving forward; there was no one else who could do that for me. Intuitively, besides the medicine — mental health, food, and working out were musts. So, I began to get more into calming my mind, yoga, and looking at food as energy. Only things that made me feel good were allowed! I took nutrition and cooking classes so I could make healthy food taste delicious. I felt so much better eating real, unprocessed food, and connecting intuitively to my body to nourish it with what it craved. That’s when I had my first AHA moment: Why is there no dessert that is so delicious, but also made of ingredients I actually want in my body? I couldn’t find a bakery or packaged product that really hit the spot.
Newly empowered, I took charge and decided to not be a victim: If I can’t find it, why not make it myself?
I became obsessed with making delicious, clean ingredient cookie dough. I continued to work on hundreds of batches out of my mother’s kitchen. Determined to crack the code on making cookie dough that would bake the best cookies I’d ever had — but was also non gmo, free of gluten & dairy, plant based and whole grain. I wanted it to be safe to eat raw (because that’s my favorite thing and life is short!) but also packaged conveniently so I could make one or all (in minutes) in an oven, toaster oven, microwave or air fryer! When I saw how much my neighbors, friends, and family loved my cookie dough, I knew I was onto something. Thankfully, cured of cancer and onto my big idea, my entrepreneurial journey began. I started my company, Sweet Loren’s in 2012. Sweet Loren’s would stand for better-for-you baked goods.
What started out as a personal need grew into a blazing fire in my belly when I started to hear from hundreds of families across the country, that too, were searching for simple ingredient, delicious cookie dough they could feed themselves or their families. I was frustrated with the food industry and knew I needed to be part of the change. I started Sweet Loren’s before I was married or had a family, but knew that I wanted to create a brand that stood for better so, by the time I did, I had something I trusted to feed them. I’ve seen it now for me, and thousands of others, less processed food (and the joy it brings!) is directly connected to our health, happiness, and wellbeing.
Starting a business from scratch, learning to scale, building a brand, and convincing supermarket buyers to take a chance on the young woman with a dream were not easy feats. Using my savings, working seven days a week, learning from mistakes day after day, trial and error, risking and giving up a lot to make this dream come true are all what it has taken. Hiring, managing and running a company through COVID and global supply chain issues, all are not easy. But, I am alive. And if I am alive, I really can’t complain about much else. I am so lucky to be here now, and feeling great, that every problem I now encounter is smaller and solvable.
I only got here because of the life lessons I learned while overcoming cancer and growing up. I want to share them with you so hopefully they inspire more to lead their best life and not take a day for granted.
Leaders can’t have bad days. Of course I can cry and be upset, and I should when I need to let it out and heal, but I didn’t want life to keep happening to me — I wanted to lead my own life as much as possible. That means setting a great example and not complaining, instead, finding the good and constantly problem solving to a better future.
Don’t be a cookie-cutter. When I felt unemployable, I decided to start my own business! I didn’t feel like I fit a cookie-cutter job mold, so blazed my own path instead and am now so grateful that I did.
Love what you do. Life is short and precious so every day counts. You deserve to be happy and love what you do. It also turns out that if you’re really passionate about something, you could become the best in the world at it because you’ll work harder and smarter than anyone else at it.
Making a difference in the world fills the heart. Business success is amazing and what I strive for, but the reason I have the excitement to work hard every day still is that making lives better fills my heart with so much joy and meaning in life.
Prioritize your health. You are the most important thing in the world, your health and wellbeing. If you feel good, if you are full, you can give endlessly to your family, friends, work, and the world. Feeling good is the best feeling in the world, and I want to dedicate my life to helping others prioritize listening inwards and promoting their own self-care.
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