If you’ve ever had a gluten-free cookie and you were left unimpressed, it was probably because you didn’t buy it from the Helping Hands Bakery. While they are recognized as the maker for some of the best gluten-free cookies available on the market, that isn’t all they have to contribute.

As the mother of 3 autistic son’s, Bridget Lane wanted to do more. Taking her charitable nonprofit company the extra mile, she also helps out individuals with special needs by giving them job training and employment.

Tell us a little about Helping Hands Bakery.

We are a 501c3 charitable nonprofit that makes the best gluten-free cookies that you’ve ever tried! We have lots of fans!

What inspired you to launch your bakery?

My three little boys all have high functioning autism (my oldest is almost 7 and my identical twin boys are 5 years old). I wanted to do something positive in the community and create jobs for adults with special needs (especially those on the autism spectrum). I wanted to make sure my boys would have a job when they grew up. I wanted to make sure they would be as self-reliant as possible. We also give back to the community by providing persons with special needs job training. In our programs, we support parents of special needs children by donating money to families in need of respite. We also give a portion of our net profits to other charities in Boulder and Denver that also support children with special needs.

You mentioned that your business is a nonprofit. What comes with 501c3 charitable nonprofit status?

We belong to the community and are required to have 1/3 of our revenue come from donations in order to maintain our 501c3 (tax-exempt) status. We are tax-exempt which means that we are able to purchase the ingredients for our gluten-free cookies tax-free.

How can someone help?

We always need donations to show the IRS that we are a valued charity. The money donated can be earmarked for: cookie ingredients, vocation training, respite, or medical/tuition fund (money allocated to children who require additional therapies not covered by their insurance). All donations are tax-deductible and greatly needed especially in today’s economic climate. We also always need volunteers to help with baking, working as a buddy alongside someone with a special need, etc. If you love to bake, or just love hanging out with great people, we’d love to meet you!

What separates your cookies from the competition?

Our gluten-free cookies are so good people cannot believe that they are actually gluten and wheat free. Our gluten-free cookies are also lower in sugar (only 2g of sugar, which is less than 1/2 tsp of sugar per cookie).

Have you thought about expanding into other gluten-free foods?

We do make some wonderful gluten-free muffins and cupcakes in addition to our gourmet marshmallows dipped in chocolate.

What are some of the lessons you have learned while planning, launching, and running the Helping Hands Bakery?

That everyone, no matter where they come from, has gifts to give… you just need to give them a chance to bloom.

What goals do you hope to achieve, short and long term?

We are hoping to grow from 8 Whole Foods Markets into 31 stores by the end of year. Whole Foods has already asked us to go region wide (Rocky Mountain Region) and we are gearing up for it right now. I would love to form nonprofit franchises of the Helping Hands Bakery. In this model, people with special needs would have jobs and have an opportunity for self-reliance throughout our nation. I think it could definitely work. All the gluten-free cookies baked would then be sold at local coffee shops, grocery stores, and Whole Foods.

What tips or tricks have helped you to balance your time between your business and time for your family?

Understanding that the cookies can wait, but my kiddos need me when they need me…their needs have to come first. It helps that I have a sister who moved from Illinois a couple of months ago to help with the Helping Hands Bakery. She has been the key that lets me spend more quality time with my three sons and my wonderful husband, Branin. The idea of baking cookies to raise awareness, acceptance, and assistance for children and adults with special needs (especially autism) has turned into a synergistic respite. I can get a break from the caregiving stressors, and bake “cookies with a conscience”

Any advice that you’d like to offer anyone that hopes to create a nonprofit business as you have?

It’s a lot of hard work, but easier that you think. I’d love to write a very short book on “How to start a nonprofit, make a difference in the community, and be a stay at home mom”. Stay strong and do not let anyone give you “no” for an answer! If you have a dream of forming your own nonprofit: go for it! It’s empowered me beyond my sweetest dreams.