For Laura Pekarik, her business, Cupcakes for Courage, is a dream come true.
But it did not start out that way. The seed for the business was planted when her sister, Kathryn, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins T-cell Lymphoma, a nightmarish situation.
"My sister's friend held a fundraiser to help with the costs of her medical care," Laura said. "I've always loved to bake, even as a little girl, so I made over 200 cupcakes to help out with it."
The cupcakes were a huge hit, and from that point, demand for the delicious, homemade cupcakes snowballed. After much planning, testing, and research, Cupcakes for Courage was born.
The socially conscious business donates a percentage of their profits to both cancer research and the Ride Janie Ride Foundation, which provides financial assistance to Chicago area individuals facing financial hardship arising from costly medical care due to cancer.
And her sister's cancer has thankfully been in remission.
You may have seen the bright green truck in the wee early morning hours in downtown Elmhurst. Pekarik rents out kitchen space from Brain Freeze and bakes anywhere from three to five hundred cupcakes daily in a variety of unique and delicious flavors, including Banana Cream Pie, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, and Pink Velvet.
She then packs up the Green Machine and heads downtown to begin her food truck route, ending her day around 7 p.m. each evening.
The business abides by environmentally friendly practices. Their ingredients include unbleached flour, canola oil, and natural vegetable food coloring; and there are no preservatives in their baked goods. Eco-friendly boxes and biodegradable plastics are used for packaging.
They also feature some gluten-free delicacies as well. On Fridays, they feature a gluten-free cupcake, and they carry a gluten-free cake ball every day.
Cupcakes for Courage has been purveying their delicious cupcakes since May 2011. In that short time, they've already achieved a huge honor. On Jan. 8, Pekarik will compete in the popular "Cupcake Wars" on the Food Network Channel against three other top cupcake bakers, where she'll have a chance to win $10,000.
"Many of my clients kept urging me to enter; and then I saw a posting on Twitter about it," Laura shared.
While Pekarik loves what she does, she faces various challenges in operating her business daily. The regulations for Chicago's mobile food dispensers, as they are called, have been generally viewed as restrictive by many.
One challenge Pekarik encounters is finding appropriate parking at her various stops throughout the day. There is no designated parking for food trucks as there is for taxicabs, for example. Also, a food truck cannot park within one hundred feet of a restaurant - quite a difficulty in downtown Chicago. They are also limited in the amount of time they are allowed to park in one space.
Pekarik uses social media to deal with these challenges to her business. She updates her feed on Twitter and Facebook regularly. Her daily planned stops are also posted on the business website. Her regular customers follow her for pertinent updates.
Cupcakes for Courage also has expanded their business by catering parties and special events. They have deftly handled orders from five to five hundred cupcakes.
But to Laura, these challenges are simply tiny bumps in the road because she is passionate about her love for the business, as well as helping a favorite cause. She hopes to make the world a better place, one small cupcake at a time.
Follow Cupcakes for Courage on Twitter, where their handle is @CourageousCakes