Whitney-Singletary-White: The Right Ingredients for Significance #42

Warwick Fairfax

November 3, 2020

She baked her first batch of cookies in the California sun at age 3 — with mud as the secret ingredient. Ever since that day, Whitney Singletary-White has dreamed of being a baker, and she’s made that dream come true with her gourmet Nuttin’ Butter Cookies. She sells the exotic nut-butter confections from her driveway these days, rising above the crucible of the COVID-19 pandemic with the same kind of grit that saw her fight back from a brutal assault that almost cost her much more than her business. Her motivation through it all? Building a life of significance with her two boys.
To learn more about Whitney Singletary-White, visit www.nuttinbuttercookies.com

Highlights

  • How her love of cooking and baking was born in childhood (4:11)
  • Her first batch of cookies at 3 … with mud (6:10)
  • Encouragement from her grandfather gave her the drive to start her business (8:41)
  • How she determined to focus on nut0butter cookies exclusively (9:57)
  • Why she took a chance to pursue her vision (13:07)
  • The challenge to her business and her health that led to a painful crucible (15:48)
  • The night the harassment against her almost turned deadly (19:57)
  • The strength she summoned to battle for her business (24:52)
  • Moving her business to a storefront — and then came COVID (29:47)
  • Selling cookies from her driveway … with a little help from her friends (35:19)
  • How the community helped her driveway business thrive (39:00)
  • Law enforcement support has helped her spread the word and build a business (42:32)
  • Her vision to have a business that’s like a gas station in the desert (45:18)
  • Her message of hope to those weary of crucibles (47:26)
  • Help comes from the most unlikely places sometimes (47:40)
  • Why she has never given up (49:28)
  • Why joy may be the best way to move beyond a crucible (54:31)

Transcript

Warwick F:
Welcome to Beyond the Crucible, I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

Whitney S:
Help comes in the most unexpected places when you least expect it. At that moment when you feel that you really can’t go on, there is always going to be that one person that you wouldn’t expect to do it, will reach out and help you. And I find that you can’t really fail if you don’t keep trying because once you give up, you failed, you’re done, that’s over. But as long as you’re like, I can still make it, you can still get that little bit in there, you can still push through just enough. It’s hard, it hurts, but once you get past that moment, you can sit back and go, I made it. I overcomed that. I’m no longer feeling that pain anymore. I’m finally where I need to be. You get yourself out of it. We got to pull ourselves out of the mud sometimes.

Gary S:
Indeed, we do. And the woman who just spoke those words has had to pull herself up out of the mud more than a few times as she’s pursued her dreams which began, which were birthed in her at age three. And she tells us about each struggle and most importantly about each triumph along that journey on today’s episode.

Gary S:
Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, the co-host of the show and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. And today’s guest is Whitney Singletary White, who is the founder and owner of a fabulous gourmet cookie company in California called Nuttin’ Butter Cookies and you’ll find out why they’re called that as the episode progresses.

Gary S:
And as you’ll discover as the episode progresses, nobody can explain Whitney’s passion, Whitney’s experiences and Whitney’s triumphs better than she can with more insight and heart. So I’m going to stop trying and I’m simply going to read by way of introduction the introduction that she provided to Warwick and I for today’s episode. And that is this.

Gary S:
My name is Whitney Singletary White. A California native, a newlywed with two sons, a baker with over 20 years experience, founder and owner of a specialty gourmet nut-based cookie shop located in Berkeley, California, established in March 2015.

Warwick F:
Well, Whitney it is so wonderful to have you. I just loved reading a bit about you. You’ve had a couple of articles and some different things in the San Francisco Bay area so it’s super exciting. I have to confess, I have three kids in their 20s and they all know I definitely am a big cookie fan. So just reading about all the different varieties of cookies and every nut I think I’ve ever heard of, pretty impressive so. It’s just so awesome. But before we get a bit into your story and some of the challenges, I’d love to hear a bit about Whitney and just who you are, how you grew up, family, just a little bit about sort of the back story of Whitney Singletary.

Whitney S:
Well, I grew up in Bakersfield, California. And if you know anything about California, Bakersfield is one of those places you want to pass right through and not live in. It’s part of the fact it was always so hot. We have all the seasons, but summer is just never ending for some reason and it’s just the hottest. But I loved growing up there as a child, it was peaceful, you can leave your doors unlocked, you can walk outside at night barefoot. You wouldn’t do it during the day, you’d burn your feet. But it was just one of those things that that’s how I grew up.

Whitney S:
I grew up with my mom, she was a single mom. Had me and my little sister and my grandpa was always hands on and my grandma she was kind of there, but she was one of those don’t cross her because she’ll throw a knife at somebody. I had a nice childhood. It wasn’t a lot of chaos and drama and extra going on, it was just I grew up with a family that was bakers and chefs and cooks like my grandpa. He was in World War II and he used to be a cook. And he ended up getting out of the military with a purple heart and he went into business for his self being a chef.

Whitney S:
And my love for being in the kitchen was one of those things like oh, I want to try this, I want to taste this. So it was always in the mix of everybody making anything. I want to know what it is and I want to taste it first and can I help.

Warwick F:
So you really grew up in a family of chefs and bakers and I guess baking is… I know it goes back many generations, but it’s literally in your blood. So talk about maybe some of the memories you have of, I don’t know, baking with your mom or grandparents or was baking just part of what you did as a family and stuff?

Whitney S:
It was, it’s during holiday times we used to do that. My grandpa, he’s southern so he was always used to have a bowl of nuts in the shell. And they sold nuts out of the shell, but he liked the old school ones you have to work for it. He says, “It’s not good unless you work for it.” And I’m like, why can’t you just buy them in the can? But I remember sitting around cracking nuts with him. He would take his hands and just crack walnuts. I’m like, gosh, grandpa, use a nutcracker.

Warwick F:
Yeah, who needs a nutcracker when you got grandpa?

