Some kids are picky eaters. Others, such as those with nut allergies, just wish they could eat the things that most kids eat. In late 2005, Laura Meehan's daughter Callie became one of those wishful children. At two years old, after having just two cashews, Callie complained of a stomachache that eventually turned into a runny nose, hives, and, difficulty breathing. Laura and her husband Tom were terrified. Fortunately, the whole incident ended happily with some fast-acting paramedics and a bit of Benadryl, but that happy ending didn't take away Callie's nut allergy or her parent's fears. Laura and Tom knew the world would never be a nut-free place and they knew that Callie's allergy would not only put her at risk, but would also greatly limit her diet. And Laura wasn't okay with that.
She wanted Callie to be able to enjoy cake, cupcakes, cookies, and whoopie pies (to name a few sweet treats) without having to worry about a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. And with a great deal of research, preparation, and practice, she made that dream a reality by opening Callie's Cuties Nut Free Bake Shop. But, as it turns out, Callie wasn't the only one excited to see such a bakeshop.
"I come from a scratch baking family," says Laura, "[and] scratch cake baking is not easy. It took me at least two years to get to a point where I was getting a consistent, good end product." However, Laura isn't one to give up. With more than 25 years' experience as an administrative assistant in corporate America (not to mention working for the Secretary of Defense), she knows all about tenacity and determination. "I had a great background in becoming organized and knowing processes…I spent endless hours reading and learning and doing," she recalls, "but every time I wanted to give up, the universe just reiterated to me that what I was doing made a difference." And what was that difference? "The grin on a child's face." Though Callie's smile was certainly the inspiration, every smile reminds Laura of why she bakes.
But what really sets Laura and Callie's Cuties apart is attention to every detail in the scratch baking process. For some, "scratch" is a recipe from a book; for bake shops, "scratch" is a recipe developed in house; for Callie's Cuties, "scratch" is sourcing every single ingredient down to the very last allergen statement. And finding safe ingredients isn't easy. "Sourcing these ingredients was a three-year job in itself," said Laura, before adding, with a bit of frustration in her voice, "just because they give you an allergen statement doesn't mean it's right." Luckily, though regular monitoring is still required to ensure continued compliance from all vendors, the majority of that work is behind her and the future is filled with baked goods and buttercream.
If anything else crops up, the team at Callie's Cuties knows they'll be able to handle it, thanks to the coverage they got from insureon. Laura appreciates that her agent took the time to find her policies that suited her unique risk exposures: "[He] made me feel like I was the only person he had to talk to that day," she says. After the saga of tracking down suppliers of allergen-friendly ingredients, she understands that doing things right often takes a little extra time. And there's no compromising when it comes to the future health of your business.
So what does the future have in store for Callie's Cuties? To start, more space for a retail storefront is in the works. "We want to be able to host classes for kids to bake cupcakes or gingerbread houses," says Laura while discussing plans for the expansion. "This demographic of kids just can't do it anywhere else." In addition to a larger footprint, Callie's Cuties is actively exploring shipping options to help its nut-free treats make their way around the country. But regardless of what success the future holds, Laura will be there to ensure that Callie's Cuties continues to provide delicious, safe baked goods for kids and adults everywhere.
For more information on Callie's Cuties, visit http://www.ccnutfree.com/.
Callie's Cuties Nut Free Bake Shop
16108 S. Rt. 59, Unit 110-REAR
Plainfield, IL 60585