Winona State University alumna Alison Bettin ’18 is an owner and proprietor of Tiny Spoons, a licensed home bakery right here in Winona. She has been hard at work on campus, in the community, and around Minnesota, baking and sharing sweet treats, and spreading sustainable gladness, one delicious bite at a time.
An adult-learner with a culinary degree, Alison graduated WSU Magna Cum Laude with degrees in a variety of content areas: Biology-Ecology, Public Administration, Political Science, and Sustainability.
While a WSU student, she became deeply engaged in the campus and Winona communities, serving on multiple all-university committees, shepherding the Green Fee, and creating and implementing the WSU Seed Bank and Library. She gave numerous workshops and lectures at WSU and in the Winona area on saving seeds and the importance of a local food system. As a result of Alison’s deep-rooted community work, she was nominated for and won multiple awards, including the WSU President’s Student Leadership Award in Civic Engagement in 2017.
Alison is always looking for new ways to increase sustainability across the holistic fabric of southeast Minnesota, with a strong focus on Winona and Winona State. Knowledge and hands-on experiences throughout her education at WSU laid a pathway to owning a local, sustainable business, using sustainable packaging, local and organic products when able, thus birthing Tiny Spoons. “My education at WSU has greatly influenced me, especially in the area of sustainable foods, and that is part of the foundation for how I want Tiny Spoons to be run. I believe in healthy local foods, but I think we should all have a little sweet treat or pleasure in life too!”
Alison also believes that sustainability is not just about the products we use, but how we interact and support each other in our communities. Over the years, Tiny Spoons has worked to give back to the community, donating treats, gift cards, and helping to sponsor local Winona organizations such as: WSU Children’s Center, Winona International Friendship Alliance-Misato, Winona Senior High School After-Prom, Great River Shakespeare Festival, Winona Farmer’s Market, Goodview Farmer’s Market, Winona Public Library, Winona Warming Center, East End Rec Center, Advocacy Center of Winona, and numerous WSU departments, student clubs and organizations.
Alison recalls that the Tiny Spoons first started in spring 2017 while she was a student at WSU and participating in artisan events around Minnesota. She wanted to work on something outside of work, family, and school obligations. Having been in the business/retail world for decades and holding a culinary degree, Alison thought a baking business out of her own kitchen would allow for flexibility with her and her family’s busy schedules.
After graduating from WSU in May 2018, Tiny Spoons began participating weekly in the Goodview Farmer’s Market, and by the end of that same summer, the Winona Farmer’s Market. In January 2019, Alison made the decision to work the business in a full-time capacity by also attending farmer’s markets in Lewiston and Plainview on a weekly basis. Since Spring 2018, Tiny Spoons has had the pleasure to also attend the WSU Indoor Farmer’s Market, hosted once per semester by Chartwells. “Things exploded in just one year,” Alison said.
What began as an in-home, “cottage producer” bakery (financially capped annually by law) has literally boomed in the short amount of time it has been open. It’s now functionally impossible to continue without securing a brick-and-mortar location, a financial challenge Alison did not anticipate. Also, additional stresses of producing such a high volume of baked goods in her home has taken a significant toll on her family, which includes 3rd grader, Henry, who has special needs. Thus, an announcement came at the end of January 2020, saying sadly and regrettably, it appeared they would have to close, right after one last push for Valentine’s Day.
“The announcement drew an overwhelming response from the campus, the community, and beyond” Alison recalls. Tiny Spoons’ social media platforms blew up with messages of surprise, shock, sadness, encouragement to do whatever it takes, and stories of what the business, the baked goods, and relationships with Alison and her family meant to multiple groups of people, including WSU students, faculty, alumni, families, and other businesses. Projected sales plus the heartfelt response brought Alison to one conclusion, attempting sustainability once again.
Guided by a family friend to Will Kitchens, WSU’s Director of StartUp Winona State, the brainstorming began. As a result, Tiny Spoons will hold an online Kickstarter campaign from March 3 through April 1, with a kickoff event scheduled on March 3 from 11am-7pm at 177 Lafayette Street, their intended new location, to help raise money to make their brick and mortar location a reality.
Although she is both hopeful, Alison has made a final decision that if the launch is not a success, she will have to close Tiny Spoons permanently, “This Kickstarter is my last chance to fulfill a life-long dream; something I have worked for decades.” Alison says the vision is a family affair. If the launch is successful, husband Brian Ohm ’03, a 15-year staff member of WSU’s Darrell Krueger Library, will be spending weekends helping to dig into the work.
Alison, in large part, thanks to Winona State University and the Winona Community, is on the brink of realizing an ultimate goal, to create a deeper and broader positive, sustainable difference as a Forever Warrior, making an impact on and off campus in Winona and surrounding communities in southeast Minnesota.
As for the name Tiny Spoons? Alison recalls that as children she and her sister experienced sibling rivalry when it came to who got to use the tiniest spoons in their family’s silverware drawer with which to eat dessert.
To learn more about Tiny Spoons and its Kickstarter campaign, visit tinyspoonsmn.com or on Facebook or Instagram @tinyspoonsmn.
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