Mother/Daughter Duo Changes the World One (Healthy) Sweet Treat at a Time
When A. Kouture of Fully Charged Allergy-Friendly Snacks entered a local pitch contest in Seattle, she had two goals in mind: help people with food allergies live a healthier, more satisfied life and grow her fledgling snack business with her mother. Here’s how she did just that.
Embracing and overcoming obstacles are core competencies for A.
Staying close to your customer is imperative, even as your business grows.
Looking for opportunity in difficult times can provide a path forward.
The impact of food allergies can impact just about every aspect of a person’s life – just ask A. Kouture, COO and co-founder of Fully Charged Allergy-Friendly Snacks and winner of KeyBank’s Key4Women, TheWMarketplace, UW and UWT women-owned business pitch contest. After experiencing a difficult pregnancy in 2009, she ultimately learned that food allergies were the culprit.
“I thought I was eating what was best for me during my pregnancy, but turns out I was allergic to seafood, soy, wheat, dairy – everything I was eating,” said Kouture. “I read health blogs and tried cooking and baking what I deemed as 'healthy' meals. I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do as a progressive mother.”
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 26 million U.S. adults have food allergies. Not only is A. one of the 26 million Americans impacted by this health issue, but she eventually discovered that her entire family had complex food allergies. This included her mother, Denise – an emergency room registered nurse by day and third generation baker by night – who eventually had to retire from nursing due to an autoimmune disease brought on by food allergies.
Over the years, Denise began experimenting with allergy-free ingredients to create natural dessert-like snacks that her family could enjoy without getting sick and wanted to help educate everyone about the impact food allergies had on mental and physical health particularly in underserved communities.
Despite enduring hardships including her husband’s cancer and kidney failure diagnosis and A.’s furlough during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided team up and put the treats in the marketplace, so others could enjoy healthy, on-the-go snacks without having to do any baking. Thus, Fully Charged Allergy-Friendly Snacks was born in Tacoma, Washington.
“The past few years have been a series of high-highs and low-lows,” said A. “We’ve weathered the COVID storm when many of our retail grocery opportunities disappeared overnight. We’ve had naming and packaging misfires that could have ended our business. As a business owner, you must let yourself sit with negative news for a day, then move on with more resolve than ever. I’m incredibly proud of where we are now, despite the challenges we’ve had.”
Pitching to Win
Key4Women pitch contest check being presented to A. Kouture and her mother founders of Fully Charged Snacks Allergy Friendly Baked Goods.
A. Kouture and her mother were one of 10 finalists in the Key4Women pitch contest, who were selected to compete for cash awards. Eligibility required each of the 95 businesses were to be 51% owned, controlled, operated and managed by a woman or women.
When first hearing about the contest, A. thought it was an incredible way to spread awareness about Fully Charged Allergy-Friendly Snacks. She’s had experience in the retail/sales industry since she was 15 years old, so pitching her business in front of a panel of five judges would be easy as... well, gluten free pie.
“I don’t have a sales team. I’ve done every single business pitch since we started our company and I knew that for investors to take us seriously, we needed to prove that we could sell our product and make money,” said Kouture. “I told my mom that this could be our 15 minutes of fame and we may not get this opportunity ever again.”
Pitching her business daily to retailers and customers keeps A. in the know about what customers like and what they don’t. “If our customers don’t like berry, we can’t make berry snacks,” A. commented. “Producing gluten-free, vegan and allergy-free food is too expensive to bake only what we like. Input from sales and customers is invaluable. I discipline myself to remain close to the feedback and put that knowledge to work for the business.”
Growing with One Mom at a Time
Since A. and Denise launched their tasty business in 2020, they’ve amassed $197,000 in sales, primarily finding success in food service and private labeling with large corporations in the Seattle and west coast areas. They’re looking to stock the snack shelves in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and head back into local grocery stores.
The judges were inspired by A.’s pitch and after winning the $20,000 top prize from the pitch contest, A. and Denise decided to put the money towards purchasing equipment for their health-food company and grow the team, one mom at a time.
“One of the issues plaguing our society today is that a lot of kids don’t have access to their parents, in particular, their mothers, the way they should, because they’re working long hours and often at night,” stated Kouture. “I want to create a place where moms, young or old, can work shifts from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., and then be home for their family in the evening hours.”
Not sure if you are a fan of organic, plant-based dessert snacks? You may want to give these a try – it’s clear that A. and her mother are taking the cake.