Danielle Tubbs is the owner of Tubby’s Taste, a vegan cookie company launched in 2014 that appeals to the sweet tooth of vegans and non-vegans alike. Having come from a long line of “Jamaican cake ladies,” it is safe to say that baking is in Danielle’s blood. Danielle was raised in Miami, where as a child she helped her mom, aunt, and grandmother prepare traditional Jamaican cakes.
After years of experimenting with different types of baked goods and receiving glowing reviews for her creations from friends and colleagues, a friend suggested Danielle make something that everyone, including vegans, could enjoy, thus inspiring her to try to create vegan alternatives. In doing so, she had one stipulation: her creations had to pass her taste test. “The bug bit me,” Danielle said. “I loved making things that fit the vegan criteria, with approachable quality ingredients, but that also passed my taste test and were delicious!”
After college, Danielle moved to Chicago, a city she developed a fondness for after visiting during her sophomore year. Despite having a full-time job that she was good at, Danielle had other aspirations which led her to quit her job and instead work two part-time jobs that provided the flexibility to pursue pop-up shops, catering gigs, and farmers markets where she would sell her baked goods.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, Danielle lost both part-time jobs that she relied on for income while she ran her business on the side.
Although the pandemic and the social justice issues impacting the country weighed heavily on Danielle, she continued to stay busy with her business. With people at home due to the pandemic, the sale of comfort foods increased drastically. “Because I ship my cookies nationwide, I love being the connector of two people saying, ‘thank you, I love you, I miss you, I’m proud of you,’ and that was something that a lot of people were saying at the time which was encouraging,” Danielle said. The circumstances motivated Danielle and affirmed for her that there was a place for her business despite everything that was going on in the world.
As she continued to work, she posted online how she felt about everything going on in the world and how it related to her experience. Her post was seen by a staffer at VegOut Magazine, a plant-based food and lifestyle magazine, who in response, featured her in an article titled, 11 Black-Owned Vegan Businesses to Support That Ship Nationwide. The article went viral and Danielle had 500 orders within a week, compared to the 50 orders she’d typically process each month. To meet this demand, Danielle received help from friends and learned how to scale up her business.
Months into the pandemic, Danielle obtained shared kitchen space at The Hatchery, a food incubator located in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood that Allies for Community Business (A4CB) co-owns with partner ICNC. Soon after, Danielle’s business growth propelled her into a private kitchen at The Hatchery.
In 2021, Danielle received a loan from A4CB to help pay for overhead expenses and ingredient costs. In addition to capital and kitchen space, Danielle also obtained intensive coaching from A4CB through the Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab (NEL) program. As an NEL participant, Danielle has learned more about pricing strategies, which will help her business as she gets ready for her own retail operation. Danielle has plans to feature five of her cookie flavors on Urban Market Chicago’s shelves before the end of 2021. Danielle is also excited to return to farmers markets to have more people try her unique cookies.
Although her cookie flavors draw inspiration from her childhood, Danielle has heard from customers of different ethnicities and varying parts of the country that the flavors evoke memories for them. “My flavors connect with people, and it’s not something that’s totally mine, but rather everyone’s in a way,” Danielle said.