25-year-old Allyson had a dream. In fact, it was a dream she had been building toward since age five — when she first began making breakfast for her mother — Allyson wanted to open a bakery. Allyson's bakery would be a literal wonderland for children and adults alike. Thus, Wonderland Bakery was born. Allyson is the mastermind and chef behind all of the confections and creations while her mom, Sondra, runs the company's business and marketing arm. We talked to Allyson and Sondra about how they make it happen, what advice they have for young bakers, supportive parents, and burgeoning entrepreneurs. 
 
1. Allyson, when did you first realize you wanted to pursue baking and open up your own bakery?

I was born with a very serious sweet tooth and this fueled my inspiration and passion for baking as early as I can remember.  When I was 5, I would sneak downstairs while my family was sleeping to bake and decorate. When I got older, I couldn’t wait to get home and have fun creating in the kitchen surrounded by my cookbooks and imagination. In college I created a 95 page business plan that was the origin of Wonderland Bakery. This was the initial business plan I followed to open Wonderland, however I am constantly focused on creating an enchanting delicious and whimsically fun experience to everyone who visits our stores or enjoys Wonderland products at home.

2. Sondra, at what age did Allyson express an interest in cooking and how did you help to nurture this interest?

Allyson was always a very creative and artistic child. She started collecting cookbooks at an early age and then started creating her own recipes and illustrating notebooks that have now evolved into her own cookbooks. Allyson’s interests were a centered in the kitchen, baking, creating, dreaming – always surrounded by mounds of ingredients. Her interests and talent were so natural – it was really fun to spend time with her and we both have great memories. We really bonded in the kitchen – I was her Sous chef, which was a fancy description for I got to wash a lot of dishes.

As I reflect back, I think it was very important that I gave Allyson freedom to create. Sometimes I had to sit on my hands when I wanted to take charge or “show her”  how I would do it. It is important to provide a nurturing environment; however making mistakes is part of the learning process too.

3. What are some ways parents can get their kids more involved in the kitchen? 

Make it Fun!

Creating and spending time in the kitchen is a powerful and magical time to create lasting family memories.  Baking memories at home can be for any age, occasion or to make every day special.

Whether a child is young enough to be content licking batter from a spoon or old enough to measure ingredients, baking is not only a great way to bond as a family, it’s also a fun activity for children to develop math and verbal skills, improve confidence, create memorable family tradition and encourage creativity.

4. What is it like to work together and be family? Is it difficult to put aside the parent/child roles in the workplace or does it come easily?

My mom encouraged and empowered me to follow my love, passion and dream. When it came time to start the business she provided the start up capital. She has been a trailblazer in business and taught me to be an entrepreneur and to ‘Think and Dream Big” 

Now we work apron to apron every day, I am the culinary creative and she runs the business and marketing side of the business.  Our talents compliment each other and I think this how we have been able to grow so quickly. She is the best partner, not only do we have the business side of creating together our relationship continues to grow.

5. Allyson, what advice would you give to younger people (ages 11 & up) who want to pursue either becoming a chef/baker and/or opening their own business? 

You must be passionate and fully committed to your position of a chef and or owning your business. Find a mentor and or advisor that can help you research your position and understand the demands, sacrifice and ultimate rewards.

As the owner of a business, I work harder and longer than anyone else. I did not realize everything that needed to be done in beginning and it was a bit overwhelming at first, now I have a better understanding, systems in place. I still work hard, however it is really fun creating now with a strong business foundation that supports my talented and dedicated staff. 

6. Sondra, what advice would you give parents who want to help their child pursue their passion?

Encourage your child to get the best education and emphasize a strong foundation in  business and marketing. You can create the best product, however unless you market and sell it will be tough to turn passion into a successful business.

Work on writing a good business plan for the business with realistic, attainable goals. It is tough to get a business loan, so if you plan to finance or help finance, make certain you have an agreement on the repayment and source of funding for the business.

If you plan on working in the business with your child, define your roles and when there is conflict; create an easy way to resolved issues that will come up. Don’t forget to laugh.

7. Can you both take us through a typical day of working at Wonderland? From when you arrive to when you lock the door for the night.

My mom has always been great role model for me as I have grown up in this environment where you live your business and brand which is very different from a traditional 9 – 5 job.

We have been very successful as our strengths and passion compliments each other. I am the creative culinary and run the ‘back of the house’, my Mom focuses more on the business and marketing portion of the business. Together we create the brand identity, design products and expand the brand.

8. Can you share a specific recipe with us that is particularly kid-friendly?

 

Wonderlicious Pretzel Wands

This recipe makes 24 Pretzel Wands

Decorate as a Princess Wand, Pirate Sword or seasonally for more fun!

INGREDIENTS

1

package (12 ounces) chocolate or flavored chips (mint, white chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter or combination)

24

pretzel rods

Assorted toppings: colored sprinkles, chopped nuts, small candies, toasted coconut, cookie crumbs, colored sugars (optional)

PREPARATION:

MICROWAVE DIRECTIONS

  1. 1. Line baking sheet with waxed paper; place wire rack on top. Place chocolate chips in microwavable bowl. (Be sure bowl and utensils are completely dry.) Microwave on HIGH 1 minute; stir. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  2. 2. Dip one half of each pretzel rod into melted chocolate; sprinkle with, or roll in, toppings. Drizzle some dipped pretzel rods with contrasting color or flavor of melted chips. (Drizzle melted chocolate from spoon while rotating pretzel, to get even coverage.)
  3. 3. Place decorated pretzels on prepared wire rack; let stand until set. Do not refrigerate.

Gift Idea

To arrange a "bouquet" of pretzels, wrap the tops of the pretzels individually in cellophane and place them in a small vase wrapped with a bow. Or, spread a few inches of crinkled paper gift basket filler in the bottom of a smooth-sided 2-quart glass jar. Stand the pretzels dipped ends up in the jar and decorate the jar with fabric and ribbon.

9. Allyson, what’s your favorite dessert and/or thing to bake?

I really enjoy decorating and transforming cookies, cupcakes and cakes into magical and beautiful desserts.

10. For both of you: Where do you see Wonderland in five years? Do you have aspirations for it to become a multi-generational family business?

Allyson: I would love to share the Wonderland experience with my children. The memories from childhood to today now that I am 25 years old are indelibly etched I want to continue to write books and with encouragement and mentoring from Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup author), I am writing a young entrepreneur workbook series – The Sweet Necessities of Business to help other young entrepreneurs create and follow their dream – and creating fun lifestyle and cookbooks for my generation.

Sondra: I would love to see the Wonderland Bakery brand and products to continue to expand nationwide – including internationally touching families in a sweet and powerful way. 

 

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