How a Childhood Toy Inspired This Entrepreneur to Launch Her Business

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Reminded of her passion, Laurie Gray ditched the corporate world and launched the Pie Bar bakery.


3 min read

This story appears in the
July 2019

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There’s something about working with dough that’s calming and therapeutic. I learned that from my mother, Beverley. As a child, I’d be by her side as she’d make cookies, brownies, breads, lemon bars, and pies — all from scratch. I’d then spend hours in my bedroom in a make-believe kitchen, replicating what I saw with my Little Chef toy oven.

Years passed. I grew up. After two decades and a career in banking, I decided, Heck, I’m going to give baking a shot instead. In 2003, my friend and I put in $500 each, stocked a space in a commercial kitchen with supplies, and started baking pies. We wholesaled to about a dozen local food stores and sold directly to customers at nearby farmers’ markets. 

Thing is, though, starting and running a business isn’t easy. I was a single mother raising two kids. I had no health insurance or retirement savings. Steady paycheck? Yeah, right. I got nervous. After about two years, I sold my stake and returned to the corporate world.

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Fast-forward to October 2014, and I lost my job. My reliable corporate cash flow was gone. While I tried to figure out my next move, I started baking pies to help calm my nerves. Then I got a call from my mother and she said, “Laurie, you won’t believe it. I found your Little Chef oven in the attic.” 

Seeing it after all those years was emotional. I took it as a sign at exactly the right time. I was inspired to become a business owner again. To generate buzz, I started doing pop-up shops near my home in Long Beach, Calif. The response to my pies — many old family recipes — was overwhelmingly positive. When the doors to my new business, The Pie Bar, opened in June 2016, we had people lined up down the sidewalk. It hasn’t slowed since. 

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Today that Little Chef toy oven sits on display in the front of the store. When kids come in with their parents, I get to share my story about playing with it and how it created a passion that led to owning my pie shop. It reminds me of how far I’ve come. If you quit, and that’s it, then you’ll never know what you can accomplish.

https://www.twi1p.com/

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