A local college student turns a dietary challenge into a baking business.
On a fall Saturday afternoon, when other Furman students are cheering on the Paladins or spending time outdoors, Gigi Nally is rolling out dough in Imagine Kitchen in Greenville. Behind her sit pans of gingerbread donuts, tahini agave cookies, rosemary lemon muffins, and chocolate-chip cookies. Producing tasty vegan-friendly and gluten-free treats is her mission, and if the intoxicating smell permeating the room is any indication, she is succeeding deliciously.
The Furman senior and communications major stumbled onto her avocation when she was diagnosed with celiac disease at age 15. Although she loved to bake, the doctors told her she would have to give up conventional baked goods.
Rising to the challenge, the plucky teen—who became a vegetarian at age 10—decided to try her hand at gluten-free baking. Eventually, she concocted her own gluten-free flour blend, using a mix of rice, oat, and almond flours, and enlisted her yoga class as taste-testers. Her classmates loved her gluten-free goodies and clamored for more.
Bowing to demand for her delicious baked goods, last summer Nally officially set up her business, Energi Treats. Her healthy sweets, which she also packages and delivers herself, are sold in Greenville at Southern Om yoga studio, Happy + Hale, and Upcountry Provisions. She hopes soon to offer her treats in the café at Furman’s Trone Student Center.
Gluten-free is one thing, but baking without dairy products further complicates Nally’s process. Yet she makes it work: she substitutes coconut milk for cow’s milk, flaxseed for eggs, agave for white sugar, and pink Himalayan salt for table salt. “It’s fun because there are aren’t that many vegan recipes out there,” she says, “so I like to challenge myself to create new ones.”
The Greenville native began experimenting with online recipes, and, through trial and error, developed her own. While she is constantly adding new products, her donuts, muffins, and Energi Balls (in flavors such as cookie dough, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin) are her best-sellers. “I have a true and honest passion for baking,” claims the young entrepreneur, “and I love being my own boss.”
In her spare time, what little there is of it, Nally enjoys drawing and writing fiction—“anything to get my creative brain going,” she says. Balancing school work, an internship at Paris Mountain Marketing, and baking sounds like a challenge, but Nally insists it isn’t that difficult. “I just manage my time efficiently,” declares the Dean’s List scholar and member of the Communication Honor Society. Her formula for success? “I dedicate myself to the things I do, and I work really hard.”