Shahira Marei was raised in California, earned a BA and MBA from California State University, and had a successful career as an aerospace project manager at Boeing International. Shahira liked her job and was very excited about the birth of her daughter. But when she was in her early teens, her family had visited Egypt, where Shahira had been born. Ever since, she felt a great desire to start her own business.
This desire came primarily from something her father had said after Shahira begged him to give money to the poverty-stricken people living on the streets. Her father said that what they really needed was a job not a handout. She had been so affected by the devastation of hunger and homelessness she witnessed firsthand, the dream of starting a small people-centered business never left her.
Shahira searched for various ideas for a small business and came across the idea of making a cookie in the shape of a shot glass. Shahira admits she is not the Betty Crocker type and was somewhat surprised to find herself in the dessert business.
The cookies come in kits and can be decorated in various themes, such as unicorns, Mother’s Day, or birthdays. They can then be filled with a variety of sweet things—milk, ice cream, fruit and so on. The company also sells a decadent stuffed cookie. Vegan and gluten-free options are also available.
In 2017 she left her job at Boeing to devote full time to The Dirty Cookie. In 2018, Shahira was forced to make the difficult decision to move from a brick-and-mortar business to strictly on-line. Given the impact of the pandemic during 2020 and 2021, this proved to have been a wise decision.
In a 4/29/20 interview with Avidan Rudansky on Medium.com, Shahira explained that it was difficult to make this decision, but that knowing when to “pivot” is a vital skill for an entrepreneur. In 2021, Forbes listed Shahira as one of the “Next 1000,” noting that in 2020 the company saw a 2.5x revenue growth and had over 35,000 customers. In September 2021, Dirty Cookie opened its first international franchise in Egypt. The Dirty Cookie has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Food Network and The Cooking Channel.
Shahira has never forgotten her experience in Egypt and is committed to running a business that is supportive of its employees. In addition, a portion of every purchase is donated to one of their partnered non-profit organizations, through their “Shot for Education” Program.
Building a business is not easy, and Shahira agrees that entrepreneurs are “reckless optimists.” During the process of establishing The Dirty Cookie, she did have to learn to balance between work and her family, and to delegate whenever appropriate and possible.
But it has all been worth the struggle. She had a dream, a passion, and a goal. When you have a vision and a passion, she says, no one is going to stop you!