Aurora passes law to help 9-year-old baker with food allergies
Nine-year-old Savannah Ray of Aurora will be able to sell her homemade cupcakes thanks to the tenacity of her mom and another young entrepreneur.
A downstate 11-year-old became a national celebrity when her baking business was shut down by health department officials three years ago.
In response, the state passed what is commonly referred to as the "Cupcake Law." It allows bakers such as Chloe and Savannah to get a taste of small business ownership as long as the local governing body has adopted an ordinance authorizing the sale of their treats. The Aurora City Council did so Tuesday.
Savannah's mom, Sheila Ray, has been baking with her daughter since she was a preschooler, partly just for fun, but mostly because Savannah was diagnosed with allergies to eggs, milk and peanuts at 6 months old.
"We are most excited that we will be able to offer treats to the food allergy community," Sheila said, noting that whenever they'd attend birthdays and other parties, "we always have to bring safe food for Savannah. When the time would come for cake and ice cream, I'd pull out a single cupcake that we made at home so Savannah could eat cake with her friends."
With encouragement of family and friends, Sheila learned to bake without milk and eggs.
She took a class on starting her own business, but the cupcake law wasn't in effect and "there was a lot that I wasn't ready for. So I continued to work full time in marketing communications. Savannah and I continued to bake for fun."
But last year, mom and daughter learned of Chloe Stirling, who appeared on the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars."
"There was a kids' episode, and one of the bakers was Chloe Stirling from southern Illinois, and her bio was about how she got the Cupcake Law passed in 2014," Sheila said.
She discovered the law wasn't valid without a local municipality passing its own local ordinance, which led her to Aurora officials, who passed the Home Kitchen and Cottage Food Operations ordinance, which Alex Voigt, assistant chief of staff, describes as allowing residents to "test the water" before investing in a retail store. Home bakers will be limited to a cap of $1,000 in gross sales a month.
The ordinance also provides for residents to prepare food in home kitchens to sell at farmers' markets; the cap on those sales is $36,000 per year.
Another Aurora resident, Kim Wimbley, was similarly excited that the council paved the way for her to sell baked goods.
"I have a daughter going off to college in the fall, and this will help," she said. "I learned to bake pies and cookies with my mom. Then, I didn't like it. But now I've learned baking is my passion and my stress-reliever."
Baking is a stress-reliever in a way for the Ray family, too, as eating allergen-free treats keeps Savannah safe.
It also will allow the family to bring such treats to parties and other events of Savannah's friends.
Savannah's soon-to-be business already has a name.
It's called Joy-Filled Cupcakes.