Keep It Simple, Eat Sweet at Sweet Encounter
Nikki Thompson Frazier walked away from October’s Hatching letting off the sweet smell of success. Her gluten-free, allergy-friendly bakery and cafe got her the $1,000 Grand Prize at Thursday’s event.
When Nikki discovered that between her two daughters they had seven food allergies, she began looking for alternative food options. When she couldn’t find satisfying options, she began cooking.
Fueled by a lifelong love of baking and cooking, Nikki took her already established skills and applied them to a new form of cooking- gluten-free. Not only are her products safe for those with a wide variety of food allergies, they also taste great.
Nikki Thompson Frazier
The Problem Being Solved
Nikki offers delicious and safe gluten-free dessert and food options in addition to vegan bakery items. While there are a lot of gluten free options emerging, many just don’t taste that great. Nikki wants to change that.
Nikki is also looking to provide a 100% gluten free environment for individuals or families to host private events. Current options are sparse and often present the risk of cross-contamination.
Where the Idea Came From
While the magnitude and amount of the allergies of her daughters at first seemed overwhelming, with the help and encouragement of some friends, Nikki turned to her own talents and passion. Cooking food to satisfy the dietary needs of both of her daughters then seemed only natural for Nikki, who has always loved being in the kitchen. Once she hit the kitchen, she realized she was on to something. ” My food tastes delicious and it’s safe for them to consume.”
As she had always wanted to own her own restaurant, when she moved to Michigan and didn’t have a job yet, it seemed like the logical next step to start on the path to making that dream come true.
Opportunities & Worries
In 2016, the sales of gluten-free products is expected to reach 15 billion and double in the next 10 years. One in 13 kids have food allergies and these allergies have increased by 50% since 1997. “The more people I meet,” says Nikki, “The more I see have food allergies.” The market is growing rapidly and right now there isn’t a great solution. “Those that offer gluten-free options don’t specialize in it,” adds Nikki, “So their stuff doesn’t taste that great.”
Given these growing opportunities, Nikki’s only worry at the moment is growing too fast and trying to keep up.
Nikki is looking to target a number of groups:
- Families and Individuals with food allergies
- Young/middle age professionals who drink coffee/tea
- Moms in yoga pants
- Middle Class Households making $50K or more
So far, the biggest challenge for Nikki has been raising the funds to open a storefront in 2016. She’s also focused on finding the right location for the store and has faced some challenges when deciding which location would be best.
She is meeting these challenges, though, by competing in pitch competitions and utilizing local resources such as the Hatch and the Product Center at MSU.
Every time Nikki shares her idea, she is always surprised at the number of people who come up and say, “I have allergies too.”
Nikki has found success in pitch competitions, getting some of her funding there. But, personally, and her husband opted to put the money they have been saving toward the business instead of buying a house. “We can always buy a house later,” says Nikki.
Nikki has her plans for the next few years solidly laid out.
“In one year, I will have a successful and profitable storefront in the Lansing area with my bakery products in area grocery stores. In three years, I see myself franchising and owning at least two additional stores and having my bakery products in hundreds of grocery stores across the Midwest region. In five years, I see myself continuing to grow my franchise, increase my retail distribution and manufacturing a gluten free product line of kid-friendly gluten-free snacks such as animal cracks, goldfish, and granola bars.