The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team.
Sydney Webb is up and yes, this is an 11 minute read. Her story is worth the extra minute.
Who are you and what do you do? My name is Sydney Webb and I have a really crazy and amazing cookie-dough company called Madeby. Beyond that, I am a hard core people lover. That is the center of everything for me. I, believe or not, hate baking. When people find this out about me, they’re shocked because, as I mentioned, I am running a cookie-dough business.
For a while I had thought i’d go play professional soccer. My Sophomore year of High School I had gotten recruited to go to USC to play and halfway through that season I got really sick. I thought it was the flu and so I went to the doctor and they said to rest and take Vitamin C; pretty standard stuff. Issue was the sickness never went away and I had kept going back to the doctors for an entire year. I went to every specialist in Los Angeles that you could imagine to figure out what was wrong with me. I had abdominal cramps, nausea, headaches... the list went on. I went through a year of testing and the last test was I had to swallow a pill that took pictures of my internals as it moved through my body. That very test is where the doctors discovered I had Crohn’s disease. I was 15-16 years of age and was just diagnosed with a serious disease. The crazy part about it was I extremely healthy and was doing all the right things. So as you can imagine, this altered everything in my life from that point forward. Soccer was off the table now (lost my scholarship) and that had been a part of my life since I was seven years old. As a result, I started to have a really tough time with self-identity from then on out. I had lost 50 pounds really quickly and had persistent stomach and headaches that wouldn’t go away.
This resulted in me starting to see a therapist for a while after losing 50 pounds because people started to think I was anorexic and worse yet, I was starting to wonder if I was too, but I knew deep down that something was truly wrong with me; I was not anorexic.
20 medications and infusions later, which was all supposed to help me, hadn’t done much. From the beginning of this process I was never a really a fan of medicine; the lack of getting better from the medications only expedited this feeling. As such, I started to read the medication labels because I never knew exactly what I was taking. Upon reading the labels I realized I was taking medication to mitigate the symptoms of other medications! From then on I fought my parents to the nail on medications because the medications were making me feel worse, not better. The medications and infusions were draining my energy and directly as a result of that, I had no real social life during the time in my life where I should have had one.
This was the first awakening on the importance of health for me. Again, I had always been very active and from the outside, what would appear to be healthy, but the message was clear: living is a lifestyle. For three years by being hyper focused on what I was consuming and doing, I was able to re-establish a semi-active life style again. Although my opportunity with soccer had passed, I became a cheerleader the last approximately two years of High School. At the end of High School, since I had lost my scholarship to play soccer at USC, I went to the closest Community College with the goal of transferring to USC eventually.
When I was 19, I was at a Starbucks doing homework. As I was standing in line waiting for tea, a guy came up and asked me why I wanted tea. Super strange question right? However, the next thing out of his mouth was do you have Crohn’s disease? For those that do not know, you cannot have coffee when you have Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is where you have ulcers in your intestines that make it hard to digest certain things, coffee included. Anyway, I hung out with this guy for three hours and he shared with me how he had almost died in his early 20s. As such, in his early 20s when he thought he was going to pass, he bought a one way ticket to Thailand as sort of a bucket list trip. When he showed up in Thailand, everyone there was blown away by the medications he was taking because in Thailand, they’re more into holistic health. So the locals started cooking really healthy and holistic food for him and in a matter of weeks he felt noticeably better and then after a month he felt much better. He then became a certified holistic doctor in Thailand and then came to the US to practice and was at a conference near that Starbucks where we just, by chance, ended up meeting. From that conversation though, it really solidified for me this idea of eating intentionally healthy, which lead me to getting into the best shape of my life where I then went on to cheer for the LA Kings for a little while.
All was going well cheering and being a student. However, after a period of time I started to feel bad again and I knew that stress could re-trigger Crohn’s so I had thought maybe it was that but then after running tests, I was told I had Colon Cancer.
