Alite Ambassador: Mandy Harper
Alite Ambassador Mandy Harper is a Bay Area baking and biking maven. Between making delicious treats at her gluten-free bakery, Wholesome Bakery and riding for Moth Attack, the all-women cyclocross team she founded, she keeps herself pretty busy. Read on to find out how she discovered her baking talents and how she likes to spend her time outside.
Mandy! Tell us about yourself and where you’re from…
I’m originally from Scottsdale, Arizona. I lived there till I was 22, when I moved here to go to school for fashion design. I worked in that industry for a couple of years then realized it didn’t fit my personality and what I wanted out of life.
What is your favorite memory of being outside as a youngster?
My Dad had a citrus orchard across the street from his house. When I was little, I loved running around in there with my brothers and climbing all the trees. I will never forget the smell. To this day, orange blossoms and citrus trees always make me smile.
Wholesome Bakery is your baby. When did it start and how did you turn the idea of starting a bakery into a reality?
Starting Wholesome Bakery was totally an accident. After realizing I wasn’t happy in the fashion industry and hearing rave reviews from friends about my baked goods, I decided to go for it and drop some samples at two local grocery stores. They both wanted to pick them up and I just thought, “well, I guess I have to do this now.” It’s been a ton of work and extremely scary and hard. I’m a very determined person. When I want something, I don’t stop till I get it. As an entrepreneur, I think you have to always be pushing and be okay with failure or hard times, knowing that it will all turn around.
Wholesome Bakery is also low glycemic, gluten, dairy, soy, yeast and transfat free. What inspired you to take the business in this unique direction?
I became vegan at a really young age. My Mom was really unsupportive of it, so I had to start cooking for myself. As I got older I became really interested in nutrition and started to see that just because you are vegan doesn’t mean you are eating healthily. Around 2007 I developed a really bad soy allergy, then soon after, started having issues with wheat. Realizing how much of these products I not only knowingly ate, but was also ingesting in the form of by-products, additives and so on, it all started to make sense. I removed anything from my diet that had these ingredients. Which meant I was cooking and baking a lot. At the time, it wasn’t a common thing to find sweets and a ton of other products without soy or wheat. I would make my cakes and cookies for friends and they all really loved everything. They kept encouraging me to sell them. I had no experience but just decided to go for it and see what happened. I’ve had little to no help financially. I just honestly busted my ass. Wholesome Bakery is now coming up on 5 years and growing more and more every day. I gotta say, It feels pretty amazing.
How do you incorporate the outdoors into your everyday work routine and busy life schedule?
I love being outside. It’s extremely important to me. I love gardening and I ride my bike a lot. But, I think I just always try and appreciate nature. When I’m inside or outside. Nature gives us so much and I think it’s pretty easy to forget that. I love plants (my house is covered) and I love having fresh flowers. That is probably a key to my heart. Haha!
And then there’s Moth Attack - an all women cyclocross team you’ve spearheaded. How did you get involved in the racing circuit and put a new team together?
Well, starting a women’s cross team wasn’t my initial intention. At first I just wanted to get some great women together to ride dirt, with the hopes of encouraging each other, working together and creating a really strong community of women cyclists. Once I started mentioning this to a few close friends that are in the bike world, we started getting offers for sponsorship. This was really exciting and thrilling and just couldn’t be turned down. This will be our first season as a team and my first season racing cyclocross. My wish for our team is solely to have fun and be a support for women cyclists.
Between biking and baking you must always be on the move. What inspires you to keep up the pace?
Well, if you know me… you know I have way too much energy. I can’t really sit still for too long. I really enjoy being challenged mentally and physically. I just have a lot that I want to accomplish in this life and I’m not going to stop till I do.