Martha talks with WUWM’s Susan Bence
There’s lots of mixing and tossing going on at Robyn Wright’s operation in Dousman, Wisconsin.
The entrepreneur moved out of her own kitchen into a 1,000 square foot square foot incubator space this past March. More recently Wright hired a small team of part-time assistants.
Her company called is kalyANa, which is Sanskrit for “well-being." At this moment, three white-jacketed, hair-netted women are putting together the ingredients for Wright’s sprouted corn bread mix.
Wright morphed from a career in financial consulting to creating her own business. She says her passion for our food system was staring her in the face - looking for an outlet.
She gravitated to her sweet spot. Wright started baking cakes from scratch at the age of nine.
She began to research ways to replace what she saw as “troubling” refined sugar and plain old flour with healthier ingredients.
“What I was concerned about was how white flour and white sugar were metabolizing,"Wright says. I thought, how can I still bake and enjoy the fruits of that without having to compromise my health."
She started experimenting with gluten-free concoctions using almond and coconut flour. “All these recipes started failing and then $15 gets thrown away because these ingredients are really expensive," Wright says. "It was so disheartening,”
Until her aha moment struck. Wright was an experienced baker; so if she was struggling to come up with tasty-healthy recipes, other people must be frustrated too. She set out to come up with a handful of foolproof recipes.
“I found test bakers around the country," Wright says. "I sent my recipe, but had them write down what did you actually put in it, because as we know, not everyone follows the directions exactly. And some people would write back ‘I substituted this for that’ they did their own thing, and I wanted to know, what do people really do."
She knew she was on the right track when she won an entrepreneur kitchen challenge hosted by Milwaukee Area Technical College and particularly revels in the impressions of one of its eight judges, who was vocal about being “anti-gluten free.” “He said not only was my product delicious, but you have to be a really good baker first to be able to be a really good gluten free baker,” Wright says.
The first product Wright took to market was her certified, organic coconut flour banana chocolate chip muffin mix. It’s her number one seller; now in a dead heat with her almond flour browned butter chocolate chip cookie mix.
Customers are apparently feeling good about Wright’s "healthly" approach – she sells to 16 stores in southeastern Wisconsin, another nine around the country, and a handful in Northern California.
Another part of Wright’s mission is to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit. Three of her six part-time employees are high school students. Usually the teams spend a few hours after school mixing ingredients and packaging items. High school student CJ Taubner says that Wright "really brought me into the organic lifestyle. I never really did it before, but it’s fun.”
Sophomore Grace Abler couldn’t be more serious when she says it’s the kind of business she can be proud to work for; not just because of its organic “eat healthy” tenants, but she believes its part of a bigger trend. “We built up to all this retail and all these bigger companies, but now people are shifting to smaller businesses, looking for different, alternative ways they can live their lives," Abler says.