In search of warmer weather and new adventures, Shakiel Humayun and Danielle Loduca, husband and wife and founders of Superfood Bake Shop, moved from Long Island to Pasco County in 2015. At the time, Shakiel was heavily invested in real estate and Danielle was focused on raising the couple’s five kids. Shortly after they relocated to Florida, Shakiel began to focus on his health. His determination to lose weight and curb his sugary cravings led to a sweet discovery that set the stage for their entrepreneurial journey.
“To be honest, I was obese,” he said. “I was determined to do something about it. I started eating right, cutting out sugar, exercising and researching different foods. I fine-tuned what worked for my body and, as a result, I lost 70lbs. I never thought my weight would start with the number one.”
Shakiel continued, “As I settled into my new weight and healthier lifestyle, I would still get the occasional craving for something sweet. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find anything I liked that wasn’t full of sugar. If it was considered healthy, it tasted like cardboard. I’d end up eating the healthy snack and then a small portion of a sugary dessert. This led to double the calorie intake. That’s when I thought, ‘there has to be a better solution’.”
Shakiel took to the kitchen, resolute on creating a healthy, yet satisfying dessert. He experimented for months with different recipes and ingredients. Eventually, the stars aligned and the combination of super foods, organic and all-natural ingredients produced a cookie that checked all the boxes.
“It was delicious – and healthy,” Shakiel said. “I gave one to Danielle and, after she took a bite, her eyes got wide and she said it tasted like a brownie. Our kids also loved it. All of a sudden, I found myself baking a lot of these cookies. Our kid’s friends were eating them and soon I was making them for friends and family. Eventually Danielle got involved and helped me tweak the recipe to where it is today. She also encouraged me to share it with others.”
Shakiel and Danielle founded Superfood Bake Shop in January 2020. As Danielle, who’s a certified fitness instructor and nutrition coach, shared, the process was anything but straightforward for the first-time ‘foodpreneurs’.
“A lot of research,” she said. “Also, we spent a lot of time calling agencies to figure out what licenses and permits we needed to get started. We originally looked at Cottage Food Laws, which allow you to cook out of your own house, but decided that a commissary kitchen was the better route for us.”
Shakiel added, “We found a commissary kitchen, created the brand and also started building out our website. We were set to start baking on April 1st, but then COVID-19 put those plans on hold.”
After working through various challenges such as product development, packaging and shipping requirements, standardizing the recipe and product consistency, Shakiel and Danielle began baking on June 1st. Since then, the focus has been on reaching new customers through their direct-to-consumer model, social media marketing and identifying ways to scale.
“We need to focus on making our cookies faster and more efficiently, in order to scale without having to hire additional employees,” Danielle said. “Right now, it’s still just Shakiel and I.”
Shakiel added, “We’re also looking at different ways to get our product out there. The market is saturated with sweets. Using social media to stand out was much easier five years ago. You had a lot of organic reach on platforms like Instagram. To accomplish that today requires different tactics.”
So what makes Superfood Bake Shop’s cookies so delectable and unique? According to Shakiel and Danielle, the secret sauce is the ingredients and how they leave people satisfied and not necessarily wanting more.
“Our cookies are more than just ‘not unhealthy’,” Danielle said. “They’re made with superfoods and either have just two grams of sugar per serving or zero. You’re getting fiber, minerals, antioxidants and protein while staying away from harmful ingredients like corn syrup, added sugars, preservatives and hydrogenated oils.”
Danielle continued, “One of our customers used to have bad sugar cravings. She avoided normal cookies and had ours and felt so satisfied that she didn’t have a sweet craving for several days.”
Shakiel added, “The common feedback we get is that our cookies are helping people with portion control. The cookies are made out of whole foods, so they’re satiating – unlike Oreos where you need a lot to feel satisfied.”
For Shakiel and Danielle, the process of bringing an idea to fruition and sharing it with others is as satisfying as the product itself.
“I love it when people are surprised with how delicious the cookies are,” Shakiel said. “Before discovering our cookies, a lot of people gave up hope that healthy food can also taste great. With our cookies, you can also get your sweet fix without killing your immune system.”
Danielle added, “It’s been fun sharing our products with people and being part of the whole process. Shakiel has talked about having a bakery or a sweet shop for several years now. It’s exciting to see how excited he is about doing something he’s wanted to do for so long.”
Looking ahead, Shakiel and Danielle are focused on growing their direct-to-consumer model, but haven’t ruled out the possibility of wholesale operations. They’re also looking at additional ways to reach new customers, such as farmer’s markets, when social distancing restrictions are relaxed.
What advice do Shakiel and Danielle have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “If you don’t go for it, it’ll never happen,” Shakiel said. “I talked about doing this for years. Now I have to pinch myself that we actually did it. Sometimes we fear failure. It’s important to recalibrate our thinking that failure is a step towards progress. It’s all about fine tuning your idea.”
Shakiel continued, “The fulfillment you get doing something you’re passionate about outweighs your fear of failure. It’s an adventure, with a lot of hard work, but if you believe in the cause, you won’t feel like you’re working. Finally, embrace the process of iteration. You won’t get it right the first time. Just keep tweaking it and listen to the universe.”
Danielle added, “My advice is to really think things through and double check everything. Source the right products and research in advance. Work through your numbers and always have a plan. Preparing ahead of time will help you in the long-run.”