Whitney S:
Yeah. So I remember growing up eating his mixed nuts and we would eat cookies and those are my two favorite things. I love cookies, I know. A lot of people want to hear baked goods, they’re like, cakes and pies. I’m like, yeah, I can make those, but cookies are my favorite. And nuts are my favorite so naturally it’s like I grew up and put them both together. It was just a no brainer, but I remember this one time when I was… I don’t remember it, but I remember my mom constantly reminding me of this story when I was three years old I had wanted to play in the kitchen.

Whitney S:
And she was like no, get out of my kitchen, we’re not having that. You’re not suppose to make a mess with my kitchen. But she didn’t say I couldn’t bake. So I took all the ingredients out of the kitchen, took them outside to the front yard and I’m mixing the flour and the eggs and the butter with mud.

Gary S:
Hang on a second so that listeners heard that. You were mixing all the ingredients for cookies with what?

Whitney S:
Mud.

Gary S:
Okay, I just wanted to make sure they heard that.

Whitney S:
Yes. Mud from the front yard, right by my grandpa’s rose bushes. I remember getting this mud and mixing it all together. Had a nice little bowl and I took the cookies, put them on a cookie sheet and laid them out in this Bakersfield’s sun. Within minutes, the heat had cooked them. They were cooked. And my grandpa, he saw me making them. He goes, “What are you making?” I said, “I’m making cookies.” And he goes, “Aw.” And I said, “Would you like one?” And he says, “Oh sure, I’ll try one.” And my grandpa being who he was took a real bite out of the cookie and he’s chewing this cookie and he says to me, “This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t have the dirt in it.”

Whitney S:
And so my mom’s standing to the side and she’s like, “You know she put dirt in these cookies.” He’s like, “Yeah, it’s just dirt, it’s not going to hurt you.” But that’s the grandpa I grew up with. He was always, “Aw, you want to draw on the walls, that’s okay, here’s some paint. I’ll fix that wall later.” He was that grandpa.

Warwick F:
Sounds like an amazing guy, an amazing grandpa.

Whitney S:
He was.

Warwick F:
Did your friends say, gee, how come every grandpa can’t be like yours kind of deal?

Whitney S:
Yes, everybody was like, Uncle Lee, this… he was always… his nickname was Uncle Lee because he had 18 brothers and sisters so he was an uncle to a lot of people.

Warwick F:
Okay, wow.

Whitney S:
But some of them who weren’t actually his relatives would still call him Uncle Lee out of respect and he was always, “If I can help you with this, I can help you. Don’t worry about it. I got you.” And he was always that person. And I remember when I was little going to his barbecue restaurant that he had after school and I would be there helping him out, sweeping, and helping around and we used to joke about… because I used to like to make the baked goods. He never had dessert. He just had the meats and sides, but we never had dessert. I never understood why we never had dessert. Why is there no peach cobbler in here when everybody can make it in the family? I don’t get it.

Whitney S:
And he said, “Well, one day when you get bigger, you can make all the desserts for us.” And that was one of the things we had always talked about, but he end up dying before that ever happened. And so it was always something that I always wanted to do to be in that business with him. And years went by and I always have that moment and I was, “I’m going to wait until the right time and when that time comes, then I’m going to do this.” And I just waited and waited and waited until the right time would come and the right time was never happening. It was always some type of something that will intervene. Then I would say, “Okay, no, not right now. No, not right now.”

Whitney S:
Until I got to a point when I started the company where I would say, you know what? Today is the day. I literally woke up and said, “I no longer want to clean houses anymore,” because I used to have a house cleaning company. And I said, “I no longer want to do that. That just pays the bills, it’s not fun, I don’t like doing it, but it pays the bills.” And I said, “I want to do what I said I wanted to do almost 20 years ago.” And I woke up and said, “cookies.” And I went on the computer and I said, “Not just any cookies, what are people not making is what I wanted to make,” because you can go anywhere to get a baked good, but what would make people come to me and just me only?

Whitney S:
And I said, “Let’s see what they’re not doing.” And I went on the computer and I found everything that you can possibly think of and I said, “Everybody makes snickerdoodles and chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin and I said, “I don’t want that.” I said, “I know it was risky starting a company that didn’t make any traditional cookies.” And I said, “The people out there who think like I do who’ll say I want to try something different, I want to go to a spot where I can have something new.” For those people who can’t bake and they want to be able to experience something besides a regular chocolate chip cookie is like they come here. And when I first started, I only had six nuts and from there all the way to 12 nuts now. And it’s like I just found two more nuts to add to the line.

Warwick F:
Oh really?

Whitney S:
I thought I had all the nuts, I found two more.

Warwick F:
Are you able to tell us like a-

Whitney S:
Yes, the pili nut, it’s a pili nut, a P-I-L-I nut. I have never heard of it, but the company that sends me stuff, where I get my nut supply from, they said, “Hey, we have these new nuts, would you be interested in trying?” And I said, “More nuts?” Sure.

Gary S:
My product line expands.

Whitney S:
I said, “Sure.” I tried that nut and the pili nut has this texture like a pine nut, but a flavor like a macadamia. And so I mixed that one with butterscotch and so it just has this, what, moment to it but your mind just goes like this. People are looking for adventurous foods that are outside of the box. I’m the spot. I’m the bizarre food world of cookies.

Warwick F:
That is amazing.

Whitney S:
And then the second one is a baru nut, a B-A-R-U nut and that one I was like it looks so alien and so all nuts kind of look weird all ready, but this one just has just what is it look. And when you’re eating it, it’s like for me I’m like I’m eating this nut and it has this texture like a almond, but when you’re tasting it it taste like a peanut. But not like a strong peanut, so I said I love stuff that’s trippy like that. So that one I add a little bit of molasses to it so it’s kind of like a gingersnap without the ginger.

Warwick F:
Wow, so how long has it been that you’ve started Nuttin’ Butter, when did that start?

Whitney S:
It first started back in March of 2015.

Warwick F:
Right, right and so wow, so you had this idea for nuts and started it and-

Whitney S:
The idea of creating it was in 2014.

Warwick F:
Okay.

Whitney S:
I was stewing on it and now it’s just that’s the moment when I was realizing that this is what I want to do. What else do I want to do with my life besides this? Baking makes me happy. People who eat baked goods are happy. That’s what I want in my life right now and then the following year was just one of those okay, I’m doing it now.

