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Healthy Eating: Zach's Story
I love great food — fresh, local food that doesn't travel for days before it gets to you! I've turned this interest into a healthy baking business that's expanded and grown in popularity. I use local farm fresh eggs, organic spelt flour, real butter. No preservatives. No trans fats. If I can't pronounce it, I don't eat it!
I discovered a love for baking and cooking when I was 8 (I'm now 15). Around that time, my mom found out she has a wheat allergy, which means she can't eat the type of flour most people eat. But she is only allergic to wheat, not gluten, so she can have a certain type of flour called spelt flour.
Because she was missing many of her favorite foods, I started experimenting with spelt flour to see if I could make some of the things she was missing. Spelt flour has a different type of protein that is easier to digest, so it's a great alternative for some people who are allergic to wheat. (It's not gluten free, though, so people with celiac disease can't eat it.)
I found out that I loved working in the kitchen. Soon I was making many of the meals and all the baked goods for our house.
Opportunity Knocks — Then Knocks Again
I started working with Martin Ruiz, who had a bakery. He sold mostly at a local farmers' market. At first I worked at the market, but I soon started baking.
Martin decided to pursue other business interests and asked if I wanted to run the bakery for him. I was thrilled! A few months went by, then one day at the market I saw a notice that a national healthy grocery chain was looking for local vendors. Up until this point I had been baking wheat products only for farmers' markets. But this opportunity fit with my plans to provide fresh-baked, snack-size spelt products for people who can't eat wheat.
I submitted an application and samples to see if my spelt products would meet their needs. I waited for about a month and then the notice came that I had been accepted! Over the next few months, things started moving fast. I met with the grocery chain's regional people. I had to make decisions on labels, packaging, and which products to ship first. I had to find wholesale vendors willing to sell me bulk ingredients, like spelt flour.
Fitting a Business in With School
I am home schooled. Running the business is part of my education. I have to do bookkeeping to track invoices and expenses. I have to calculate margins (how much money I need to make per item). I have to plan ahead for expenses like flour deliveries, propane, packaging, and labels. I have to stay on top of these things or I may run out of something important and not be able to make a delivery.
When you are in business, the most important thing is keeping your word. I always focus on making the best product and getting it to the stores. Things go wrong, but you have to keep going. I've been through storms that I thought would blow my kitchen right over, lost electricity or water (both things shut you down for a while). Sometimes things go wrong that later turn out to be the best thing. I call these things happy accidents.
I spend about 17 hours a week (including bookkeeping) on my business. I plan things carefully so I can get a lot done as quickly as possible. And I'm learning management skills: My dad delivers my products since I don't have my license yet. My mom helps with lots of details, including driving me to my kitchen 20 miles away.
My two brothers Robert and Duncan help me with packaging and dishes. My older brother Robert drives me when my mom can't and is great at fixing things that break in the kitchen. Every kitchen needs a good maintenance person.
I'm busy, but I still have time for other interests. In my spare time, I am restoring a 1968 Volkswagen Karman Ghia. My whole family loves working on cars.
My philosophy on healthy eating is: "Go local!" Eat fresh (no preservatives or artificial anything). Try new things. And support local business and companies. Trucking food hundreds of miles wastes resources.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD