Small Business Spotlight: Cultivating STEM with Shelley Gupta, Founder of BāKIT Box! | Chicago North Shore Moms

Shelley Gupta is revolutionizing the baking industry, bringing culturally diverse recipes to young minds across the world each delicious BāKIT Box at a time. Born and raised in Toronto, Shelley moved to Chicago in 2014 for her MBA and has since turned her culinary passion into this female founded business. Her unwavering determination and innovative approach have not only earned BāKIT Box approval as a homeschooling curriculum but also made it a platform for STEM learning and cultural education. Drawing from her rich background, Shelley’s mission is to foster global connections and inclusivity through the universal language of food. “The impact on the business is amazing. Not only do we have the ability to introduce STEM learning, food, and culture across more states and more households, but now, many more families can access our products with their state funds,” Shelley explains. Each BāKIT Box is a testament to her commitment to creating enriching, educational experiences that bring families together. In Chicago North Shore Moms exclusive interview, learn more about Shelley’s journey from startup to keep up, and how your family can get your own BāKIT Box delivered to your door (exclusive discount code below). Welcome, Shelley!

 

 


Hi Shelley! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from, where do you live now? What brought you to your current location if you have not always lived there?

My name is Shelley Gupta and I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I moved to Chicago (where I currently reside) in 2014 to pursue my MBA at University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I fell in love with Chicago and have lived here almost 10 years now.

 

Please introduce BāKIT Box. How did the idea for BāKIT Box originate, and what inspired you to focus on culturally diverse and traditional recipes

BāKIT Box is a globally inspired STEM activity kit that aims at creating cultural experiences in the home. We offer our customers a variety of recipes that are inspired by different countries around the world. Each kit includes all the ingredients needed to make the delicious treat, plus games, challenges, and STEM activities that stimulate curiosity, critical thinking, and creativity.

BāKIT Box originated several years ago during my own exploration in the kitchen. I spent hours wading through the millions of online recipes, digging around for tips and tricks, and scrolling through the authors’ life stories in the process. It was pretty simple to acknowledge that baking is time consuming and challenging and that we needed an easy solution that allowed us to bake from scratch. As I started researching more unique recipes, it dawned on me that the baking industry has not innovated in one hundred years. The baking aisle today is still featuring brands from the 1920s and recipes that are not reflective of the population. I wanted to see baking solutions for churros, ladoos, pasteis de natas, not just brownies and birthday cake. From that point on, I expanded my culinary horizons across cultures.

 

 

BāKIT Box has been approved as an official homeschooling curriculum across various states. Can you tell us more about how this came about and the impact it has had on your business?

I pride myself and BāKIT Box on continuing to listen to our customers. This has been a long journey that started with customer feedback. After speaking with many customers back in 2022, I learned that parents were looking for more ways to engage with their children through our products, in addition to the baking aspect. I had one customer ask “what else can you tell me about this country and the flavors in this recipe?”. This naturally sparked my creativity and I built out a new product line that introduced STEM learning activities related to each and every recipe that we offered.

As we introduced more education into the box, we learned about the homeschooling community and their resources. I already had homeschooling customers that were submitting receipts to their state grants for reimbursement of our product. We applied to several state grant programs and were approved as official providers! The impact on the business is amazing. Not only do we have the ability to introduce STEM learning, food, and culture across more states and more households, but now, many more families can access our products with their state funds.

 

 

You’ve had experience across various industries, from real estate to technology. How have these experiences influenced the development and growth of BāKIT Box?

All my past experiences have influenced my brand in so many ways. I’ve been a business consultant, a recording artist, a real estate developer, and a financial advisor (to name a few). As diverse as my experiences have been, they’ve had one thing in common: I’m always focused on creating community. Every experience has helped me continue to build and create a community with BāKIT Box.

 

BāKIT Box is not just about baking; it’s also about connecting people with diverse cultures through food. Can you share a memorable story from a customer or community member that illustrates the impact your company has had?

This is my favorite question. A customer sent me a beautiful message about her experience with one of our boxes. It read, “I made two of the recipes with my 17 year old daughter this past weekend. I’ve been getting very, very emotional about her leaving for college and we had the best time baking and talking and spending time together. Also, one of the recipes (the Israeli Rugelach) reminded us of a dear friend who passed away at this time last year – it was such a lovely way to remember her.”

This really touched my heart.

 

 

As a passionate advocate for social impact, please share how BāKIT Box aligns with your values and contributes to positive change within communities.

Our mission is to champion cultural education through diverse flavors and STEM-based learning. 56% of public schools are made up of students of color yet less than 25% of curriculum reflects cultural relevance. Families need to take it into their own hands when it comes to diverse education and cultural learning.

BāKIT Box absolutely aligns with my values of being able to create a world of awareness and acceptance through food. By bringing diverse flavors and recipes into households, we are giving each and every one of those kids the opportunity to be curious about the world.

 

Walk us through the process of curating the recipes for each BāKIT Box and how you ensure authenticity and quality in the selection?

The curation of recipes starts with detailed discussions with the executive team, our pastry chef, and our educator. We look for opportunities to feature flavors or recipes from countries that may be relevant for the season or upcoming holiday. We do a lot of research on the unique flavors of that region and how that translates into simple baking recipes. In addition, we discuss the types of learning opportunities that exist with that recipe, flavor, or region in order to have a cohesive experience within one box.

 

BāKIT Box not only focuses on baking but also acts as a platform for cultural education. How do you envision the role of BāKIT Box in promoting cultural diversity and understanding?

We are creating a world of culturally aware individuals starting with the youngest generation. With every unique flavor, recipe, and activity, our customers and their families are exposed to new ideas. One of our customers sent us a video of their sons doing the Lebanese Maamoul Cookies, which is a date-filled cookie. Their two boys were reading the Arabic learning activity and repeating a few words to each other. It was so beautiful. If this experience drives these kids to learn more languages and taste more unique foods, then I believe we are fostering a more inclusive and enriched global community.

 

 

You were once the president of a nonprofit organization, Guitars Over Guns RISE. What is the mission of that nonprofit and how did you balance your time and energy between running a for-profit business and leading a non-profit organization?

I was the president of Guitars Over Guns RISE (Reach, Inspire, Support, Empower). Our mission was to provide mentoring for highschool students that came out of the parent program – which focused on musical education for at-risk youth.

Balancing time and energy is always a work in progress, especially as an entrepreneur, but I believe that we can make time for the things we are passionate about. I am lucky to have relied on an amazing board of directors and had the support of the parent organization during my tenure with them.

 

With your background in music, entrepreneurship, and business, how do you think these experiences have contributed to your success with BāKIT Box, and what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

My background in music, entrepreneurship, and business has been instrumental in shaping the success of BāKIT Box. My academic and professional experiences have equipped me with an understanding of various functional areas that can be applied to any business. My entertainment experience has taught me the importance of authenticity and self-presentation.

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to leverage their unique backgrounds and skills, stay true to themselves, and continuously seek opportunities for growth and learning.

 

Give us your contact deets and how our families can start ordering box to their home. Do you have any discounts you wish to pass forward to new families?

Visit us at BāKITbox.com to order your first box. We have an exclusive 15% off for the readers/viewers with code: NORTHSHORE15
Follow us on Instagram and Tiktok.

 

Any events coming up we should know about?

We will be doing some out of state homeschooling conventions in the next few months, but stay tuned on our social media for any local events!

Join The Chicago North Shore Moms Network Community

Stay up-to-date with what is happening in-and-around The Chicago North Shore community with local events, community highlights, and exclusive deals.