The home-baked muffins of Awesome Bites, Co. are made without eggs, butter, milk or any added sugar; instead, each muffin boasts a healthy full serving of fruits and veggies. Really, not kidding here.
Owner Jennifer Thai’s quest to make healthy eating an everyday possibility for everyone, not just for the selected few who are challenged with a food-related allergy, started at local farmers' markets and now has garnered attention from the city of Houston as well as a national crowdfunding resource, NextSeed.
With an economics degree from Rice, an MBA from Duke and a decade’s worth of experience in financial analysis in the oil and gas industry, Thai gathered the tools and tricks of the trade not knowing that one day she would need to manage her own small business. She won a $10,000 prize from the LiftOff Houston Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the City of Houston and Capitol One Bank back in November. Each team had to submit a viable business plan and pitch its entrepreneurship dreams to a panel of experts in the corporate world.
A few weeks later, Thai entered the NextUp contest, sponsored by NextSeed, a crowdfunding platform that works to teach people to invest locally in Texas businesses. Awesome Bites, the company created out of a desire to feed her own child, who was diagnosed before her first birthday with severe allergies to eggs and peanuts, won a year’s worth of mentorship from successful local restaurateurs like Kiran Verma (owner and executive chef of Kiran’s Restaurant), Rassul Zarinfar (founder and CEO of Buffalo Bayou Brewery) and Jonathan Horowitz (CEO of Legacy Restaurant Group).
Thai was ready to pour the concrete for a brick-and-mortar. But having the right logistics in place isn’t necessarily a guarantee for success. “When you stay up all night reading Baking Business Daily Journal and feeding your husband hundreds of test muffins, you know you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you know you have the support you need,” she said.
Until a location is found, Awesome Bites has secured the use of a larger commercial kitchen space at A 2nd Cup in the Heights to keep up with the demand for her baked goodies. The company consistently sells about 400 muffins in a three- to four-hour period at the Memorial Villages Farmer’s Market and to date, she has baked more than 15,000 muffins.
Thai recounted the moment she realized she needed to act on behalf of her child. She dreamt about her daughter Aurora’s first day at school. In the dream, Aurora’s desk had been moved away from the rest of the class, into a corner, where she was eating by herself. She was excluded from others for her own safety. Thai had a nobody-puts-my-baby-in-a-corner moment that shook her to her core. After hours scouring grocery stores for safe products, she came to the conclusion that she was looking in the wrong place. “Every time [I found] a product made without eggs or milk or nuts, it just seemed to be replaced with things that I would never want my child to eat,” she said. That was it. That was her lightbulb moment.
So why is it called Awesome Bites? Thai overheard a young African-American girl innocently asking Aurora one day, while they were playing together, “Hey, what are you made of?” (Thai is Chinese-American and her husband is Puerto Rican, hence the curiosity of her little peer.) Her daughter’s T-shirt happened to have the word “AWESOME!” screaming in bubbled wording across her chest. Thai interrupted the girls and said proudly, “She’s made of what you are made of, lots of 'Awesome!'”
Awesome Bites can be purchased every Saturday at the Memorial Villages Farmer’s Market at 10840 Beinhorn, the Meyerland Farmers Market at 8601 Chimney Rock or from the website. Every treat is free of dairy, soy, eggs and peanuts (products do contain coconut).