Starting from scratch

Meredith Smith ('08) (Photo by Michael Clements)Less than a year ago, Meredith Smith (’08) was using her applied arts and sciences degree working for a travel company. When her position was terminated, she decided to start from scratch as an entrepreneur, opening Candi’s Organic Bakery.

At Dallas-area farmers markets, locals stop by for her gluten-free, vegan and USDA certified organic treats. She developed all the recipes and now bakes about 800 cupcakes and more than 10 pounds of animal crackers each month. 

“I could have gotten another job, or I could have started my own business,” Smith says. “My education at UNT prepared me for both.”

Smith drew from the food truck business model, popular in cities like Los Angeles, and sells her creations personally at weekend events and farmers markets. 

Her slogan is, “You are what you eat … so eat something without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, herbicides and other chemicals.” All goods are baked without high fructose corn syrup and with high-quality ingredients.

Along with husband and wife team Austin and Stacy Gillespie, Smith bakes and packages the goods at a commercial kitchen in Garland. 

“Each box is environmentally conscious, using 25 to 30 percent less fiber than typical bakery boxes,” she says. The fiber comes from the Sustainable Forest Initiative, which collects and reforests lumber, and the cardboard is not chemically coated. Each order is baked and shipped the same day for freshness, sometimes reaching destinations as far as New York.

 

Family and friends

One of Smith’s encouraging “cheerleaders” is her former boss, Jennifer Williams, who owned Tea Time Treasures in downtown Plano. Smith worked at the tearoom while attending UNT.

“Jennifer taught me what it took to own a business,” she says. “I owe a lot of what I am doing and have achieved to her.”

The company is named after Smith’s daughter Candice, 6, who was her inspiration and is ecstatic about the new venture. Smith’s boyfriend, Alex Ruiz, also has been a strong supporter.

“When I came to Alex with this idea, he just smiled and said, ‘Let's make it happen.’ He watches the kids, makes deliveries and helps me set up at each farmers market,” Smith says.

She overflows with thanks for her mother, Merilyn Smith, as well as former co-workers and friends from her last job. 

 

Giving back

To give back, Smith created "Cupcakes for Charity," a fundraising avenue for local nonprofits. The nonprofit organization and its members preorder baked goods and then receive a percentage of profits.

In the sweltering July sun, Smith and friends set up shop in front of Allen Community Outreach for a cupcake drive and gave 10 percent of profits to the organization. Multiple area churches bought organic pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, raising money for their congregations.

In the spring, “Cupcakes for Charity” will partner with school PTAs in the Dallas area for Valentine’s Day. Students can pre-order cupcakes to be hand-delivered to their sweeties, and the school will earn 25 percent of the profit. 

Candi’s Organic Bakery goods can be found at a few local stores, with more in the works, and Smith hopes to have a storefront and bakery delivery truck soon.

“The education I received empowered me with choices,” she says. “I would love to get the message to students to think outside the box during hard economic times and lean on what they learned at UNT to make it through.”