Betsy Hiebert's baking business started with a gut feeling.
In 2006, her gut was in bad shape. Turned out Hiebert had celiac disease, a serious intolerance to the gluten found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and oats, as did all three of her adult children.
So Hiebert did what any mother would do: she completely overhauled her diet and learned to bake gluten-free for her family. Soon, she branched out to farmers' markets and started taking special orders.
In spring 2011, after building a commercial kitchen in the basement of her East Kildonan home, Cocoabeans was officially born. Fast forward to now. On December 1, Hiebert threw open the doors at Cocoabeans Bakeshop, a gluten-free bakery and shop in St. Boniface.
Inside Cocoabeans, people with Celiac disease can indulge in once forbidden sweets like cupcakes, cookies and gingerbread men. (Robin Summerfield)
"Making the next step has been scary," she says.
Her new 1,400-square-foot space at 268 Tache Avenue is the former home of Sweet Impressions. And it's a big upgrade from Hiebert's tiny 80-square-foot basement bakery where she made gluten-free cakes, pizza dough, cookies, cupcakes, bread and buns for restaurants, hotels and other bakeries in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Jets were also a client.
Inside her new bakeshop, Hiebert sells all the same goodies plus raw ingredients like quinoa and pure oat flakes and flour and pizza dough mixes.
In the gluten-free world, oats are a bit of a controversy. They must be grown, processed and packaged in a 100 per cent gluten-free environment without any cross contamination. Hiebert says her oats are sourced from a producer who meets that criteria.
Meanwhile, Hiebert wants to expand her budding empire. She dreams of opening a 100 per cent gluten-free café in the space she already leases adjacent to the bakeshop.
"That would be my dream: that (gluten-intolerant) people would have a safe place to eat and people wouldn't have to worry about getting sick or not."