Warwick F:
So some people have ideas and they have dreams, but sadly most people, they don’t do a whole lot with that. They think about it, wouldn’t it be fun if, but what led you to go from hey this’ll be a fun idea to I’m doing it? Because so many people don’t do that. What led you to say you know what, we’re going all in, let’s do it? What led you to do that?

Whitney S:
I feel like sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end of the pool and figure it out. And for me, I said I can not go another day without having ever tried doing it. I know it’s always something I wanted to do, can I really make a profession of it, do I really want to make a profession out of it? Do I? And I said but I’m never going to be able to answer any of these questions until I actually do it. And so I said I’m doing. Even if I fail two weeks later, I can say I did it and it just didn’t work. I just couldn’t live with myself because I’m a perfectionist too. So I said part of me is like I critique myself and I said, you can’t say you tried everything and did everything that you wanted to do in your life and you haven’t even did the thing you’re passionate about yet.

Whitney S:
And so that’s what made me say I need to do it. I don’t care what no one thinks, I don’t care how much it’s going to cost me, I’m doing it.

Warwick F:
That’s an amazing attitude that people could really learn from because so few people, they don’t do what they’re passionate about. Were there any echos of your grandfather or your mom, were any of them sort of this go for it mentality, do what you love?

Whitney S:
Yeah, my mom, she actually owns her own business since the ’90s where she makes clothing accessories and afro-centric multi-cultural jewelry, ponchos, purses, et cetera. And I remember she used to do a lot of vending for festivals like jazz festivals and music festivals, food festivals. And being there as a child helping her with the sales and interacting with the customers just like that, that was fun for me. And so growing up into that and then her having her own business. And my grandpa, him being a chef and everyone all seem to have that entrepreneur vibe and even my great-great-grandmother used to have her big old giant cauldron that she used to sell mustard greens and collard greens on the side of the road when she first got freed.

Warwick F:
Wow.

Whitney S:
And that’s how she made her money. That comes in the family, so being able to just jump out and just start something. Some of the family members are like, I don’t know. Then it’s other ones in the family, they’re like, let’s do it. We’re kind of divided.

Warwick F:
That’s an amazing business and we want to get to some of the challenges and obviously as a cookie fan I love all the fun varieties. I’m just looking at an article, almond, walnut, pecan, pistachio, hazel nut, brazil nut, pine nut, sesame seeds, wow! So that’s amazing. You live in Berkeley, California, is it?

Whitney S:
Yes.

Warwick F:
And so I understand you have asthma, so you’re in this apartment building and there’s some people that are smoking and you said to the landlord, “Hey, you’re not meant to smoke in this place, can we just not do the smoking because”… but somehow that seemed like a very reasonable request, but somehow that didn’t seem to turn out so well. So tell folks what happened when you told the landlord, “I believe this whole smoking thing is not helping me.”

Gary S:
And before you tell this story, Whitney, I want to just reveal one detail about your life that you told me when we talked earlier. Because it helps inform the real emotional and physical toughness you demonstrated through this process. You told me, I want to make sure I get it right. “I played hockey back in the day.” That’s what you told me. So that’s an important context for listeners truly to hear as you tell this story of how you responded to the things that happened just from smoking going on in your building when smoking wasn’t supposed to go on and the way that your neighbors treated it. You had a mental and emotional and physical toughness that allowed you to get through what you’re about to tell us.

Whitney S:
Well, I can definitely say yeah, the hockey, I was a tomboy, so hockey, football, I was in there. We was boxing. I played dolls too, but I was really rough as a child. My sons are no where as rough as I was. But so moving into this property, it was one of those things where as a person who has asthma, I wanted to be in a smoke-free environment. Someone who has two young children that are a greater risk of developing it by being exposed to things, I wanted to reduce their risk.

Whitney S:
And so the place that I was living in only had one, two people sometimes smoking, which was too much for me because they was doing it right by my window. And so when I moved into this new place, I was assured that there’s no smoking, they had signs that said no smoking. I went by a couple of random times and I didn’t smell any smoke, I didn’t see any evidence of smoke, so I’m like yes, this is a good fit. I get there and soon as the lease is signed, the whole dynamic of the building switched. It was like the people, there was no people hanging out, now there’s people hanging out.

Whitney S:
There was no smoking, now they’re smoking every day. What is this? I felt bamboozled, like it was a whole con. And when I get there I’m like okay, well, we have a front part of the property and a driveway, sometimes they have barbecues and get-to-gethers in the driveway, they call it their backyard. I had a backyard, that’s not a backyard, that’s a driveway. So when I asked for my simple request, I asked the one who was smoking by my window, “Do you mind smoking in the back,” since the smoked there anyways, I didn’t think it would be inconveniencing them. And I told them because the smoke is coming into my window and it’s bothering me and my children, do you mind doing that?

Whitney S:
And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, yeah. Sure, no worries.” And then as I walked away I hear, “[laughing], we do what we want to do.” I was like, oh, so that’s how it’s going to be in this building. Okay. So let me go ahead give the landlord the benefit of the doubt, let him know that you have a tenant that’s smoking by my window. I asked them could they move, maybe you can ask them to not stand by my window because smoke travels up and I’m upstairs. Simple. And they never got in trouble, they never got any fines even though the city of Berkeley prohibits smoking in common areas and inside residential property. So it’s against the law to do it, however, they continued to do it and the landlord never did anything about it.

Whitney S:
So my mind is I still to this day don’t understand the point in wanting to attack me because I complained about their smoking when they never got any trouble. It’s not like it was a retaliation because they lost their job or their housing or they got a fine, it was just because I was there and they thought they can do it. It was just that simple.

Warwick F:
And when they attacked you… they didn’t just attack you a little bit, they really hurt you-

Whitney S:
No, they were really trying to kill me that night.

Warwick F:
Hurt you severely. What was the effects of what they did to you?

