A sweet tooth, an unwavering palate and a bit of luck led to Milwaukee native and entrepreneur Nubian Simmons opening a manufacturing facility for her business, The Pink Bakery, in the city’s Miller Valley. The facility officially opened last fall.
The Pink Bakery offers pre-packaged mixes for baked goods that are allergen-free and produced in a completely dedicated facility to make sure no contaminants can make their way in.
Simmons created The Pink Bakery out of necessity. She is severely allergic to wheat and milk, responds negatively to cross contamination, and is also a vegan.
“I was just trying to figure out how to navigate that world. There were products out there that were honestly just disgusting. The bar is pretty low when it comes to taste for allergen-free desserts. For someone who has to suffer through that, it was like let me figure out how to make my own stuff,” Simmons said.
With zero baking or culinary experience, Simmons had a monumental task in front of her. It took her five years to perfect her dessert mixes. Common ingredients such as eggs, wheat or milk are not used in any of her recipes. Currently, The Pink Bakery offers five mix options.
With the help of her siblings, who do not have the same allergies as her, she was able to closely match the taste and texture of several dessert favorites.
“I didn’t want it to be good for people with food allergies. I wanted it to be good (for everyone), because when you’re the one in the family that has the allergies and the family brings home that special cookie, nobody eats that but you. I wanted something everybody would like,” Simmons said.
In 2016, Simmons was asked by St. Jude’s to move to Memphis, Tennessee to share her allergen-free desserts with children. At this point in time, she was baking for people who may have needed a wedding cake or dessert for a special event. Simmons had a small space in Memphis that she was working out of. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The city shut down and Simmons couldn’t deliver her desserts to customers. To stay in business, the idea to sell her desserts as mixes was born.
Right before the pandemic hit, Simmons had invested some money into buying land in Memphis to build a bakery. In March 2020, she found out the property she was set to close on had been contaminated by a dry cleaner that occupied the space 100 years ago. Simmons took it as a sign that Memphis may not be the right place for her.
“I was like if this deal doesn’t go through, I don’t think I’m supposed to be here,” Simmons said. “I was asking myself where The Pink Bakery’s home was supposed to be. My mom was like, ‘Come home. Let’s try to regroup here.’”
So that’s what Simmons did. In the summer of 2020, she spent several months looking for potential locations in Milwaukee. She didn’t end up finding her ideal space until she started talking with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWIBIC). Their leadership encouraged her to look one more time in Milwaukee, and she eventually received a loan from the organization that enabled her to set up her manufacturing facility.
“We found a place in Miller Valley. It just like appeared. It wasn’t in any of the searches that we had looked at before. I believe in the spiritual world because it was like, ‘Where was this a week ago? This was not there before,’” Simmons said.
The 2,600-square-foot Milwaukee location is entirely dedicated to the production of The Pink Bakery mixes, so no cross contamination can happen. There is not a retail component to the store to keep anyone from bringing possible allergens into the space. It’s for this reason Simmons said she is not sharing the address of the manufacturing facility.
In the future, Simmons said she would like to seek more wholesale opportunities, including the possibility of having her products sold at Health Hut locations.
“I really feel like we have a lot of possibilities. We could go in so many different directions, from grocery stores to hospitals to schools to airlines. It’s just trying to figure out which way would be the best way to go first,” Simmons said.