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Stir It Up Bakery Works To Break Down Barriers

By Justine McGuire Holland Sentinel, Mich.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A bakery that employs people with special needs was the winner at a Michigan Pitch contest. It was a terrific night for Zoe Bruyn and her startup "Stir It Up Bakery" which she was inspired to launch by members of her own family.

Holland Sentinel, Mich.

The night was as sweet as a cupcake.

A bakery with the goal of employing people with special needs was the top business idea and winner of $5,000 at Holland's first 5x5 Night.

Founder and owner Zoe Bruyn was inspired to start Stir It Up Bakery by three of her cousins, two have autism and one has Down syndrome.

"I want to break down stereotypes, and provide a platform for people with special needs to showcase their abilities and what they're capable of doing," said Bruyn, who is studying management and marketing at Grand Valley State University. She will be a senior this fall.

At this time, Stir It Up is operated out of residential kitchen, offering cookies and cupcakes for events and delivery, Bruyn said. The $5,000 will help move the business into an incubator kitchen in Grand Rapids.

Stir It Up has two special needs employees, one with Down syndrome and one with cerebral palsy, she said. A baker is also employed.

"I was more nervous hearing the judges announce the winner than I was to present," Bruyn said, recalling 5x5 Night. "It was a very exciting and proud moment."

Making the moment extra special was the presence of one of her employees.

"He was so proud," Bruyn said.

The best part of Stir It Up is seeing the impact it has on her employees, she said.

Bruyn was one of five entrepreneurs to pitch for five minutes each. Five Holland-area judges selected the winner.

The judges were Jane Clark of the West Coast Chamber of Commerce, Fred Molnar of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Eric Post of Varnum Law, Chuck Reid of Charter House Innovations and Brett VanderKamp of New Holland Brewing Company.

Varnum Law also awarded Stir It Up $5,000 in legal services.

The other ideas were: -- Project Equip, Christen Bordenkircher -- A microfinance project designed to give individuals access to cameras and coaching to empower them to launch a business.

-- Not Your Mother's Laundry, Gabe Boss -- A weekly laundry service delivering clean, folded laundry within two days.

-- Just Another Fairytale, Liz Creamer -- An online bridesmaid dress marketplace for resale.

-- Migration Surf, Tim Folkert -- A company specializing in hand-crafted, Michigan-built surfboards.

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