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Life & Work with Shalonda Massey


Today we’d like to introduce you to Shalonda Massey.

Shalonda, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Hmmm. My story. Well, not really sure where to start. I grew up the middle child and the youngest girl of six children. However, I am adopted in total I have over 20 siblings. I was born in Mpls, MN at HCMC and was raised here in MN until about ten years of age. My mother decided to relocate to Houston, Texas for a better life. Growing up down south I learned a lot of different things, however, my favorite was the different foods. It’s really funny I never sat in the kitchen with my mother watching her until my teenage years, but once I started watching and learning I knew where my passion was. From that point on I focused on trying different dishes watching how my mother so perfectly put dishes together and even at times made a feast basically out of nothing. Although hard times brought us back to MN my passion has never changed. I started my business in 2020 a little after the passing of my older brother Larry. He was the one person that I could always depend on no matter what. Being a single mother he was truly my guardian angel when it came to my son and myself. He always appreciated my cooking so his passing really pushed me to get out and defeat any obstacle that comes my way, now have a 17-year-old son and want to instill the same morals and values as my mother did with me. As of today, I am very proud to say my business ” The Gumbo Lady LLC” has been in business for a little over two years. I would have never thought a small bowl of Gumbo would have created so much exposure and support, I am forever thankful and cant wait to see what God has in store for the next chapter in my life.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
No. The road has absolutely not been smooth but its not supposed to be is it?? I wake up every day hoping to be challenged in some way when it comes to my business. My main challenge is doing it alone. I really do not have a reliable person when it comes to my business. Another challenge is Marketing and budgeting. I fully understand the cooking concept and I have that part in the bag, however when it comes to my marketing and budgeting it’s truly a lot especially doing everything alone. My biggest challenge has been finding someone who truly believes in The Gumbo Lady dream. I honestly feel once I get that solid team everything will come together but until then I promise to continue giving my business my everything and continue standing on faith.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
My business The Gumbo Lady LLC is a catering business. The goal in creating The Gumbo lady was to specialize in dishes you normally wouldn’t see on the next chef’s menu. Some of my dishes include Gumbo of course, my Soul food stuffed catfish, Lobster rolls, Lazy Cajun Boil (I deshell all the seafood and you simply eat with a fork). However my favorite dish is the “SoulPan”, I really put some thought and time into making sure this dish was perfect and this dish was actually featured on The Wendy Williams show. In Minnesota, I am known for having “The Best Gumbo” not my words. I can honestly say I set myself apart by creating really different and creative dishes and sauces, I recently created my “Candy Yam Hotsauce” which is a customer favorite along with my Sweet southern style tea. My goal is to truly “Bring the southern taste up North” and also to show my son no matter what go hard for what you believe in, even if it’s just you believing in your dream. Do Not Stop.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
I am definitely a risk taker, although I use a different phrase. I call it stepping out on faith. When I first started my business initially it took off, I was working a full time job on top of mommy duties and running a business. After a while, it became a lot. So I decided to take a leap of faith and leave the job I was currently at. Once I left the job I instantly felt the impact of leaving the job. I still stayed working and staying focused. My business is now going into its third year and I am extremely proud of myself. I am currently back working part time but my focus has stayed the same and I am promising myself every day if I stay positive and wake up every morning with the ” Go Get It” attitude then one day my dream will come true.

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Image Credits
Yahda Bynum

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