When I heard this I knew I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I didn’t want any of my friends and family to know. From the healing experience with Crohn’s, I studied the process as best as possible and in the four years of that experience and everything I had learned, I still did not know how I would heal myself with Colon Cancer. I did know though that if I were to come out on the other side that healing is truly the power of the mind, body and soul. My aunt had ALS and for those that do not know, that is a disease that really takes someone’s life in about five years but not my aunt; she had the best attitude and saw the power of mind, body and soul healing and was able to persevere. So I knew that for cancer it would have to be the same way and thus worrying family by telling them would worry me. If it was just in my head without anyone else knowing then it would be easier to forget.
At a part-time shift a week after learning I had Colon Cancer, I met the second key influencer in my story. I met this person at an event where she was telling her story as a speaker and how she had healed her Colon Cancer in holistic way and had stage three Cancer just like me. She had mentioned she had healed with Adaptogens, which are a class of super foods that heal stress in the body. The goal of these super foods is to help the body adapt to stresses: physical, emotional or physiological. Masha and Green Tea are the most well known examples. However, mushrooms, berries, bark, roots or leafy greens of trees are also examples that when they’re consumed, they have a different affect on the body. Normal food goes straight to the stomach whereas Adaptogens go to the Adrenaline Glans in the body, which affect hormones which affects the stress on the body and essentially tells the body to relax. I know, a lot of explanation here. Anyway, in terms of Cancer, a bunch of red blood cells are used to fight the mutation (Cancer) but the mutation takes over the blood cells because it tricks the body. Adaptogens can prevent and reverse this trickery by slowing this process down. Now, full disclosure, I am not a doctor and this is not a magic pill you can just take and boom you are cured. That is not what I am saying. However, Adaptogens are something you can take on a daily basis and when combined with healthy lifestyle, it can have a tremendous affect on the body.
Now part of my background has been on the science behind these things. There’s so much research and so many blogs and people’s stories on this and physical hard evidence from some of the best schools in the world that give merit to Adaptogens. There is a big reason LSD and Psychedelics exist but also why they’re illegal. What’s strange is you know what a Pharmacy is but you do not know what Adaptogens are, and that is largely due to if you research, the food industry is partnered with these Pharmacies and it is a whole big ecosystem built to benefit big business. They don’t want you to know about Adaptogens.
So I knew I had to get my hands on Adaptogens after that and I went home that night and ordered 10 different types. Upon my own research, Adaptogens had no side effects because by definition they have to be nontoxic to the body. Adaptogens promote homeostasis and were hypoallergenic (non allergenic) so I knew this wouldn’t hurt to at least try, especially compared to medications I had been taking.
From diagnosis of Colon Cancer to the point of radiation treatment for me was three months. In this span of time, I took a combo of about 10 adaptogens and got them in powder form and mixed them in different foods I was eating. I am vegan, so this was not a McDonalds diet or anything bad here, this was making smoothies and consuming Adaptogens in raw form. For those of you that do not know, Adaptogens taste HORRIBLE, but I took them because I believed in them helping me. Three months later when it was time to go to Chemo and have radiation treatment, the doctors ran the tests again to check the stage of the Colon Cancer in my body and they discovered I was completely free of Cancer.
Now it sounds crazy, I know, and some people believed me and some did not. When family wouldn’t believe me, I tried so many different things with Adaptogens to see if they would try them, but I was basically talking to a wall. So I started to try and hide it in my family’s food. One issue though... I knew they tasted nasty, so I started thinking about how I would get people to eat these. I thought back to how I grew up with a sweet tooth and when you’re sick, sweets were an absolute no, which was so so hard for me. So I had this concept that I would create a sweet or a cookie that had Adaptogens in it. I really took to heart the ingredients and actual affects of food as being so IMPORTANT. So I went off to create a cookie that would not taste like a healthy cookie, even though it was.
What did it take / how did you get started? Upon getting into USC for my last two years of college, before and after school and work, I was recipe testing cookies like a maniac and very poorly doing so. I would have family and friends, sometimes three times a night over for a sampling party. I was making things so frequently because it was turning out so poorly every time. It was a lot of making, baking and then sometimes I didn’t even bake it. I was just trying so much I would just taste the batter. There was one time I forgot to add sugar and added salt instead and then was told the cookies I produced out of that were awful and my hard work was just a lost cause. However, I just kept going and believed it was possible. I really wanted to create a healthy cookie and have Adaptogens and for it to be Gluten free, and Vegan free and low sugar. All of these things are very hard to do when creating a cookie and so I kept trying and 2 years of recipe testing later, Madeby was born.