Whitney S:
Yes, just one of those moments where you’re going to go check your mail and people were like, “Why were you checking your mail at night? Blaming the victim, I’m like well, during the day, they smoke and drink all day. So I don’t want to go and be involved and associate with people who are against me because I tattletale on them all the time about their smoking, even though they don’t get in trouble, I just complain. I said, “I will wait until they are done doing what they are doing to go check my mail.” So I don’t have to walk through smoke and step over people and I might bump into someone and cause problems.

Whitney S:
And so that night when I went to check my mail, thought the coast was clear, I didn’t smell any smoke, I didn’t hear anyone. And to have a person that in passing that would say hello to you and you will say hello back to them for that person to come over to the property, see you there and come back. They had left. They came back to the property and these are people who I then wasn’t complaining about their smoke. They were neighbors next door that were friends with the one I complained about.

Warwick F:
Oh my gosh.

Whitney S:
The one that I complained about didn’t even do it. He just was complaining to them that I complained about him. And so they said, “We going to get her because she’s a snitch.” I’m like that’s not snitching, I seen movies. That’s not snitching. And so a guy, he came over and he was talking to me. And I was talking to him being polite and one of my other neighbors brought up my cookies. So the whole thing was a setup. And so she’s talking to me about my cookies and I’m having conversation about like, “Oh, yeah, I just finished making the pecan, la-la-la.” And when we’re having this conversation is when the guy grabs my hair and he pulls me holding me back in place. And the other girl comes over and she starts punching on me and I break free. And I’m like look, don’t touch. That hurt, but what really? Who does this? What kind of man does that? And why he’s holding me in place, I was able to break free, but then I tripped over the lip in the door, my house shoe fell off and I hit the ground.

Whitney S:
And soon as I hit the ground, they all just flooded in there, so it was like these two girls and the guy all flooded in there real quick and I’m blocking my face because I’m too pretty to get hit in the face. And this is me dodging all of this and I’m like, I don’t understand why short people feel the need that they can take people who have long arms and legs because I’m tall. And so it was like they weren’t doing too much damage because every time they would come in to swing at me, I would swing back at them and my arms were longer than there’s so it’s like, I’m doing crab walk, kick to the face. But that moment when I’m thinking here comes a guy that always likes to say hello to me, he’s walking into the building and I’m thinking here he’s coming to break up this fight and I can get up off the ground, but instead I see him brace his self onto the wall and hold balance his self on one foot and stomps me in the face.

Whitney S:
And when he stomped me straight in the face, my head hits the ground and then that’s when they were able to get me. And I was like oh, so now I’m just getting hit and kicked and stomped and I’m like oh, I’m still trying to move, still punching back, fractured my knuckle, it was just one of those moments where it was just so much. And it took… and I was like “mom,” and they attacked her and had pushed her all up against and she end up bruising up her back. It was just a while crazy thing. My children came outside the apartment, they were upstairs calling for their mom. And to hear them and then the neighbor, only decent one in the building, comes out of his house like what’s going on? And he pushes everybody off of me and me being how I am, I said, “They can’t see that they hurt me.” I was hurt. I was really hurt.

Whitney S:
Well, I stood up like a zombie, no emotion, just no tears, I just stood up like that didn’t even hurt. It was hurting and I was able to-

Warwick F:
Was it like concussion? It was pretty severe things.

Whitney S:
Yeah, it was. I didn’t want them to feel that they defeated me, even though-

Warwick F:
It’s so sad because you weren’t doing anything to them. You were just have asthma and didn’t want smoking. It’s just sad how humanity can be.

Whitney S:
It is.

Gary S:
And it’s important to note here, let me say this, you had already started Nuttin’ Butter Cookies. You were doing it out of your house. You had a license to do that.

Whitney S:
Right.

Gary S:
So you had started the business. You were-

Whitney S:
In March.

Gary S:
Right. What you were talking about earlier, this desire, this is your passion. I don’t just want to pay the bills, I want to do what’s my passion. You finally get to be doing that. You finally are doing that. You’ve got it all set up, you’re selling cookies out of your home and then this attack comes and that derails… in addition to the terrible physical toll it takes on you, it also upends your business opportunity at that moment, correct?

Whitney S:
It literally did. It’s like March, all the way to April going to October is when the incident took place. So it wasn’t that long in between from starting it in March to having before I can even get it going stopped. It was just a sudden stop and it was just one of those moments where I felt like can I ever get a break? When do I get a chance to have a break? This was supposed to be my moment. This was me. I got to tend to myself. I like to do that and so it was just one of those moments I was like I have a concussion now, my right hand is fractured, I can’t even do anything that I want to do and I’m sitting here like what is the next stage for me?

Whitney S:
And my next stage was looking at my children and they’re looking at me like, mommy, you’re going to be okay. And to see their faces because at the time they were like two and three. And so it was just one of those things where they would look at me like, mommy, don’t give up. That’s how they looked at me. Because I guess they could feel my energy because I felt like I was defeated and I felt like what was the purpose of even doing this. All my savings that I had from my house cleaning, I had used that to get the main stuff I needed, like ingredients and stuff to get the ball going and to pay for my licensing just for it to be, ha, you’re not doing none of that.

Whitney S:
And so that didn’t let me down because I’m too persistently stubborn. It’s just one of those moments just felt like yeah, it set me back, but I was able to during my recuperation figure out the next strategy on how to get to the next stage of where I want to be. And I said working out of the house in this particular environment wasn’t working that well anyway, so I started finding out about other events and other shows that I could go and participate in. So I wouldn’t have to be there, but right after the incident, a program called The Victims Compensation program that California Office For Victims were able to… them and the police department because they did a wonderful job, the police, they’re so wonderful. They did everything by the book, they went a little above and beyond. One of the officers even took me to the pharmacy after I did my interview about the incident and they took all my pictures and stuff.

Whitney S:
And when I went to go pick up my prescription, he took me to Walgreens to go pick up my medicine and he drove me home. And I thought it was funny that this officer, while he was bringing me home… the one who I used to complain about, his friends, the ones who attacked me, he was peeking through his downstairs window when the officer was bringing me home. And the officer saw him and he goes, “I think I’ll check your mail for you right now too.” He goes, “I don’t think anyone’s going to mess with me while I check your mail.” And he goes, “So you can check it in the daytime.”

