Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Local Women Make Slumber-Party Kits, Vegan Jewelry, Diabetic Brownies

By Anneli Rufus
Wed, May 5, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Green weddings and gluten-free brownies were hot topics at Sunday's Women Entrepreneurs Showcase, where nearly two dozen women-owned businesses displayed their wares and shared ideas at Berkeley's David Brower Center. It was a truly inspiring day and you couldn't have walked out of that place without suspecting that the country's economy might be revived after all by a new breed of pioneers.

Carla Lovett aims to improve kids' self-esteem with her Pillow Fight Nite kits. Each slumber-party-in-a-box contains materials and instructions for activities that build friendships and positive self-image, from hula lessons to cooking to pet care to hip-hop. Watching peers and popular culture pressure her twelve-year-old niece to grow up to soon in a hypersexualized society where "being a lady is not considered cool anymore" motivated Lovett, who officially launches the company in August.

With skills she perfected as an assistant pastry chef at San Francisco's prestigious vegan restaurant Millennium, Sarah Smart created a vegan ice-cream line, Rocket Ship, which she now crafts in a Hayward kitchen and which she hopes to start selling in stores and from a roving truck soon. Made with coconut milk and rice milk without refined sugar, Smart's mellow and ... uh ... smart flavors include saffron, whiskey-chocolate swirl, roasted strawberry, espresso-Meyer lemon, avocado-Key lime, honey-lavender, Turkish coffee, Thai tea, and Earl Grey.

Berkeley-based Roni Seabury's Daisy Wares vegan jewelry includes hand-stamped silver pendants with such messages as "SEITAN LOVER" and "GOT SOY?" Gloria Zaionz makes succulent gluten-free and conventional breads, cookies, scones, and cakes — including an astounding flourless chocolate cake — at her SugarMama Bakery in Pleasanton, but she'll deliver these goodies anywhere in the East Bay.

The private chef/caterer/"kitchen therapist" who calls herself Chef Stephanie was previously the executive chef at Back to Earth, the organic catering outfit whose founders now own Gather Restaurant.

Sometimes she cooks for gigs organized by green event planner Sadie Waddington, whose One Big Fish company utilizes eco-friendly invitation designers, caterers, bakers, hotels, florists, and more, while using only recyclable glass, papern and plastic and working with local food banks to donate surplus food and provide floral arrangements to senior centers. Many of her weddings, Waddington said, "are for the nonbride bride" who seeks both sustainability and elegance.

Fellow green organizer Karine Brighten — the Bay Area's only vegan events planner — arranged the showcase itself, whose decor was designed by Pilar Zuniga from Gorgeous and Green Events.

After starting her own company, ex-paramedic Makenzie Kelly watched it grow into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. But "every other area of my life was failing," she remembers now. "Was it supposed to be this stressful? It was meaningless, even though I looked successful." Retiring from her lucrative business, Kelly used what she'd learned to create the Freedom Venture Project, which helps people streamline their careers and turn their ideas into business plans.

When Alaine Shrewsbury's vegan bakery was located in Los Angeles, her celebrity customers included Woody Harrelson, Jason Alexander, and Alicia Silverstone. Alexander favored a chocolate-cherry parfait cake; Silverstone — who "doesn't have a sweet tooth" — favored sprouted-millet bread. Now Shrewsbury's Green Heart Bakery is in Danville, where her lavish, magazine-pretty, all-organic, and still-vegan artworks can be baked to suit special needs of all kinds: from brown-rice-flour gluten-free triple-coconut and chocolate-raspberry cakes to Xylitol-sweetened diabetic-friendly brownies to agave-sweetened, silken-tofu-frosted wheat-free carrot cake and cheeseless Key lime "cheesecake" and beyond.

Wish them well, and keep an eye peeled for that vegan-ice-cream truck.

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