Princess Ezenwa, baker and owner of Princess Delights Bakery, firmly believes in her product and business — so much that she'll quickly have you convinced that you've never wanted anything more in your life than healthy desserts. But one very unexpected and terrifying crisis threw her dream of opening an all-natural bakery for a loop, and she is now turning to GoFundMe to make it a reality.
With a planned opening last summer in Laclede's Landing, Princess Delights had been a concept in the making for over ten years. Ezenwa's father owns one of the biggest bakeries in Africa, so she was brought up in a bakery — but she didn't start thinking about starting her own until around 2005.
However, she didn't want to open just any bakery.
"It has to be something that is not out there," Ezenwa explains. "And then I started doing my research work, doing some experimenting on baking with no sugar. So I went around trying to get all kinds of different sweeteners to see if I could use any of them."
Years of experimenting led to discovering how to make recipes using wholesome ingredients and natural sugars, such as fruit and vegetables. Today, Princess Delights has three lines: whole wheat, gluten-free and vegan. Everything in the products is natural — no preservatives, no additives, no sugar, no salt and no butter. Paula Deen would probably be shocked that such a feat is even possible.
"I just couldn’t do anything. I had to let go and try to see that they give him all the care that he needs," Ezenwa says.
Ezenwa says people are hesitant when they see the lack of traditional (and unhealthy) ingredients. But once they try her treats, they're amazed — and keep coming back. People with specific dietary needs thank her because her products are one of the few things they can eat.
Everyone, she says, needs something like this.
"I need to educate the community on how to bake, or how to cook, without using all all this sugar, salt, whatever is out there. They can eat anything, bake anything, with natural ingredients, and it will still turn out good."
With a lease signed in the Landing, Princess Delights was set to open in August 2015. But Ezenwa's mission halted in its tracks on July 17, when her son suffered traumatic heatstroke and was given 24 hours to live.
Earlier that day, they had dropped off some new equipment at the bakery. Her son returned the truck to U-Haul, where she planned to pick him up. But her son, an athlete who has played both basketball and football and was a two-time wrestling All-American at Missouri Baptist University, decided to run the approximately six miles home. Dehydrated and overheated, he collapsed from heatstroke along the way. By the time he arrived at the hospital, his temperature had reached 107.3 degrees. He had seizures and had to be intubated. And he was in a coma for a couple of weeks.
She later adds, "Just prayers. Prayers. Prayers that brought him back."
Ezenwa had little income coming in and medical bills on the rise as she spent months with her son at the hospital. While he is still in and out of the hospital, he's doing much better.
She's now back to dreaming of her bakery, but struggling to make her dream come true.
"I signed the lease in May. So I’ve been paying the lease over there since May. I didn’t have any more money. I completely lost everything I had. Paying for my home, paying for medical, whatever, paying for everything else…just completely. It’s so sad."
Restaurants on Laclede's Landing, Whole Foods, Friendship Village and Cedar Lake Winery are just a few places that want her to supply them, but Ezenwa needs a commercial kitchen — and she needs funds to make that possible. Ezenwa created a GoFundMe with a goal of $24,800 six days ago, but she's struggled to get backing.
Even a portion of the sum might be enough to save her business. If she raises $7,500 by Thursday, she can pay the rent and Princess Delights will continue. The remaining money, if she can raise it, will cover costs such as remaining equipment, permits and ingredients.
If she doesn't get the money, her dream of opening in Laclede's Landing might be dead. But she refuses to accept that possibility.
"Princess Delights is really needed. It is needed in the community. I need to share this with the world, with the community ... to show, to train, to teach how to eat natural."