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SunButter Interview With Haley, The Allergy Apprentice
The Allergy Apprentice is an online resource for kids with peanut and food allergies. 11-year-old Haley, who was diagnosed as a toddler with a severe peanut allergy, created the business with the goal of helping other kids with food allergies. The Allergy Apprentice website offers merchandise to alert people about peanut allergies and help keep kids safe.
Haley visited us at the SunButter office recently. We were very impressed and inspired by our conversation with Haley and her mom, Cindy, who helps Haley with the business. Here is our interview.
SB: When did you launch Allergy Apprentice and what inspired you to launch it?
HALEY: We launched it about a year ago. When I was going out to eat I noticed that not many waiters or people knew about allergies. I really wanted to help kids like me with allergies to make them feel more comfortable. I thought what better way than T-shirts, because everyone likes T-shirts. So I thought, if we put “No Peanuts” on the T-shirts, that helps get the message out there and people will start to notice it.
SB: Your T-Shirts say “No Peanuts! Read My Tag for Help” on the front. They are ideal to wear at times when you are at school, field trips, parties, sporting events, or other activities when you are away from home or your parents. They have a tag on the inside that allows you to provide information about your allergy, and what to do in case of an emergency. Can you tell us a little more about that?
HALEY: That’s the most unique thing about our T-shirts. That’s what makes the company stand out. I personally have never seen any other T-shirts with this tag. You can write the information on the inside tag of the shirt and keep your information private. The shirt says “No Peanuts” right on the front. It really sends the message and makes sure everyone knows. We have adults who want the T-shirts too. They have a kid with a peanut allergy – they are an allergy family – so they want to support their kid with the allergy.
SB: Allergy Apprentice will be launching New T-shirts in May for Food Allergy Awareness Month. The T-Shirts will be turquoise, the color for Food Allergy Awareness. They will include the Allergy Apprentice logo and will be designed for more mature customers.
SB: You also have Allergy Apprentice No Peanuts Please! Cards. These are great to use at restaurants and maybe even schools or parties to communicate to waiters, chefs and others who are working around your food allergy. The message on every card is in English AND Spanish and English. Can you tell us more about these?
HALEY: This idea came when we were in the Dominican Republic for a vacation and the waiters spoke Spanish. The cards make it a lot easier. You don’t even have to tell it to the waiters you can just give them this card. The chefs can read it and know it is very serious and it says even if peanuts are in flour or oils.
CINDY: There is a lot of confusion in label reading and that’s why we did the card to have clarification for kids and adults. It is busy in the restaurant and at least you know they have something with them. The cards have given Haley a sense of security – they have the card in their hands.
SB: Haley also explained that when she says “No Peanuts” the waiters often think she is requesting a food without peanut butter. It can be a challenge to explain that there cannot be ANY peanuts in ANY of the ingredients. The cards can be very helpful. Like the T-shirts, the “No Peanuts Please!” Cards can communicate to busy waiters and chefs and help keep kids safe.
SB: The Allergy Apprentice offers very cool bags with the “No Peanuts” message too and you mentioned you are introducing some fantastic new turquoise T-Shirts in May. What else are you working on?
CINDY: On the home page of the website it explains how to become an Allergy Apprentice. There are so many people who want to share their stories. A goal, probably in May, is to have a drawing and share Allergy Apprentice customer stories (with permission) that inspire people and have more of a board where people can share stories. We are also open to ideas for new products that say “Allergy Apprentice”. This would be kind of like a club. It has been fun to keep the lines open for kids to talk. Haley is a natural sounding board. Kids can call or email or just say “How did you deal with this in school?” Haley is so positive and that is what people who have reached out to her have needed, just a positive person.
SB: You have talked to a lot of kids – have there been any standout stories?
HALEY: Everyone has a unique story. There was a younger girl who was being bullied at school for her peanut allergy, and she just really wanted someone to talk to. She was a really nice girl; it was fun talking to her. She was just having a tough time.
CINDY: Sometimes peanut allergy kids feel alone if they don’t have other kids in their school or it’s nice if you have someone you can talk to.
HALEY: That’s been one of my favorite parts of having my own business is being able to communicate more and all the different experiences I’ve been able to have, like the meeting we had – it’s just been really fun for me.
SB: What is your best advice for kids just learning about peanut allergies?
HALEY: Read labels and understand and trust your instincts. You know what’s right for you. Take your time. You don’t want to get rushed and have an accident. You need to take it slow. One step at a time. Read labels and ask questions. It took me awhile when I was younger to start actually talking to waiters more and letting them know I have an allergy. That was hard for me at first. Making eye contact with them, even, I know that really helps. At school you can create support groups. It is pretty weird when you have allergies and no one really knows about it. You can get your friends together and have a support group and let them know what to do and how serious your allergy is.
SB: Did you enjoy visiting the SunButter facility?
CINDY: It was fun for Haley to see all the steps that go into keeping the product safe. Some brands make different products at different facilities and not all the products are peanut free. Knowing that all SunButter products are made in one facility gives us confidence.
SB: After visiting the SunButter facility and seeing the peanut free and top 8 food allergen free policies, and seeing all the steps taken to keep the product top 8 food allergen free, Haley and her family felt confident to try SunButter for the first time. Introducing new products – especially one that looks similar to peanut butter – is a big step.
For more information about the Allergy Apprentice, and Haley and Cindy, visit AllergyApprentice.com