Whitney S:
So I hand this officer my key and he checks the mail for me. And he was like, “Is there anything else you need from us, just let us know. Here’s my card.” And he hand me his card and they were standing around like all nervous and stuff, but it was just the Berkeley Police, they really did go a little extra for making sure that this was taken care of and they did everything by the book. And it was the DA who threw me under the bus. And it’s just one of those moments where it’s just like how would you think a person who commits a crime in our society they have some type of punishment, but that’s not the case if you’re brown on brown. And when you have a district attorney that tells you, “We’re going to do everything we can, we’re charging this person with a felony assault and battery. And once we catch the other ones because they’re hiding, they’re at large, when we catch them, we’re going to charge them too.”

Whitney S:
I’m like, yes, I’m suffering from a concussion. I’m like yes, justice, this is how it’s supposed to go. This is how it should be going. I agreed to that. They’re like, he’s willing to take a plea so would you be willing to do that and he’s going to get five years? And I was like, five years I almost die, I consider that attempted murder, but if you guys want to call it battery and assault, okay. Five years is better than nothing, so I agreed to that. Just to find out that that person wasn’t doing any jail time, he got probation, five years felony probation. What is the point of that? And then to give me a stay away order to tell me, this person’s not supposed to come around you any more for X amount of yards. And you’re like, okay, but then he’s in front of my house and you say, this person violating that order, this and that committed another crime, why should this person who almost killed me be allowed to be free and if he does another crime, then he goes to jail? That’s backwards.

Warwick F:
It’s hard to understand. Yeah, it’s just crazy, but what’s amazing to me is life isn’t fair, doesn’t seem objectively the lack of punishment for what was very serious, assault and battery, attempted murder. But yet, it doesn’t seem like you let that get you down. Doesn’t mean you’re probably angry, probably doesn’t mean it’s not fair, but-

Whitney S:
It fueled me.

Warwick F:
Right. It fueled you. Yeah, because some people-

Whitney S:
It did. It made me so angry that these people thought that they could do it and get away with it and then the court system was basically saying that you’re getting away with it. I said, they might have gotten away with doing that, but they’re not going to stop me from starting this company that I been wanting to do for years. I have control over that.

Warwick F:
And that’s amazing. In the midst of all that, it’s always nice when you have a good Samaritan. In this case, the local policemen that helps out so the world is full of people unfortunately that do a lot of bad things, but there is some good people, there is some good Samaritans.

Whitney S:
There are.

Warwick F:
And you saw them, which was good. So you started this I understand that at some point you moved into a storefront and expanded it?

Whitney S:
Yes.

Warwick F:
And that was a few months before COVID hit, right?

Whitney S:
Yes, it’s like-

Warwick F:
Which is crazy because that was another crucible if you will. You started it, this is great and then COVID hits and that made life tough to do it out of the storefront, who’s got stores in the height of COVID.

Whitney S:
Well, especially in Berkeley, in Alameda County, they said, “All restaurants, bakeries closed.” You’re nonessential. But the corner store is essential and the beauty salons essential, but the bakery is not, okay. I don’t get it. Let’s make my hair pretty, but I don’t want to eat. So a lot of us restaurants and bakeries and food establishments in the bay area, we all… bars, we were all at a halt. They said, “Doors are closed until further notice.” And they literally shut us down. They saw people, they were coming in like shut it down, shut it down because clearly having your restaurant open during COVID hours is one of those things where you would get infected. So we close early, I don’t get it. COVID still there after 2:00, it’s still there. But I remember when March had hit, it’s right at that moment when they were getting ready to start shutting things down, everything was like a wave.

Whitney S:
It was just a nonstop wave that kept coming and coming because at first it was like okay, we’re hearing rumors of these things end of February about it could possibly affect us. And I’m keeping track of it because I watch bio movies so I’m like this is going to get worst before it gets better. We should start preparing and my preparation wasn’t for the fact of ingredients. And so my priority was making sure that my children had can goods and foods just in case the power goes out or if people get sick and the plants not working. We need to be prepared. And soon as I gave my landlord the rent, I get this phone call from my landlord nagging me about, I haven’t received your rent. This is March, there’s so many people right now that has no job right now because everything is shut down. And I mailed you the rent. So I could’ve kept that whole thing for myself and used it for whatever, but I was being honest.

Whitney S:
And I said, I know, I owe you, I’m going to give it to you. I even told him it was going to be a bit late, it was too late when he got it. I can not control the mail. I just can’t. If the mail system is having a delay, that’s not my problem, but he nagged me, nagged me, nagged me about, “I’m going to have to kick you out.” I’m like, okay. I can’t be there anyways. I’m already closed. What are you kicking me out for? And then when he finally did get the rent, he sends me an oh, I got your rent. I’m waiting for an apology, didn’t get it.

Warwick F:
Crazy. From what I understand, eventually, you ended up having to move out with COVID.

Whitney S:
Right.

Warwick F:
And I believe you had a lease and you had to keep paying him even though you weren’t even there.

Whitney S:
I know. And then he reaches out to me and says, “With all of the COVID going on, is there anything, anything that we can help you with during this time of crisis and hardship.” And I said, I’m thinking to myself is this a joke? This is the same person who was just threatening to evict me not too long ago, but I went on with it and I said because I like to try and find good in everybody because everybody has it. Some people don’t have a lot of it, but everybody has a little bit in them. So I said maybe during this time of crisis, maybe he has a reality check on how he needs to approach people. So I said, “Well, the only thing that you can really help me with is maybe I can end my lease now.”

Whitney S:
Because my lease had ended in August and it was March. And so I’m sitting there and I’m like maybe we can just end it now. He goes, “No, no, no, you’re under contract. You still have to pay your rent.” I’m like, but you just asked me what could you do to help me and that would help me a lot. Because if you can’t help me with that, what else would you help me with?

Warwick F:
So that’s another crucible, you have to pay this rent to a place you aren’t even there anymore because of COVID because you can’t… even in that circumstance, you didn’t let it get you down.

