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Baking up a yummy new business

PITTSBORO - Walk into Abigail Wilson's new business in Pittsboro and inhale the warm smell of fresh baked goods - delicious!

Delicious - that's half the name of Wilson's new business, Abilicious Bakery: "Abi" for her and "-licious" for the great tastes and smells of her creations that are also good for you.

Wilson specializes in gluten-free and vegan baked goods. She partners with area small farmers to create her products out of the finest, freshest ingredients.

Wilson grew up enjoying baking for her dad, brothers and friends. Then, in 2009, she found out that she, like many people, is gluten-intolerant. Gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, and rye, can cause problems ranging from digestive issues to constant fatigue, skin disorders or personality change.

"It was a blow at first," Wilson said. "I was adrift for a long time figuring out how to adapt to gluten intolerance. I couldn't keep out of the kitchen, so I started making my own gluten-free recipes."

That not only solved her problem, but also was good news for area residents with the same challenge. Now, Wilson is delighted to share her creations with the public from her own community-supported bakery and other organic and local food outlets.

"Accessibility to and the need for gluten-free goods drove the creation of Abilicious Bakery," Wilson said. "Just because a simple allergy eliminates wheat or butter from your diet doesn't mean you should never have a brownie again,"

Wilson had never planned on becoming an entrepreneur and having her own bakery business. The Pittsboro native earned a Fine Arts degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009. For about a year after graduation, she pursued her love of art in Carrboro, working on woodcarvings and contemplating a master's degree in art.

Then it dawned on her - more schooling was a commitment she wasn't ready to make. She came back to Pittsboro, got a job at Angelina's Kitchen as a line cook and started looking for the next opportunity. She was asked to make gluten-free bakery products for the restaurant and found that she was good at it. The public wanted more of her bakery products and the idea for a business was born.

"Many people can't imagine a world without wheat, but other flours - such as garbanzo bean, almond, sorghum, or millet flours - offer much more complex flavors with higher protein and vitamin content," she said. "Abilicious's focus on organic and local ingredients further boosts the quality of the baked goods."

Wilson knew that getting from the idea for her own small business to the reality required information she didn't have about running a successful business. For assistance, she turned to Central Carolina Community College's Small Business Center at the college's Chatham County Campus, in Pittsboro.

When Wilson arrived for her first meeting with SBC director Gary Kibler, she had already begun to write a business plan. Kibler reviewed with her things she needed to do to start her own business, such as getting a sales and use tax ID number, completing a cost-of-goods analysis, developing a startup capital needs assessment, and a sales forecast. Then, together they began to develop some financial projections to see if her bakery could be successful.

"When Abi came back for her follow-up meeting 10 days later", Kibler said, "she had everything done, and more."

Initially, Wilson thought she needed a partner to help finance her start-up. Instead she found Slow Money NC, a national movement locally organized by The Abundance Foundation. This group of local investors with "patient capital" focuses on helping people start businesses in Chatham County related to a sustainable foodshed.

Wilson was able to borrow first $5,000 and then another $2,000, which enabled her to buy an industrial oven and commercial mixer. She found commercial kitchen space at the Center for Natural Medicine, in Pittsboro, and she was in business. Wilson has already hired an assistant and is expanding her product line to include sugar-free and even grain-free bakery items.

There is no storefront at the Center for Natural Medicine, but her products are available at several area locations, including the Pittsboro, Chatham Mills, and Saxapahaw farmers markets; Chatham Marketplace; Red Star Coffee; Bean Traders; and Angelina's Kitchen. She also sells through the Abilicious community supported bakery. Special orders are welcome. For more information, go to www.AbiliciousBakery.com, or call (919) 548-4431.

Anyone interested in small business counseling or starting a business is invited to contact one of CCCC's Small Business Center directors: Gary Kibler, CCCC Chatham Campus, 764 West St., Pittsboro, (919) 545-8013, www.chathamsbc.com; Dale Fey, Lee Campus, 1105 Kelly Drive, Sanford, (919) 774-6442, www.leesbc.com; or Nancy Blackman, Triangle South Enterprise Center, 600 S. Magnolia St., Dunn, (910) 892-2884, www.harnettsbc.com. All services are free and confidential.

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