LIGHT DELIGHT’S HISTORY
If there is one thing Yakima resident Ana Bazadoni knows, it’s how to overcome a challenge.
The dynamic, dark-eyed South American native moved to the United States thirteen years ago after she fell in love with a man she met in America while she was here visiting. The couple’s initial happiness—they have twin sons that were born in 2003—was overshadowed by an accident Ana had while on the job as a dishwasher at an assisted living facility. She had received damage to her spine, and she found herself wheelchair-bound for a while. So she decided to go back to school to Yakima Valley Community College to start work on an accounting degree, and with her husband’s constant help and encouragement, she overcame her injuries, learned how to speak English, and earned her degree from CWU. She even won an adult literacy champion award from YVCC in 2010, and she started work here in Yakima as a CPA.
Then, in late 2011, Ana’s husband experienced a severe stroke that left him in a coma for four months. Ana lost her job, and she found herself trying to raise their then-nine-year-old twin sons on her own–without an income.
“I was in a panic,” she admitted. Doctors had told her not to expect her husband to recover, and she didn’t know where to turn. “I didn’t want to lose my home,” she said.
Then one day, as she was in the hospital visiting her husband, she noticed all the people in line for coffee at an espresso stand. “I could see the snacks there that people were buying, and then I thought, ‘I need to find something to make that nobody else will do.’” Since she’d worked in the bakery field for 20 years in South America, she decided to draw on her skills for a new business.
That started a two-year journey into experimenting with gluten-free, sugar-free recipes and getting the necessary permitting to bake products for retail sale. Once her husband came out of the coma in March of 2012, he spent two months in a nursing home. “He had to start over,” Ana said. “He couldn’t speak or walk…he had to learn everything again. And he had always been so supportive of me and pushed me,” she said. “So when I went to visit him in the hospital and saw him in that bed, it was like I was seeing myself.”
While her husband was trying to recover, Ana continued to experiment with specialized recipes. She decided to start eating gluten and sugar-free herself, and lost a hundred pounds over the course of a single year. She was able to stop taking insulin for her diabetes, and has seen positive changes in other family members since sticking to a sugar and wheat-free diet (her husband’s cholesterol levels have dropped, for one thing). “Doctors sometimes see sick people and just want to give them a pill,” she said. “But I think a lot of problems can be solved with education and eating healthy.”
Ana still had a host of issues to deal with, however (she calls her weight loss “extra credit”). Although her husband had made progress recovering, he was still disabled and needed routine care at home. She had two young sons who had suffered a great deal due to their father’s illness. And her husband’s numerous doctors’ appointment meant that Ana had to find work that would allow her to work flexible hours.
So she took $150 and bought “a little bit of everything” to start her business. She made some of her gluten-free, sugar-free cookies, and took samples around to Yakima’s coffee stands. “A couple of hours later, the orders started coming in,” she said. She recalls not being able to make a mortgage payment that first month because she’d bought baking materials, but she pressed on.
Back then, Ana was using a friend’s commercial kitchen in Toppenish to make the cookies, and she realized that wasn’t going to be a permanent solution—it was too far away from home, and she needed better, bigger ovens and a dedicated gluten-free, sugar-free facility.
So Ana built a gleaming commercial kitchen in her garage, and set about getting that permitted this year. She’s pestered everyone from local health department staff to the Food and Drug Administration in Seattle trying to figure out the best way to get her kitchen set up and have her products certified gluten and sugar-free (her baked goods and mixes have both been lab tested, and she’s happy to show people the certificates). The only sugar in the cookies is the sugar that occurs naturally, like the sugar in almonds and coconut, she explained. “I did a lot of research,” she says proudly. “I’m improving all the time.”
But isn’t baking gluten and sugar-free a challenge for a baker used to working with wheat flour and sugar? Not since she’s developed the recipes, she said. “I threw a lot of things in the garbage,” she admitted about her early experiments, but now she doesn’t even need to look at a recipe book. “I want the food to look good and taste good, because that’s my reputation on the line.”
And taste and look good it does. We sampled several of Ana’s products, and our favorites include the snowballs (at 100 calories per cup, they’re also a low-calorie treat). We also loved the almond and lemon cookies, and the alfahores (a traditional South American cookie with caramel in the middle) are especially intriguing.
Currently, Ana’s working 2-3 days a week filling orders for everyone from the Yakima Convention Center to private buyers across the country. Her website is up (you can order Light Delight products online), and more local businesses are starting to sell her products—you can now find them at Wray’s, Corvid Coffee, and MoJos (to name a few). She makes muffins, brownies, crackers, and cookies…and always has plans for expanding her offerings, she says.
“I think the biggest thing is making sure that people can trust what they buy,” Ana said, noting that some clients have life-threatening gluten allergies. “Even though this is my home, I’m fine with people coming over if they want to see the certificates or see the kitchen,” she said.
Ana is Light Delight’s only employee (her 11-year-old twin sons earn spending money by helping her put labels on the products, she says). But Ana is responsible for everything from printing the product labels to tracking deliveries.
“I don’t want to be rich—I just want to provide for my family,” she said. Although she has dreams about Light Delight becoming a family business, she says she’s careful to keep room in her life for the things that are important to her. “I don’t want my life to become all about business,” she said. And she credits her strong faith for bringing her through the tough times.
“Everything I have today is because of God,” she says. “And the support from a lot of people.”
Yakima Magazine Coordinator Elly Bailey has worked for the Yakima Herald-Republic since 2013. She has three amazing grown sons and lives in Yakima with her husband. You can reach Elly at email@example.com.