Whitney S:
No.

Warwick F:
Because then you began I think selling cookies back in your apartment and driveway. And people picking up. So talk about how you didn’t let that get you down, that you found a way through. So what did you do then when you had to go back to your home?

Whitney S:
I can definitely say when I came back to being home, I wasn’t selling in March, wasn’t selling in April, but toward the end part, the beginning of May, I’m sitting here like if I wanted to sell in my driveway, I couldn’t right now because all the stores were still shut down and they had limits where you could only buy one thing of eggs. I’m like really, I can’t work a business with one thing of eggs.

Gary S:
I’m a baker, I need more than that.

Whitney S:
Exactly, I said I need at least 10 boxes of butter. No, ma’am, you’re hoarding butter. I need butter for my business. I need you to make an exception. You have to talk to the manager. No, we have one transaction at a time. I gets around those things, so we just go back multiple times. But I remember at this moment where I was really feeling like defeated again. It’s like I can’t even sell in my driveway because I don’t even have the ingredients to even make cookies. And a couple of my neighbors who reached out to me were like, “Oh we heard that you lost your shop and all this COVID, we’re just checking to make sure you were doing all right. And is there’s anything we can do to help you?”

Whitney S:
And I was like, “Well, right now, it’s just I don’t even know how I’m going to get by because I can’t even make my own money right now because there’s no ingredients for me.” And I didn’t ask anyone because I’m just used to not asking people because I hear excuses. And so I was just venting and then one neighbor took it upon herself to spread the word to everybody that they have any extra right now to gather it all up. And they came to my house and they had bags of flour, they had some eggs, and they were like here’s some sugar, here’s something we all collected different sticks of butter. Here so you can still be able to get by. That was so… moments where I was like wow. I didn’t realize that I lived in a community where people did those things.

Whitney S:
My mom had even reached out to a couple of her friends and he goes yeah, when I go to the store, while I’m there, I’m going to see if they have any of those ingredients. So people, when they were at the different stores, they would be able to get these different ingredients for me and they were like donating me flour and they were donating me vanilla so I could still be able to make cookies. So I got the ingredients so I set back up in the driveway. Said look, I ain’t got no excuses no more. I can make these products. People want my cookies, I can still make them. So I’m still here.

Warwick F:
That’s a miracle. In so much turmoil and people doing I don’t know reprehensible things in the world you see on the news, but it’s almost like you’re in the desert and you see an oasis or from a faith perspective maybe a drop of grace. And it’s like, wow maybe there’s a few little good folks and drops of grace there. When people do that, it’s unbelievable. It’s not something you ever could’ve imagined that neighbors were donating things. And by doing that, they enabled you to feed your family and your boys.

Whitney S:
Exactly. And being in the driveway was the money I was making to pay for my shop because once they finally started to open things back up, they still had restrictions where they said only curbside, outside business. So you still couldn’t have stuff indoors. So I’m like, it doesn’t make since for me to make the cookies at home then take the cookies to my shop to sell on the sidewalk when I can just sell at home like I already was doing. Because I’m the original curbside cookies.

Warwick F:
And so from what I understand, you had lots of local folks, police, firemen, talk about how some of the local officials in Berkeley somehow word has spread about your amazing cookies.

Whitney S:
Someone called and complained about me is what started it. And I find that even in that moment of negative, it turned into a positive thing because someone complained that I was selling cookies in my driveway and I had to be illegal. Who does that? Who calls the police on someone selling cookies. Someone did, but officer pulled over real quick with his hands, he popped out of his car and he had his hands on his holster like he was reaching for his gun or something and just walking over like a cowboy.

Whitney S:
And he walks over like what’s going on here? I got so much signs that says I’m cookie, I don’t know why he asked me that question. But he goes what’s going on here? And I said, just selling cookies, raising money to this officer. He goes what kind of cookies? And I told him. They’re regular nut butter cookies. He goes, well, I never heard of a cookie like that. I said because I made it up, it’s my recipe. And I’m telling him on these things and he goes, well, and what about this one? And he pointed to the pistachio. It does have a slightly green hint to it, I didn’t have edibles. And he goes what about this one? And I said that’s pistachio and I said you can have that one if you like pistachios. And he goes, I do like pistachios, he goes and it’s just a regular cookie?

Whitney S:
They’re all just regular cookies. He goes, well do you have permission to be here? And I said, this is my driveway, so yes. And I said I’m not quite sure what you’re asking me because is that a trick question? He goes well do you have a license for anything? I said actually I do. I’m like how many people trying to sell something in their driveway have to actually pull out their credentials to the police officer because someone called on them?

Warwick F:
Unbelievable.

Whitney S:
And so I was sitting there and yeah, I showed them my health permit, showed him my business license and I showed him everything I had. And he looked and he was satisfied with that information. And he left and he’s sitting in the car. And after he eats his cookie, he comes back over. I’m like, oh, now what? What now? Leave me alone. I’m not doing anything, but selling cookies. I know it’s almost nighttime, but come on. And so he comes over and it wasn’t a negative thing. He comes over to shake my hand. He goes, “That was a really good cookie.” He goes, “You got a customer for life.” He goes, “I’m going to tell everyone I know that you got the best cookies in Berkeley.” And I went, “oh well, thank you officer. Thank you, appreciate it.”

Whitney S:
And that particular night, while he’s sitting over there in his vehicle finishing the rest of his cookie, a guy up to no good, I saw him, I had my bat underneath the table. And this guy comes walking over like he’s getting ready to do something he not supposed to be doing, but every since my incident, I’m alert to everything. And he was being weird. He was acting like he was casing me out pretty much. He was observing what was going on. And I’m like what kind of person sees the little girl selling cookies and you want to rob her? Really? There people would like that. And so I really feel that he was up to something because when he comes and he walks past me ad he walks past me again. And I have my bat, I’m ready. If he tries it, he’s not going to get my money easily. We both were going to be hurt tonight, not tonight.

