How Interning For a Gluten Free Cookie Company Changed My Perspective On Business

I work for four hours a day, but I don’t get paid in dollars. I get paid in cookies-big, savory ginger cookies! I also have the privilege of working with a very special customer — one who always has a smile on her face. I am a business major at Clemson University, and my summer internship with a social enterprise has taught me how business can not only be a way to earn a living, but more importantly, a way to impact lives.

My special customer is Carolyn Sampson. When you meet her, the first thing she will tell you about herself is “I’m a baker.” Carolyn is not just any baker, though. She is the face of Reason to Bake, a Brevard, NC gluten free cookie business started by Carolyn and her mother, Elise. Carolyn was born with Down syndrome, but her disability hasn’t stopped her from having a BIG dream — to be a baker.

Carolyn first expressed her desire to be a baker when her mother took her to a vocational coach for advice on career opportunities. The coach told them that there were not a lot of opportunities in baking in our small mountain community, especially for a person with Down syndrome.

Afterward, Elise had a series of dreams in which she felt called to provide Carolyn, as well as others with intellectual disabilities, the opportunity to pursue their dreams by starting Reason to Bake. The twofold mission of the company is to offer the best tasting gluten free cookies around, while providing the dignity of work for special needs young adults like Carolyn.

My job is to prepare Reason to Bake to launch a crowdfunding campaign in mid-September. The campaign will fund new, shipping-friendly packaging for the cookies, designed by a team of students in the Packaging Science department at Clemson University. Also, the funding will go toward purchasing a convection oven to increase their production rate.

If successful, the campaign will allow Reason to Bake to grow as a company, and to employ more young adults like Carolyn. I am learning a lot about the mechanics of making a business successful, but more importantly, it has given me a new perspective on business — that starting and owning a company is not just about making money. A successful business can be used to change the world in BIG ways, and to positively impact lives.

Today, Carolyn is very dedicated and fulfilled in her role as a baker. Sometimes, in the kitchen, she breaks out into a little dance while mixing ingredients. She always lets everyone she meets know just how much she loves baking. She is fulfilling her dream of being a baker with the help of my work to make the crowdfunding campaign a success.

By helping her, I am creating my own dream of one day starting a social enterprise. I would like my life’s work to allow me to achieve my own financial goals. Now, thanks to Carolyn and her mother, there is an entirely new element to my ideal job. I want my job to have the same impact on others’ lives as this business has had on my life and will have on the lives of the special needs adults that it employs.

Reason to Bake has a blog on their website that celebrates the untapped potential and courage of special needs adults living out their dreams with the help of family and friends. I hope their story will inspire you as much as it has inspired me.