What's one thing that can instantly improve your mood? For Sahr Brima, the answer is a warm, delicious cookie.
Brima is the CEO of Love You Cookie, a small, Black-owned gourmet cookie gifting company based in Minneapolis. Founded in 2020, Love You Cookie helps organizations and individuals show appreciation and recognition to employees, clients and loved ones across the country. But the company's mission goes far beyond that.
For Brima, the cookies are a vehicle to spark joy, spread his brand of “defiant optimism," and help improve access to mental health resources that became especially critical during the pandemic. Love You Cookie's Defiant Optimist program provides health and wellness service packages to people in need that include therapy sessions and self-care items from local businesses.
With the support of RBC Wealth Management–U.S., Brima and Love You Cookie are working to reach people in the community who need those resources the most.
Becoming a defiant optimist
Growing up in Sierra Leone, Brima watched the violence and destruction that enveloped his country as it was torn apart by civil war.
He and his family fled, and after years of relocating across continents, settled in the U.S. in 1998. There, they faced not only a lack of resources for refugees, but also hostility and discrimination.
Defiant optimism, a phrase Brima uses to describe his outlook on life, is one of the reasons he says he's still standing today. Now, he's a U.S. citizen, the first Sierra Leonean-American lawyer to enter the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, and a husband and dad of two.
But in 2020, Brima found his optimism wavering. Living in Minneapolis, he felt the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd's murder, and was motivated to do something more for the Twin Cities community. So, he worked with colleagues to help draft policy recommendations for the state legislature.
“But after all that, I felt like I didn't even make a dent," Brima says.
Sarah and Sahr Brima. Photo courtesy Love You Cookie.
His wife and business partner, Sarah, saw what he was going through and thought of the perfect pick-me-up. After taking two weeks to nail down the recipe, she presented a dessert: a mix between a cake, cookie and scone. Brima describes himself as a notoriously picky eater, but says that once he tried the cookie, he knew it was special.
After sharing Sarah's cookies with family, friends and neighbors, they turned the recipe into Love You Cookie, selling their cookies out of a friend's food truck. Once the cookies started selling out every day, they knew it had potential for more. They recruited a small team and eventually started selling the cookies at coffee shops, grocery stores, breweries and stadiums in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
During the process, Brima found what he'd been looking for: an opportunity to give back.
Doing good in the community
Beyond making delicious cookies, Love You Cookie is making a tangible social impact. Through the Defiant Optimist program, Love You Cookie has supported 13 local BIPOC businesses in the health and wellness industry, and provided over 50 free therapy sessions for BIPOC who are unable to afford the service.
“In reality, it's not about our cookies, but the intention behind our brand," Brima says.
That intention to do good caught the attention of RBC Wealth Management–U.S.
Michael Gergen, a financial advisor in the firm's Minneapolis branch, heard Brima tell his story at a local event, and was deeply moved. “Hearing Sahr's unique story was incredibly inspiring," Gergen says. “It's amazing how he took all of this compounded trauma and turned it into something good."
After learning about the Defiant Optimist program, Gergen reached out to colleagues at RBC Wealth Management–U.S. to see if the firm could get involved.
“Their mission really resonated with us," says Shevawn Jester, business enablement senior manager and co-chair of the firm's Multicultural Employee Alliance employee resource group. “It truly aligns with RBC's commitment to providing mental health resources for our employees as well as supporting diverse communities."
In 2022, RBC Wealth Management–U.S. provided an initial $10,000 sponsorship to Love You Cookie to support the Defiant Optimist program with plans for ongoing commitment, and also hosted a call for employees to learn more about Brima's story and Love You Cookie's mission.
All of that support, Brima says, goes a long way to helping Love You Cookie improve access to mental health resources and spread defiant optimism throughout the Twin Cities.
“We're grateful for RBC Wealth Management's support so we can do this much-needed work for our community," he adds.