Whitney S:
And I remember that when he got ready to walk past, he was so focused on me, he didn’t even see the cop car. And so the cop goes [woop, woop, woop] with his lights and siren and the guy takes off running. And I never saw him ever again, but the cop comes and he goes, “Are you all right?” “Yeah, I’m good.” And every since that moment, the cops had relayed to other officers so when they’re en route under different beats, they would pass by when they see me at night, just thumbs up. Checking to see how I’m doing. I had free security. This is nice, I got police security, hey, free security and they’ll buy cookies. I remember this one night when the fire truck had pulled over. I’m thinking to myself, oh what’s going on now? It’s always something, can a sister get a break?

Whitney S:
And I’m sitting here and just one fireman gets out of the truck and he comes over and he says, “A cop told me that you got the best cookies in town.” And I was just like… I said, okay. And he’s talking to me about the cookies and I told him about all the different cookies I had. And the other fire… what do you call them, fire workers because there’s fire women?

Warwick F:
True.

Gary S:
Fire person, the other fire person.

Warwick F:
Exactly.

Whitney S:
There we go, fire person. Yeah, we’re going to roll with that one. But I remember, he came over and he was the guinea pig because he’s the one that was the pickiest out of all of them so he tried it. And at that time before COVID I used to offer samples. And so I gave him a sample of a cookie and he waved his hands up and with a thumb and then the rest of the fire people, persons come out of the truck and they walk over to the booth. And I’m standing there like what? This is one of those moments like, really a fire truck pulled up in front to get cookies from me because a police officer told them that they were good.

Warwick F:
It’s amazing. So all these crucibles and this one we haven’t really even touched on. The flu shot episode where for most people the flu shot isn’t a big deal and some doctors say you should get a flu shot even if you don’t want to and it ends up what paralyzing your left side, hand, how many months did it take to get through the whole flu shot terrible episode?

Whitney S:
Yeah, I ended up with a severe case of bursitis in my left shoulder. And the problem is the nurse injected the flu vaccine into my bursa sac, which is way too far up in your arm to be getting the shot to begin with, but when they stuck in there, the fluids in my bursa sac were gone and the flu vaccine caused an infection. And it slightly tore a little bit of my rotator cuff while the needle went in. So it was just all wrong to begin with. I would have been better off being sick.

Warwick F:
And how long did it take you to recover from all that?

Whitney S:
It took from January to May for me to be able to use my arm again after physical therapy. It’s like who has physical therapy after getting a flu shot?

Warwick F:
And for you to provide for your kids, you have to bake.

Whitney S:
Yes.

Warwick F:
So it’s like you can’t not bake. So here you’ve had everything from a flu shot to be beaten up by neighbors, all of the things that you’ve been through having to pay rent for a place you don’t even use, COVID, and yet none of that gets you down. I think one of the things I think you said about your vision, I read somewhere you see your business as a gas station in the desert. Talk about what does that mean to your vision because it sounds like nothing gets you down despite being knocked down, you get back up and it’s like you just don’t let it get you down. Talk about that vision of the gas station and the desert.

Whitney S:
The vision of that is everyone seeing that one gas station, there’s the tumbleweeds and snakes and there’s just nothing but that. And you have that one spot right there just thriving and it’s still hanging in there despite of it looking like crickets around. There’s nothing going on, but they’re still there and they’re still standing. And you have no choice but to go to the place because it’s the only one. And when I started my company, I wanted to have that. You can’t go to… I made it so complicated for myself because I made all my recipes so anybody who wanted to try and copy and have a spin off of the cookies, I said, I’m going to cover all the nuts. So can’t no one say, well we have almond and she doesn’t. No, I got all the nuts. And so I said every nut, I got nuts you never heard of.

Whitney S:
And so I wanted to do this to make it so complicated because people copy all the time, that’s just our nature. We see someone doing it, we want to try and join into it. For me, I like to one up myself, so when I do something, I go I can make it better. And then I’ll go, yeah, let’s make that better and I’m talking to myself like let’s do that.

Warwick F:
So if we pick a summing up here and all, there’s a lot of people right now going through tough times, whether it’s COVID or just frankly the division within our country, within our world. It just seems like things are as bad as it’s ever been in so many ways. It’s just so sad, but I think there’s a lot of people who been through tough times, different crucibles, what’s your message of hope to people that feel like, gosh, I don’t know that I can get myself back up again. This is just too much. What’s your message of hope to a lot of folks who frankly are hurting right now?

Whitney S:
Well, help comes in the most unexpected places when you least expect it. At that moment when you feel that you really can’t go on, there is always going to be that one person that you wouldn’t expect to do it, will reach out and help you. And I find that you can’t really fail if you don’t keep trying because once you give up, you failed, you’re done, that’s over. But as long as you’re like, I can still make it, you can still get that little bit in there, you can still push through just enough. It’s hard, it hurts, but once you get past that moment, you can sit back and go, I made it. I overcomed that. I’m no longer feeling that pain anymore. I’m finally where I need to be. You get yourself out of it. We got to pull ourselves out of the mud sometimes.

Whitney S:
And dust off the mud, you walk through what’s drying on and cracked up and their pants and flake it off and get going. It’s just sometimes you just have to do it.

Gary S:
And sometimes you have to bake the mud into the cookies going back to the very first story that you told, right?

Whitney S:
Exactly. My first cookies was a mud pie.

Warwick F:
Maybe you should resurrect that, in honor of my grandfather, here’s kind of the first cookies I made.

Whitney S:
I know huh.

Gary S:
This would be the time in most podcasts that I say, the captain turned on the fasten seatbelt signs and it’s time to land the plane, but I’m going to say this time I think I heard the oven ding, it’s time to remove the cookies. So we’re getting to the point where we’ve got to let the cookies cool a little bit. But before we go, Whitney, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t do a couple of things. One, in a minute here, I’m going to give you a chance to let people know where they can find Nuttin’ Butter Cookies online and connect with you. But after you do that, after you let people know how they can get a hold of you, one of the things again, going back to what I said at the top of the show, this questionnaire that you filled out, one of the questions we ask people all the time is if there’s only one question we could ask, what would it be?

