When I cut soy completely out of my diet because my food allergy started to get worse, I missed SO many things. Someone without food allergies may not realize this, but soy is basically in EVERYTHING, from ice cream sprinkles and cake icing to cooking oils and basically every baked good like bread and cupcakes. Eating became a challenge and also made me a little sad. I could no longer go out to eat with my husband, or enjoy simple treats or meals on the go. I had to sit and watch other people eat things and dream about tasting them. I convinced myself, those foods aren’t healthy anyway. But sometimes I wanted that indulgent food!
Then, Mo‘Pweeze Bakery (like, “more, please” from a kid) opened up in a neighboring town. It’s an allergen free and vegan bakery that I can feel safe eating at– and it has a playroom for kids. This was basically meant for me. I became a frequent customer and of course befriended the awesome owner, Christine Allen, a momprenuer with a soy allergy herself and a son with 30+ food allergies.
In this edition of my Meet the Mompreneur Interview Series, meet Christine. Her cupcakes are so tempting, a bear even broke into her car to get some and made headlines! She discusses tips for raising kids with food allergies and more.
Question: What inspired you to start Mo’Pweeze?
Christine Allen: My inspiration has always been my family, primarily my son who has numerous severe food allergies, and I was determined to not have him feel left out, I knew if I could bake a safe treat for my son with his numerous allergies I would be able to achieve the same for so many other kids like him.
Q: How long did it take from concept to opening day? How much research did you have to do into opening a bakery?
Christine: It was quite a challenge but I was determined to fulfill my dreams. The idea was birthed July of 2013 and we had our first launch November 2013. We opened our brick and mortar store in Denville, NJ February 2017.
Q: Do you have tips for other moms thinking about starting their own food business?
Christine: My best tip would be to follow your dreams, the food business is hard but know that it will not be easy and that it comes with many challenges and sleepless nights but if it’s your passion, perseverance is everything and never give up.
Q: Mo’Pweeze serves treats that are allergy free and vegan. How often do “regular” consumers walk in and become wowed when they try something?
Christine: We get regular customers almost daily that walk into our shop and are amazed that our cupcakes are moist and tastes just like regular treats.
Q: Share your local distribution and how consumers can order online nationwide.
Christine: Consumers can find our products at most Whole Foods stores within the North Eastern region and a few in the New York region, few ShopRites and mom and pop stores, and they can also order online on our website www.mopweezebakery.com
Q: Your children have food allergies, but so do you. Did you have them all your life?
Christine: I actually gained my food allergies in my 30’s. I am allergic to raw apples, soy, chickpeas and had a significant reaction to raw garlic and Jack fruit where I had to administer the Epipen.
Q: What advice do you have for moms who are just starting the journey of raising a child with food allergies?
Christine: Know that you are not alone. Most moms think they are in this scary journey of navigating food allergies alone, and that they will not be able to feed their precious babies, but know that you are not alone there is such a great community out there who is ready and waiting to offer you advice, a hug and any other support that you may need. You got this!
Q: What’s one thing that is the most frustrating about being a family with food allergies that you want people to know?
Christine: There are so many, how do I just pick one? Our kids did not choose to have food allergies/eczema/asthma etc, it may be an inconvenience to/for you but his/her allergies (insert what your kids are going through) could be a matter of life or death, anxiety etc. It is hard for us the parents and it’s even harder for the kids. We are not exaggerating, we are not just crazy moms, we are just trying to keep our kids safe.
Q: How can a parent of a child with food allergies help their kid navigate school and other social situations?
Christine: This is a hard one, but it depends on the age of the child and what’s appropriate. The best thing that I try to teach my child is to have self-confidence and a great self-esteem and how to stand up for themselves in social situations and not to feel bad if they are not able to eat in the lunch room or if they are not able to attend a party because being safe is more important than what your friends may think of you. If they are your true friends they will always be your friends no matter what. Keep it simple, keep them confident.
Q: What are your favorite go-to meals at home that others should try?
Christine: My hubby is actually the cook at home. I’m the baker! We try to cook traditional Jamaican meals but with food allergies and other dietary restrictions we defer to risotto and grilled veggies or rice and beans- nothing too exciting!
Q: How do you balance work and family life? Is it easy working with your family?
Christine: I am still trying to figure that out. Every chance we get we try to spend quality time with the kids and being together being silly and most importantly making memories together. Luckily for us, we all get along and I love working with my family, they are my rock and my support and I would have it no other way.
Q: How many hours a week do you spend running the business side of your company and how many hours do you spend on social media promoting?
Christine: I put in 10-15 hrs days on my business and we have a marketing team that helps us with social media promoting.
Q: What is a typical day for you in the world of Mo’Pweeze?
Christine: I could say that every day is pretty much the same, but every day comes with new surprises and satisfying challenges. I am very much hands on at work, I still help to make batters, frosting, decorate etc. and I love it. I love being able to come up with new recipes for my customers who are certain that their child will never be able to eat a safe treat and wowing them with great treats.
Q: What’s your personal motto?
Christine: Team work, makes the dream work!
Q: What or who inspires you?
Christine: My family inspires me, my kids especially. They all have faced such great adversities, but they are the happiest three kids that I know. They are happy, positive, loving, kind and empathetic and I learn from them each and every day, they WOW me.
Lesson learned from this post: Life with food allergies can be challenging. Those who manage their lives around dietary restrictions aren’t trying to be difficult- we’re just putting our safety first. It’s worse for us, then it is for those in our lives to deal with it, no matter how annoying it is for others.
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