It is important to note: I am not a baker! For a long long time, it was a scientific experiment. The product is Vegan, Gluten free and all ingredients are super foods and each type of cookie dough we sell has Adaptogens for mood boosting, the brain, endurance and stamina etc. Sometimes we tell people a cookie a day will keep the doctor away because they really are that healthy. Four grams of sugar; they taste like a normal cookie. To this day it is mind boggling to people and me that this could be possible for a cookie - it’s just a really special product.
What does the future look like for you and your hustle? Within a year I hope to be in most if not all health food and other niche stores in the So-Cal area. That said, my focus has been on expanding into hospitals and ideally schools as well. I want to infiltrate as much as I can. I am starting at hospitals because I know from being at one, the options are not healthy across the board, which is crazy to me because the correlation between nutrition and health are directly related. So I am starting to go into hospitals and expanding into them one by one. I really want to be all over the world. End goal I want to be global and have that type of accessibility.
Most important for me is that Madeby reaches the people who need it most not by just nutrition but also to inspire them to think about what they’re made by.
By the end of the year I will have a partnership with First Descents which is an organization that takes individuals impacted by Cancer on these amazing, once and a life time adventures; think bucket list items. Madeby will have a large portion of the profits through that partnership go to the foundation, which supports something very personal to me.
Ideally the end game is to be very philanthropic. In short I am friends with the guys that do Yes Theory on Youtube and they run the Yes Foundation where all the proceeds that go into the foundation goes to 10 people at a time to grant them their dreams. This is really what I would like to do because not everyone is affected by a sickness or disease. There’s a ton of problems in the world. I want to help people actually do something about it.
What drives / motivates you? The purpose of me doing all this is to spark people’s curiosity. I want to inspire people to do what they love, whatever that may be and to allow them to continue doing so should they have a set-back like an illness or disease.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do? Do as much as you can with no money at all.
What has been the hardest part of the hustle? Everything about it has been hard if I am being completely honest but it is also rewarding. The hardest part, for me, is it is really hard to convince people that you know what you’re doing. More so family and friends, at least until you make it in their mind to whatever point surpasses their expectations. Once pushing past the initial push back from the people really close, well, that is step one and most entrepreneurs go through that, some just more than others. The hardest part by in large and will be forever, is it is a really lonely thing to do. Even though I work with a bunch of different people, it is a very lonely feeling in the sense of the fate of everything as a founder and CEO and everything being in your hands. As you’re trying to build something it is a really crazy thing to never have normal work hours. I am not off on 5 pm and I don’t have the weekends free. It is a lot of hard work which takes a lot of mental energy, which then makes it hard to balance things, which then makes you find out who your true supporters are between friends and family. It just is a really scary thing, especially when you do not have a huge savings or a huge fall back. However, once you’re brave enough to face each and every day and don’t quit, then you’re getting stronger and conquering a piece of success.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend? Three categories of how i’d recommend someone to resource their time would be:
1 - Find a mentor. This can take you from 6 months into a business to 10 years a lot faster. Expertise is invaluable.
2 - Books, especially self help books. Off the top of my head, “You are a Badass" by Jen Sincero.
3 - Journaling, making time to reflect, and meditation.
I'd also recommend: the short essay, "The Struggle," by Ben Horowitz
Side or full-time hustle? Full-time.
List the founders Just me!
How many hours a week do you work on this hustle? 70ish
# of Employees? 2 part-time
When did you start? January 2019
How much did it cost to launch? I put up the website and started Pre-sales for three weeks to generate cash and to figure out what people wanted. From there, I then started everything with about $1k.
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised? Bootstrapped.
Annual Revenue? Up until this point, about $80k
Projected Revenue? About $500k