Gary S:
And you’ve talked a lot about not giving up, but the question you said we should ask you is what was the reason you didn’t give up? So tell people how they can find you on the internet, get a chance to taste your cookies perhaps? And then leave listeners with what was it that led to Whitney Singletary White not giving up through all of these crucibles that you’ve described?

Whitney S:
Well, you can find my cookies at my website of nuttinbuttercookies.com, which is N-U-T-T-I-N-B-U-T-T-E-R-C-O-O-K-I-E-S.com. It has all of my social medias and everything and all the ordering. And they ship well all through the United States.

Gary S:
All right.

Whitney S:
And but for me, that to answer your question, my sons. I remember after my flu shot, I was laying there crying to myself and he came to me and the message that I been teaching them their whole lives is we’re not quitters. You have to try, you can’t say I don’t want to do something, try it. Try this food, try this thing. And when he came to me and he hugged me and said, “Mommy.” And I said what? And he was like why you not making cookies anymore? And I told him and his reason for what he said to me was, “You can’t give up mommy. We’re not quitters.” And the look on his face was so set on he was a coach. It’s like get up, you can do it. Go. And he said this to me and his brother was like, “Yeah, mommy, you have to do it. You love cookies.”

Whitney S:
And they were still my reason for why I pushed through. It doesn’t matter if I’m in pain, doesn’t matter if I’m tired, doesn’t matter if I’m hungry. I’ll hold my bladder so I can finish doing what I need to do because they got me so focused where it’s like at the end goal, I want them to be able to not have to go through so much that I go through. I’ll go through it all so they don’t have to.

Gary S:
And you mentioned when I first reached out to you to be on the show, that this is the first podcast you’ve ever been on?

Whitney S:
Right.

Gary S:
So based on that answer about your sons, and hopefully they’ll listen to this episode when it comes out, give your sons a shout out. Call them by name, let them hear themselves on the podcast and on the radio if you will.

Whitney S:
Yeah, well shout out to my oldest, Wesley and my youngest, Wyatt. Keep doing your work because I know downstairs playing games thinking I don’t know. I know everything.

Warwick F:
Moms do. That’s very true.

Gary S:
Warwick, before I wrap up, one of the things that you say all the time on the show and then just in conversations we have at Crucible Leadership is that your life of significance can be big. It can lead an international corporation or your life of significance can be small. And by small I don’t mean impact and you don’t mean impact, but it can be a more limited scope. And what Whitney’s described right here is her life of significance, her community and her boys. Talk about why that is such a critical expression of a life of significance?

Warwick F:
Yeah, it’s easy to say well who am I? I’m not leading some big corporation or nonprofit. I’m not trying to make the clean water in Africa or solve all of the huge problems we have in this world, but to me you make a difference in one life, it’s big. Your mom, your grandfather, they taught you certain values. They made a difference in your life. You’re making a difference in your sons’ life. You’re making a difference in your community with friends, neighbors, police, people in the fire department. You’re having an impact everywhere and one of the things we didn’t get to but I think is fascinating is this legacy of baking, it goes back I don’t know maybe 150 years or so, back to I think it was your grandfather’s great-grandmother, something like that.

Whitney S:
Right, yeah.

Warwick F:
Maybe it wasn’t the exact recipe but that legacy of baking and I’m sure there’s probably a sense of trying to help friends and family. There’s a legacy that goes back a long time. And you’re just making a huge impact and a huge difference in people’s lives and your family. And so I think your testimony is anybody can make a difference if they don’t give up and they’re passionate about what they do. You’re having probably I’m sure a bigger impact than you realize. So you fill people with hope. Whitney doesn’t let stuff get her down, maybe I shouldn’t give up either, right? Just one more day, one more step.

Whitney S:
That’s what I hear all the time.

Warwick F:
It’s all it take, so. I think it’s an inspiring story. I think it will give a lot of people hope.

Gary S:
Absolutely and as we wrap up listeners, I want to direct you back to this spirit that you heard from Whitney in this conversation. She describes some pretty difficult things that happened to her. Pretty physically devastating, emotionally devastating things have happened to her. Go back and listen to the way she talked about them. She laughed. She had a positive attitude, she had a facing forward attitude to those kind of things.

Gary S:
And if you take nothing else away from this episode, that’s one of the keys to bouncing back from your crucible. Is having a perspective like Whitney’s perspective which is tomorrow can be a better day. And this isn’t going to stop me, this isn’t going to get me down. I’m going to end on one of the things that Whitney wrote again in her questionnaire, which is so profound in its simplicity Whitney, but you said this when we said what’s one bit of advice you’d offer listeners.

Gary S:
And this would be the key takeaway from this episode, listener and that’s this. These are Whitney Singetary’s words. “You can’t fail if you keep trying. Find a reason to push through no matter how small or big the reason and let that fuel you.” I’ve been in the communications business long enough to know when someone’s wrapped, put a bow on a package as pretty as that. I’m going to shut up, except to say this, thank you listener for spending this time with us at Beyond the Crucible. Warwick and I have a little favor to ask of you. If you enjoy what you heard here today in our interview with Whitney, please hit subscribe on the app on which you’re listening to this podcast.

Gary S:
That way you’ll be alerted to every new episode, you’ll never miss one. You’ll hear more great interviews like this, more conversations with Warwick as he talks about the principles that undergird and uphold crucible leadership. And until the next time we’re together, remember this, which is so evident in this discussion we’ve had with Whitney and that is your crucible experiences are painful and they’re difficult and they’re hard. And they can come in rapid succession. It’s not just when we say crucible experiences, we mean that. Many times, there are more than one. It’s not experience, it’s experiences and Whitney has had many of them. But they were not the end of her story.

Gary S:
They were the beginning, each one was a beginning of a new chapter in her story that pushed her, that led her to walk down a road to a life that’s brighter. That’s better, that is on purpose, that is focused on helping others and building something bigger than herself. So your crucible, listeners, your crucibles, they aren’t the end of your story, they’re the beginning of your story if you learn the lessons of them. And they can be the best chapter of your story because at the end of the day, where they lead is to a life of significance.

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