NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Nashville baker enjoyed time in the national spotlight while competing in the Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown on the Food Network.
Chelle Baldwin opened the SweetAbility Bakery out of her home 7 years ago to provide opportunities for her 18-year-old daughter Rosie. Rosie was diagnosed with Autism when she was 3 years old, and an intellectual disability, as well.
"We’ve slowly been growing the business so that once she does get out of high school she will have a place to work," said Baldwin.
Baldwin said while she was learning more about her daughter's diagnosis, she was shocked to find out how many kids with disabilities struggle to find and keep jobs as adults, and how many are targets for predators. She decided she wanted to provide a safe place where Rosie and others could learn new skills.
"They have unique qualities and skills they bring to the table that you don’t always find from someone who is looking for a job," said Baldwin. "They are excited to be there. They are happy to have the job. Happy to be productive."
Currently, Rosie helps her mom create custom cookies, cakes and pies, and said the cherry pie is her favorite. The mother daughter duo giggle and tell jokes as they bake the sweet treats.
Baldwin's unique business model caught the attention of the Food Network. She teamed up with an old college friend to compete in the Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown. Family and friends gathered at The Ridge restaurant to cheer her on. She said it was an opportunity to showcase her skills, and share her story. She hoped it would encourage other businesses to encourage hiring individuals with disabilities.
"Ultimately, there are so many people who are sitting at home who could add so much value to a workplace, but they aren’t given the opportunity," said Baldwin.
She said in the future she would like to hire additional employees to work alongside Rosie. She has long term plans to move from her house to a larger commercial kitchen to make room for a bigger staff.
"We want to have a nice inclusive community," said Baldwin. "That is the goal."
Unfortunately, Baldwin didn't win the baking competition, but said it was a lot of fun to participate.
For more information on the SweetAbility Bakery visit https://www.sweetability.com/