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Life & Work with Amy Castillo of Kansas City/Liberty

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Castillo.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
In 2009, my husband and I welcomed our 2nd child into our family. As an infant, we quickly realized that he was having issues nursing and digesting food. After several months of changing my diet and doctors’ visits, he was tested for and diagnosed with anaphylactic food allergies.

From that moment on, I knew I had to advocate for my child. We moved from doctor to doctor when we felt that our voices weren’t being heard. It was a difficult time seeing our child suffer, we learned along the way what he needed and did what we knew best.

When our son was 4 years old he suffered his first anaphylactic reaction on Halloween night. Holding my limp child with blue lips in my arms changed my life. We learned quickly that he could not live like any other 4-year-old child.

By 2017, we had navigated carrying our Epi-Pen with us everywhere, been also diagnosed with asthma, and had begun to navigate life eating out and going to school. My son had also befriended another child who lived closeby who had more food allergies than he did.

As this friendship blossomed, the two boys quickly learned that they could visit each other’s homes and enjoy endless safe snacks! They bonded and it was a relief to me knowing that he was in safe hands at another’s family home. It was a feeling we never thought we’d experience.

During this time I began to investigate and wonder why there was not a bakery or restaurant in Kansas City that catered to more people with food allergies. There were gluten-free and vegan bakeries but his allergies spread across several different categories that it was virtually impossible to find something he (and his friend down the street) could safely eat.

That is where the idea for Safe Bakes began to grow. My husband and I both grew up in homes with our fathers as small business owners. It was definitely in our blood.

I began attending my local library’s networking events and took an online course to write a business plan. I also spent hours testing recipes and had my friends and family critique them.

Slowly, by word of mouth, complete strangers started asking me to make cookies, cupcakes and I knew things were moving fast. Through a local mom’s group, I had established a relationship with a local church and was able to help certify their kitchen so I could begin baking for those that required a commercial permit.

As I continued networking, I attended a food law class where I met a local entrepreneur who was starting a local food incubator program in North Kansas City. The industrial area in NKC was designed for food and retail vendors to trial and prove their concept on a small scale with little overhead.

On faith, I trusted this was the next step my business needed and signed up. With months to plan, I continued trialing recipes, working with other local bakers, established a board of directors of local food allergy moms, and continued to plan and network.

After about a year of waiting in the fall of 2019, Safe Bakes moved into the Iron District in a small 10 by 10-foot container and started serving customers in the KC area.

We were extremely successful, even surviving operating out of a small space (much like a food truck with no indoor dining) even through the winter months. We often fit three workers in that small space. It was amazing what we could produce in such a small space. When springtime rolled in, we began planning our “Grand Opening” with the other vendors and the pandemic hit.

We quickly changed our pickup orders to porch deliveries and business continued to thrive. As a working mom and wife, jumping in with two feet and trusting in God that this was the right decision for Safe Bakes was difficult, but worth every step.

At the end of 2020, we moved out of our physical location but continued baking for our customers. Today, Safe Bakes continues to bake for customers by special orders and arrange meet-ups and deliveries for local customers.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Funding has been one of our struggles along the way. We have operated our business debt-free from day one so our process has been slower along the way. But operating our business this way has enabled us to have more flexibility and move somewhat slower, but smarter.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Aside from Safe Bakes, I am proud of my dedication to my family and my faith. Oftentimes as small business owners, our work lives can consume us and drive our entire schedule. It’s always been my goal to be available for my kid’s events and prioritize my faith and my marriage.

Before we go, is there anything else you can share with us?
I also have found satisfaction in satisfying my creative side outside of the kitchen. My background is also in journalism so writing is one of my creative outlets. I am currently writing my dad’s memoir. He was the oldest of 11 children and a Vietnam Vet. Unveiling his story through interviews and family genealogy has been fascinating.

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