Special Sweets for Pets and Their People

Colleen Berg doesn’t have a culinary background or any food allergies. But she does have five children, a handful of dogs and cats and a passion for connecting with people, giving back to the community and having fun at work. These traits have allowed her to grow two online retail businesses in two years with the hopes of opening a storefront in April 2014.

Berg is the owner, baker and sole employee at Colleen’s Sweet Treats and More, which offers custom pastries and baked good for people with special diets. Berg, however, never envisioned herself selling baked goods. “Bakeries are a dime a dozen,” she says. A former mortgage broker, Berg was working at a car dealership and would bake treats to take in to her co-workers.

One of them was on a gluten-free and diabetic diet, and Berg would adapt her recipes to make cookies and other goods she could eat. They were such a hit that Berg decided to open a business for people on special diets. “I got a lot of my information from the FDA, but I also consulted with a number of doctors,” she says. “Basically every time I took one of my kids to the pediatrician, I would sneak in a couple of questions.”

Colleen’s Sweet Treats addresses not only regular palates, but also just about any kind of food allergy or special diet. “One mother wanted a gluten-, dairy-, sugar- and egg-free cake for her son’s birthday,” Berg recalls. “It turned out better than I expected.” She uses separate bowls and utensils for all the allergies, so the gluten-free flour only touches the gluten-free spatula. Berg decorates and packages everything herself and offers free delivery to Lake and McHenry counties, and affordable delivery elsewhere.

Sweaters ‘n’ Sweets started even more accidentally. Berg’s mother took up knitting after a back injury prohibited her from standing for long periods of time. “My mom started selling her scarves at holiday boutiques, and they sold like hotcakes,” says Berg. “I joked that she needed to make dog sweaters next.” So they found a pattern and now make dog sweaters in seven different sizes. “A medium size will fit up to 120 pounds, so they’re really available to any kind of dog,” she says.

All of the sweaters are machine washable for easy wear. They also make three kinds of matching scarves for the owners. The “Sweets” part of the business was a natural addition. “I’ve always been crazy about animals, so I figured I might as well have fun with their treats, too,” she says. Berg makes grain-free and meat-free treats, specialties for animals with thyroid problems and bad breath, and is currently working on a line of treats for animals with cancer. “These are low-gluten, sugar-free and high in digestive enzymes, so the body doesn’t have to work too hard. They have selenium and omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation.” Berg will consult with the animal’s veterinarian to determine what combination is best.

Berg doesn’t use any preservatives or additives in her baked goods, and tries to source local ingredients whenever possible. She buys organic fruits and vegetables from Ripe Organics, in Crystal Lake, which is owned by her niece. Berg offers a variety of treats for humans and animals. “We do cookies, brownies, bars, cake pops, brownie pops, cake and cupcakes,” she says.

Berg is very active in the community, is a natural networker and donates to many organizations and fundraisers. “I really like to have fun,” she says. “In my job, I get to meet new people all the time, which is awesome.” Her products help people in all walks of life. “My clients include people with gastric bypass, food allergies and cardiac problems—diabetics, children and the elderly.” Her mission is a commitment to make every smile a sweet one and make pets smile everywhere. Organic fruit brownies made from local ingredients are a great way to make that happen.

To learn more about Colleen’s Sweet Treats and Sweaters ‘n’ Sweets, call 847-322-2753 or visit ColleenSweeTreats.com or SweatersNSweets.com. To learn more about Ripe Organics, call 224-221-1289 or visit RipeOrganics.com.

Carrie Jackson would be happy to taste-test any of these treats. Visit her at SpeakingOfCare.blogspot.com.

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