When the pandemic hit last year and the world went on lockdown, Chanice McClover-Lee was stuck at home with a craving. The longtime vegan and recent high school graduate wanted a great cookie made without any animal products, but she couldn’t find any in the grocery stores in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale.
Though she didn’t have any baking experience, other than an occasional project with her grandmothers, she began experimenting to create cut-above chocolate chip cookies. “I wanted to create a vegan product that when you eat it you can’t tell it’s vegan,” the 19-year-old says.
Her parents, Greg and Deidra, also vegans, were her taste testers. It took a few test batches, but they finally gave her the thumbs up for cookies that are crunchy and crispy on the edges, but toothsome and chewy at their centers. From there, she perfected other cookie recipes: red velvet cheesecake, birthday cake, white chocolate macadamia nut, and peanut butter. Now there are more than a dozen flavors in her arsenal.
Little did she know that her home baking endeavors would be the start of Baked By Chanice, a vegan ghost bakery over a thousand miles away here in D.C.
McClover-Lee sold her first cookies last June at a bake sale out of her home in Fort Lauderdale. It went so well she decided to hold sales every other week throughout the summer. “People loved the cookies and kept coming back for more,” she says.
The turning point from passion project to business came in November, when she made 500 cookies for a plant-based food festival. She completely sold out. “That’s when I realized this is something bigger than what I originally anticipated,” she says, “but I’m willing to go along with it because I enjoy doing it and it’s nice to be able to make money from something you like doing, especially as a teenager or college student.”
Last fall, she began attending Howard University remotely, majoring in sociology with a minor in English, in hopes of going into civil rights law or criminal defense. Unfortunately, virtual college was a real disappointment. “I don’t see the point,” she says. “You don’t go to college to go to classes on Zoom all day.”
She decided to take the spring semester off but moved to the region in February, in part to officially start Baked By Chanice. It took her a couple of months, but it officially launched as a ghost bakery in Tastemakers in Brookland in May. Her company was an instant success, selling out its opening weekend. Now she and her assistant bake 500 to 1,000 cookies every week.
Orders go live every Monday for pickups on the weekends. She also has a stand at the Park View Market in Hook Hall every other Sunday and ships her products nationwide. Beyond her cookies, McClover-Lee custom bakes cakes and cupcakes to order in a variety of flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, lemon, red velvet, cookies and cream, and carrot. She hopes to add cupcakes to the regular menu in the coming months.
To accommodate the growing demand for her products, the young entrepreneur is on the lookout for a larger kitchen, or potentially a space with a storefront. She’s even thinking of packaging her cookies, even as she prepares to continue her education at Howard in the fall. Recently, she got a large catering order from Target in Annapolis, who bought her cookies as a part of their Juneteenth celebrations. “I hope my cookies will be on Target’s shelves someday,” she says.
Baked By Chanice is located in Tastemakers at 2800 10th St. NE. Pickups are Saturday 1 p.m.-7 p.m. or until sold out and Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m. or until sold out.
(As published on dcist)