Allergenius Baking Co starts up students’ business experience

By Lily Dolan, Staff Writer

The startup community at the University has drawn attention from all across the country. A number of incredibly successful businesses have found their start in the halls of The Union or within University Housing dorm rooms. While some are famous with worldwide success, others are just getting started making headway.

One of the newest startups to be introduced on campus is the Allergenius Baking Company, a business run by a group of young students who are adding their wealth of knowledge into the startup atmosphere at the University.

Allergenius began in a high school classroom during a business incubator course two years ago. Josh James, sophomore in business, Anya Ranjan, freshman in business and Maddie Cook, a sophomore at Wheaton College, are the three founders of Allergenius Baking Co. Their mission is to find a solution to the problem of low-quality baked goods free of the 14 most common food allergens. 

Ranjan explained that among their founders, food allergies present real concern.

“Maddie has a very severe dairy allergy and I have a very severe tree nut allergy. We were just talking about a way to provide some safe but also delicious dessert options for people, and that’s kind of where things kicked off,” Ranjan said.

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While they took the business incubator course, they were propelled by their goals and passion for the idea. Since that class, they have won numerous pitch awards, amounting to a significant amount of money to put the idea into fruition. 

Before Allergenius, Ranjan explained that she had “never been so driven and competitive about something before, so I think if you find yourself, you know, uncharacteristically excited about something, don’t doubt yourself and just follow that.”

All three students are pursuing business degrees, despite not all being students at the University of Illinois. Cook explained that it can be difficult being separated from her partners while starting a business, but that they still have great goals for the future of Allergenius. 

“Right now, COVID-19 has been a little tricky to navigate in terms of just getting our product out there in a safe way, so over break and in this upcoming year we’re kind of focusing on re-launching,” Cook said about the short-term goals for the company.

Despite these students being relatively new to the University’s startup atmosphere, they have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience in their time as founders of a business. When asked for advice for other entrepreneurs, James said he appreciated learning the basics of entrepreneurship as he began the business.

“Not all ideas are viable — I got lucky that my first actual committed entrepreneurship idea is doing really well, but just understanding the basics of entrepreneurship will serve you well,” James said.

Anya also explained that self-doubt and learning to be confident in your ideas and passions is a key to success.

“So many other people will question you and doubt you, so you really shouldn’t take that job from them and do it to yourself.” She said.

While the path to Allergenius’s current position has not been easy, these three students are wholeheartedly pushing for the success of their startup over the next few years. Currently, they are working with a University of Illinois entrepreneurship organization, Founders, to give back to the startup community that has mentored them throughout the past semester. 

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