"Having an abundance mindset has changed my life. Now I believe there's plenty to go around for everybody."

My favorite city is: Tallinn, Estonia My celebrity crush is: Matthew McConaughey

Shahira Marei

Giving the dessert business a shot

DRIVEN TO CREATE A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. The power of turning something small into something meaningful was a key lesson Shahira Marei learned at the age of ten. Her father had taken her to Egypt, the country they had left for America five years earlier, and seeing the amount of homelessness had a profound effect on her. "I wanted to do something about it, but my father said the best way I can help is to finish my education and create jobs for those people."

After studying business administration at California State University, Shahira thrived in the corporate world, working at TRC, IBM, and Boeing, but that pledge from her childhood remained unfulfilled. Finally, in 2015, she launched her startup, Dirty Cookie, a dessert business whose flagship product is cookies shaped as shot glasses. Now a multimillion-dollar company, her venture helps children from low-income households with her Shot for Education program.

Of course, pivoting to a startup wasn't without considerable challenges. After quitting Boeing, Shahira moved into catering, setting up shop in Orange County and working wholesale with major hotel chains. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic almost killed off the business entirely. During a week of reflection and meditation in lockdown, she came up with the idea of creating DIY decorating kits, a product that now accounts for half of Dirty Cookies' sales.

Manifesting and meditating play a significant role in Shahira's entrepreneurial journey. In 2018 she signed up for a class that had a transformative effect. "I didn't see that I had been acting in a selfish manner and wanting to succeed so badly that I would destroy the relationships in front of me. I neglected my family and didn't care; I had tunnel vision. The class made me see all these blind spots that I had and the need to learn to communicate with others."

PAYING IT FORWARD. Being a healer and a giver now comes first for Shahira, sometimes to her detriment. Raised with a scarcity mindset, she now operates with an abundance mentality, something she partly credits to her mentor Troy Hoffman, founder of Simplirus. "That mindset has changed my life and made me who I am today. Now I like to be a giver because I believe there's plenty to go around for everybody."

Shahira's drive to heal and help others in business extends to mental wellbeing, regularly sharing tools and techniques she believes entrepreneurs need if they're going to withstand the challenges of a startup. When it came to raising capital for Dirty Cookie, a period of constant rejection filled her with self-doubt. "For two months, I couldn't stop crying. It takes a toll on you mentally, but I'm very grateful I had the tools and resources to rewire my brain."

Empowered by generosity and with renewed vigor after an appearance on ABC series Shark Tank, Shahira's vision for Dirty Cookie is clear. "I want this to be a global brand and open up retail in the next year. I want to grow it into this amazing, edible gifting company that's memorable and experiential for people. I am going to make Dirty Cookie a global, fun, unique brand that creates memorable experiences for others."

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.