“You have to commit, fully, to being the creative that you are and go create your own path. Once you do that, you’re free, and the world can finally see the light you were meant to give.”
-Courtney Ray Goodson
Courtney Goodson is one of those women that will make you feel completely at home. I don’t know if it was her laughter or the smell from her amazing peanut brittle, but it felt very good to be around her. I visited a few months ago to shoot some photos for this blog post, I was immediately blown away by her creative power. Not only has she taken peanut to the next level but has completely fixed her grandpa’s ‘84 GMC Sierra Classic and made it the brittle babe mobile! I’m always amazed by the creative thrive women have, specially when its making them happy, powerful, and taking them to experience unique adventures. Please read on to Courtney’s words and let her walk you through her lovely story.
- Who are you and what do you do?
Courtney Ray Goodson of Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle. I make truly gourmet brittles, the Bacon Pecan Brittle being the true gem of the brittle line, here on the East Side in Austin, TX!
- Where did you grow up and how does that shape what you do today?
I grew up in Magnolia, TX. Alongside the ‘Warmth’ (no pun intended) of the South, I think there is a spirit of ‘Grit’ in Texas that can’t be matched. As the middle child in a very large family, hard work was the name of the game and combined with my Texas roots, I think it’s part of what’s kept me going for all these years to try and achieve more, and be more.
- Name something you love, and why?
My classic truck! It was my Grandpa’s ‘84 GMC Sierra Classic. I was in a pickle 2 years ago and begged my mom to let me resurrect my grandpa’s truck. It’s been a joyful and treacherous journey fixing up this old thing, a journey I was not ready for and had no idea what I was getting myself into. (Very similar in how I started my business). But something I’ve learned is that all the good things take time and hard work, and I simply needed to believe in myself. And from it all, I’ve never felt more capable and powerful than when driving this truck (and of course when owning a business) which somehow makes me feel sexy. Shhhhh! 😉
- What skills or talents do you think would make you even more successful?
I know I bring a natural sense of cheer, play, and connection with every person I meet. I think that’s what I enjoy most and I love using that to share the sweet story behind the brittle and to give people a sweet treat to brighten their day.
- How did you find your passion?
It was a surprise yet it also came full circle. Years ago, I left for the Pacific Islands to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I made many wonderful friends and up until now, felt it was the most rewarding yet challenging job I’d ever done. There was a woman there whom I’d helped and trained her on how to be an office manager. Over the course of 2 years we became family and she would often share how she wanted to start her own business selling food and candies. After leaving, I felt compelled to help change her stars and did a crowdfunding campaign called ‘The Power of Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle’. When I was there, my Great Uncle Ray would send me the candy and I’d share them with everyone. People went bonkers for it and it was a fun way to create community. We raised $6,000 and I can thankfully say my friend now has her own home and small business. If you’ve ever changed someone’s life, there is no greater joy. She’ll be a sister for life and I’m grateful to have even known her. At the time I was fulfilling orders for the campaign, I thought, ‘hey, maybe I could do this full time and own a brittle business!’. Well, after some researching, I realized I had no money, no knowledge of the consumer packaged goods industry, and I let self doubt get the best of me. Fast forward 3 years later I still felt as lost as ever, doing jobs that weren’t enough and trying to figure out where I belonged. Through a random story (my brother getting engaged!), I got connected with my kind and brilliant mentor, who offered to help me figure out what my path was. His name was Fred Cuellar, The Diamond Guy, and he owned a production company, a publishing company, and of course, a diamond company! He’d done so many of the things I only dreamed about – but Most importantly, he believed in me. One day, I had just been visiting my Uncle Ray and had brought Fred some of his peanut brittle. He said, ‘This is great stuff kid, if you wanted to start a business making this – I’ll help you.’ I said yes, and the rest is history. Like I said, not what I expected, but also, it was a long time coming 😉
- What is your ideology as a creative person?
Own it. I spent the last 10 years trying to figure out where I belonged, trying to put myself into a box that was clearly not made for me. When you do that, you don’t thrive, people won’t see you at your brightest or see the genius inside you. You have to commit, fully, to being the creative that you are and go create your own path. Once you do that, you’re free, and the world can finally see the light you were meant to give.
- How do you overcome your fears?
Self Doubt is a real thing. I know everyone struggles with this, but sometimes I wonder if I’ve struggled with this more. There were so many ideas I’ve have and I never truly went for them because I simply didn’t believe I could do it. Which, is exactly what stopped me from starting this business years ago. I don’t ever like to look back and regret things, I believe life is here to help us learn and grow in perfect timing. As a late bloomer in all things, I feel I arrived to what I needed to know when I needed to know it. But, one wish I do have is that I wish the ME now could go to the ME in college and tell her she WAS capable, WAS smart, and to hurry up and recognize her creative genius. Comparison is the thief of all joy – so don’t compare yourself for any reason to someone else. Own your path. Own yourself. And trust everything you want is arriving in perfect timing.
- How do you help entrepreneurs find who they are in order to improve their business?
I firmly believe in ‘community over competition’ mentality and truly enjoy lifting others up, sharing knowledge, and building friendships with fellow entrepreneurs.
- Who inspires you today?
My mentor, The Diamond Guy – Fred Cuellar!
- Professionally, what’s your goal?
Honestly, when I started this business, I had high hopes but also decided to let go of ALL expectations for where this would go. I just know that my goal was to feel amazing about what I was creating and hope that it brought others joy, and to make a space for myself where I could shine my diving light and be me.
- How is it owning a business as a woman?
Honestly, I sometimes forget I’m a minority in the industry until someone reminds me. One of those, ‘oh that’s right – I’m a woman.’ I personally love being a very feminine female in a male dominated industry because it’s important to show that a woman can be as feminine as she wants to be and still kick ass. In college, I was apart of a women’s service organization and we had one of the girls mom, who was an awesome lawyer, come and speak to our group. While she had many great things to say, she said something that never felt right to me: She said if we wanted to be successful in a male dominated industry, go find the baggiest suit you can find, don’t wear make up, and pull your hair back. This is the only way to get respect from men. My gut told me this wasn’t right. And I think we’re all finding this day in age that it’s not the right mentality. I should NOT have to become a man to play in ‘man’s world’. Being a feminine wayshower is a way for men and women to learn the true power in femininity. So I wear red lipstick to business meetings. And some days I don’t. Some days I dress as sexy as I want to. And some days I don’t. I refuse to live in a mans world, I live in my own.
- What business advice have you happily ignored?
Early on, I worked in a commercial kitchen where even though we were paying for mentorship – I could FEEL the mentors there did not believe in me. I was told, ‘don’t go after Central Market first, start with smaller stores first.’ I felt in my gut this was wrong for me, and I don’t actually know why. Which, in hindsight, Sure – it’s important to get your production down pat so that you’re able to meet the order successfully…BUT damn, I glad I didn’t listen to her and am slowly learning to NOT listen to people who either don’t get me or have never seen in me what I know myself to be capable of. Let go of those people in all areas of your life and you’ll live a greater one.
- What is the best piece of advice you will to someone who wants to be start their own business?
Whenever you feel anything – try to get to the root of why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. Aka I used (and still do often) to feel overwhelmed with all of the information out there….and cue in the self doubt. But I asked myself why I felt overwhelmed, and my answer was because I didn’t feel confident in what I was doing. And what would make me feel confident? Well, I’d feel better if I knew what I was doing. Aha! And if I knew what I was doing aka if I just had more information, I would feel confident. So – I started with one research topic, and sat down and read. Read and read and read. And then….the answers followed to the questions I had, and cue in the confidence. 😉