If there’s one thing Gracie Hauser has always been, it’s an entrepreneur.
The 18-year-old Thorp native was an Easy Bake Oven connoisseur, and for a period of time sold custom notebooks and worked with catalogues.
“I’ve just always wanted to enjoy what I do with my life,” Hauser said.
So when confronted with personal medical issues when she was 15, Hauser decided to start controlling what she put into her body — and seven months ago, her latest venture into entrepreneurship was formed.
Hauser began her gluten and dairy free, naturally sweetened baking company, Gracie Girl Bakery, and has since compiled more than 80 recipes using items like fruit to sweeten her buckles and applesauce to moisten muffins.
And now Gracie Girl Bakery is getting national attention.
After getting a call to fly out to New York one week ago, Hauser appeared on the “Pitch your Passion” segment on NBC’s TODAY with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb earlier this week. She presented the pitch for her bakery to three celebrity business owners: Baked by Melissa co-founder Melissa Ben-Ishay, restaurant owner and chef Geoffrey Zakarian and fitness blogger, teacher and coach Cassey Ho.
Lärabar, a woman-founded vegan and dairy-free energy bar company, also gave Hauser $5,000 on the show for her budding business.
“I was shocked,” Hauser said. “It was amazing. I was just like ‘oh my gosh, dream come true.’”
After that six-minute segment Gracie Girl Bakery’s social media exploded.
Viewers from California, Texas, North Carolina and all across the country were begging Gracie for orders, hoping they could get a taste of her banana bread, muffins or her other more than 80 recipes.
“The publicity just from that alone was amazing really, truly,” Hauser said. “Hearing people’s stories … they’ve had rough times getting (businesses) started too, but you don’t give up. If it’s your passion, you just keep going.”
Gracie Girl Bakery currently does not ship outside of its local bakery — Hauser’s home kitchen — and for now, Hauser is taking a short break from selling her products to evaluate her next steps.
She has investor meetings lined up and is working on learning more about how to best continue Gracie Girl Bakery.
Prior to her segment, Hauser also spent time in the show’s green room, talking and networking with the panelists on the show, learning more about what her business’ next step could be from there.
She received advice on how to grow her social media presence from Ho, who encouraged Hauser to make use of Instagram, the online photo sharing platform. Hauser also inquired about shipping baked goods out of her local bakery from Ben-Ishay.
Regardless of what that next step is, Hauser refuses to stray from the healthful place this whole ventured started.
“I don’t know how that’s going to go down at the moment,” Hauser said. “Lots of people are helping. … (I’m) doing this the right way, staying humble and true to my roots. … (I) just know it will be something to do with the baking.”
Supporting her as she takes these next steps is her first customer: Hauser’s English teacher at Thorp High School, retired educator Cindy Campbell.
Campbell remembers Hauser bringing in treats for Campbell to taste and give feedback on. Hauser would often look to her grandmothers and Campbell for advice on what tasted good, what items needed tweaking and other cooking expertise.
Soon, Hauser was developing a logo and generating more traction for her business — none of which surprised Campbell.
“She just had a drive and desire to do things, and she was never looking for recognition,” Campbell said. “She is the most humble girl, but she gets so excited about things. She stays on that path. She just hugs that path until she gets to where she needs to be.”
Hauser’s treats soon became popular among Campbell, customers and Hauser’s family members, including Hauser’s dad — who has lost 70 pounds, attributing that weight loss to his daughter’s naturally-flavored treats.
Just through her own product, Hauser is also feeling better. She avoids refined sugars and grains, and said she feels more energy using her food to fuel her body.
Every week, Campbell and her husband order from Hauser. Sometimes it’s their favorite cherry and blueberry buckles, and other times it’s cinnamon rolls for a quick breakfast. They almost never buy bread from the store anymore, Campbell said, and the banana bread is a family favorite.
“We’re really rarely without (baked goods), and I feel really lucky because she usually will do anything for me,” Campbell said.
The former teacher and student, Campbell said, have developed a friendship, as Campbell has supported Hauser as she has pushed through other competitions, writing a letter of recommendation for Hauser at one point.
Hauser has also asked Campbell to possibly help her with a book, much to Campbell’s delight.
“She’s been so supportive always helping me with new ideas,” Hauser said. “A great friendship has grown through baking and everything.”
On Campbell’s end, watching a former student grow and expand her business has been an exciting adventure — even if that means sharing a talent friend with others.
“From a selfish point of view, I don’t want her to leave Thorp,” Campbell said, laughing. “She’s just a wonderful girl, and she has so many loves and so many interests. I think we’re very lucky to have her here.”
See Hauser’s appearance on TODAY with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb online at https://tinyurl.com/ya5obepq.