We had the good fortune of connecting with Leah Tibbs and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leah, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
This is a big question that can be answered in so many ways. I think the simplest way to answer it is that I saw there was a way I could make an impact in an area that wasn’t being focused on or wasn’t beneficial to the bottom line of someone else. Cookies & Conversations was born as a direct response to the ways people share company but don’t always have a way to connect deeply. Food, good food, dessert, and flavorful gourmet dessert, can make someone pause long enough to be present at the moment. And taking that moment as an opportunity to deeply connect with someone else over conversation, while your taste buds and happy hormones are all lit up in excitement maybe that little window that allows a moment for an intentional deeper connection.
I want to bring people back to the present moment, moments where memories are built, memories you don’t need to look at a phone or an album to recall, but the ones that lie deep within your being. And I hope that the conversations around food, good times, and the significant contributions of people of color in our food spaces add to and enhance the memories of the moment when a cookie became more than just a cookie.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Cookies & Conversations started out as an online business with cookie Kits. There was a mix, snacks, teas, and a set of conversation cards. I wanted to create an event where baking, snacking, and conversing together was a thing. That was in October of 2019. Then during the Pandemic in 2020 I did a few pop up shops, and sold some cookies to go with the kits. Jumping ahead to February of 2022 I officially opened my bakery in the same location I started my pastry career. It was previously a custom cake shop, Luxury Cake Company, owned by the incredibly talented Chef Laura Mitchell. I was able to purchase her equipment and sign a lease with the building in the same location to open my beloved Cookies & Conversations. I am most proud of getting to this point as I stepped heavily out on faith scared as hell, freaking out every 5 seconds but never stopping always moving forward. A whole beautiful mess.
It was not easy. But by moving forward in spite of the fear, opportunities continued to show up. It was just my job to follow up with them. Changing focus and learning to release the outcome has helped me pivot and connect with incredible mentors, confidants, business leaders, and friends. It has given me a greater ability to speak up for myself, to be clear in my communication. I’m still working on delegating and finding the right balance of busy work and intentional work. It is still very new and very much a work in progress but I’m creating the space for myself to grow and bloom, staying curious and eager to learn, even from my mistakes. I spent 4 years getting a degree I don’t use, so why not bet on myself and take my L’s as real life lessons that hit harder than the theoretics of college classes. One lesson that is continuously reinforced is you cannot do it on your own. Its a lie to think anyone does it on their own. You need clients, you need customers, your need vendors, suppliers, service facilitators. Yes you are responsible as the individual to move, but without other people you can’t expect your business to grow or stabilize. I’ve been so blessed to have many people who believe in me, support and encourage, and also open doors, speaking my name in rooms I’m not located in that keep me growing and flourishing.
Cookies & Conversations is about good cookies and bringing conversations. Relationship building is huge for me. Also from a social standpoint highlighting the contributions made to the desserts I serve by individuals and cultures history chose not to include, but couldn’t erase. It was in the kitchen with my grandpa I learned to bake as a little girl, and taking that feeling, those verbal and non verbal dialogues where generations shared time and space, knowing the significance and history woven into each of those moments, bringing it tangibly to the surface with something that can create an event is huge. Like its empowering. I do still sell the cookie kits, but the conversation cards are definitely shared with the delicious cookies that leave my shop each day. I’m grateful for being able to create a space and a lane for something I know is hugely important in a time where people are hyper connected but have a very hard time connecting. .
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I loovvveee Summertime Chi! There is so much to do, so many places to visit!
Monday: Lets check out the lakefront and Navy Pier. It’s a little quieter and lines are shorter. Biking along the lakefront trail to Grant Park, Maggie Dailey Park, and the Bean. Stop by Chicago French Press for some Coffee and PHS Cake jars@
Tuesday: Head to the Museum campus and check out some great art, the field museum, and head over the planetarium peninsula for sunset. Then stop by the VU for a rooftop dinner and drinks.
Wednesday: Spend time on the north side and check out the Uptown and Andersonville neighborhoods. Lots of Art Deco and the old stomping grounds of Al Capone and the movie stars of the 1950 along the lakefront hotels. Grab a coffee at Crema Shop and Stop by Demera Ethiopian Restaurant for dinner.
Thursday is a great day for checking out China Town. My favorite patisserie Tous de Jour has amazing pastries great for breakfast and lots of cool cultural sites in and around Chinatown. Not to far away in the evening, stop by Taylored the event space of Taylor’s Tacos hosts #tacosarethenewblack happy hour from 5p to 9p. Get your fill on delicious tacos and order a hunch punch to wash it all down.
Friday check out Hyde park, where you’ll find the Messler at the Sophy Hotel, the Museum of Science and Industry is very close by, Jackson Park, Washington Park, and Promitroy Point giving all sorts of outdoor vibes. Head over to the Retreat Currency Exchange for their Amazing DJ or Live music, drinks, food by Dozzys Grill and coffee by Ctrl Z.
Saturday Kitchen Kocktails is a whole vibe for brunch. take a stroll downtown. You’ll never know what you can find.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
So Cookies & Conversations wouldn’t be a thing if it wasn’t for the most incredible woman you could ever meet, Mrs. Danielle Moore… The proprietress of Semiocolon Bookstore in Chicago. Watching the way that she makes magic every day, changing lives with the power of Books, showed me anything is possible when you combine faith, action, hard work, and your authentic self, life is incredibly generous. Not always easy, but incredibly beautifully amazingly generous!