A tree nut allergy wasn’t going to keep eight-year-old Emerson Metropoulos from a sweet treat.
After an anaphylactic reaction to pistachios when she was two, Emerson’s mom, Cody, put her baking skills to use, whipping up allergen-friendly treats with the help of her little one.
“As she got older, it got harder to allow her to have treats outside of our house,” Cody says. It was difficult for Emerson to understand that she couldn’t have the same goodies as her friends.
As they became masters of modifying, Emerson flexed her substituting skills to come up with her very own chocolate chip cookie recipe. When some friends came over and got their tastebuds on a batch, they asked where the family bought the cookies.
A lightbulb went off in Emerson’s head, telling Cody that they could sell the cookies.
“There are so many other people and kids that have food allergies,” Emerson says. “I can’t go to Starbucks, Graeter’s, Krispy Kreme. I wanted to share my cookies with others; they are good for everyone, allergies or no allergies!”
And when Emerson came up with the name, Sweet E’s, and logo for the business, Cody says they couldn’t say no.
Cody thought they would sell a few cookies to family and friends, but then she posted the treats to a Powell Facebook page and the budding business took on a life of its own.
Sweet E’s specializes in two classic treats: chocolate chip cookies and Buckeyes (Emerson’s favorite). Sunflower seed butter, Sunbutter, is at the base of the recipes, with a minimum number of other ingredients added, including sugar, vanilla, egg substitute and dairy-free chocolate chips from Enjoy Life. The short list of ingredients gives Sweet E’s many labels. In addition to being vegan, the treats are free from tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, dairy, egg, soy and gluten.
The operation started as a cottage industry, with the family baking the treats from their home. But as the business picked up steam, “We decided that it would be safer to do it a kitchen that’s completely gluten-free and nut-free,” Cody says. As a parent of a child with allergies, she knows what that extra level of assurance can mean.
Renting space from Gluten Free You and Me, Cody and Emerson can now bake hundreds of cookies instead of just a dozen at a time. The treats head off to homes through sales on their website and at Pure Roots in Westerville. (And soon, hopefully, Whole Foods, once the Amazon dust settles.)
Seeing the cookies sell out of a non-food centric store like Pure Roots provides the validation for a market outside of just their family bubble.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support and a lot of encouragement,” Cody says.
Although the operation just started in the early months of 2017, she’s heard stories of individuals struggling to find goodies free of their particular allergen, but discovering a tasty treat with Sweet E’s.
Starting a food-based business has been a learning curve for the parents, but they have had a lot of help from Emerson along the way. The young entrepreneur is learning skills most eight-year-olds wouldn’t encounter, like counting money, helping to order supplies and designing logos.
“It’s been fun to see her really gain some confidence about herself and her allergies,” Cody says.
“I love it!” Emerson says. “I am sometimes shy about it, but I think it’s pretty neat I get to do this with my family.”
The youngster is busy turning out cookies and Buckeyes, but when she gets time to create new recipes again, Emerson already has her sights set on some edible, scoopable cookie dough.
For more information, visit sweetescookies.org.