Reclaiming the Joy of Food: Jill Shlesinger Launches Gluten- and Sugar-Free Bakery and Café
By Jenny Taylor
Jill Shlesinger is the recipient of a micro grant from My Founder Story, a program dedicated to providing resources to female-identifying founders. Since 2018, more than $220,000 in grants and services have been donated to women business owners. To learn more and apply, visit our grants page.
Jill Shlesinger had just dropped off a care package at a friend’s house. It was full of cookies, muffins and brownies she had baked using new recipes she’d created. Her friend raved about the deliciousness of the treats. And they were gluten- and sugar-free, which meant her friend could indulge while adhering to a ketogenic lifestyle. Her friend’s reaction made Jill feel happy and fulfilled during a time of uncertainty. It was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and Jill had found herself suddenly unemployed. The restaurant she was managing shut down and was quickly sold. So Jill was filling her timing baking.
It was Jill’s passion for food that had driven her to leave a career in the telecommunications industry more than a decade earlier. She took a job as the general manager of a popular café and cocktail bar on the Las Vegas Strip. She thrived in this new role, where she had a broad range of responsibilities: payroll, inventory management and supply ordering, kitchen equipment maintenance, sales, customer engagement, and recruiting, hiring and training employees. Jill loved the day-to-day hustle and bustle of a busy café and would happily fill in wherever she was needed on the floor.
While she loved her job, Jill was also inspired by her friend Jasmin, a successful clothing designer who had started her own business. She mentioned to Jasmin that she was thinking of one day opening her own café or bakery. Jasmin encouraged her to follow her dream. She’d been experimenting with gluten- and sugar-free baking because she had begun following a ketogenic diet herself and was having trouble finding sweets she could eat. She thought about others who were missing out on delicious foods because of dietary restrictions—many due to serious conditions like celiac disease, diabetes or cancer. The idea of helping people reclaim the joy of foods they love fueled Jill to take the leap to entrepreneurship.
Jill quickly built a website for her new business, which she named Starburst Parlor. She began taking orders online and baking in a commissary kitchen. From there she hosted pop-up shops, which would sell out in mere hours. Demand for her goods exceeded expectations. And in the fall of 2021, the first Starburst Parlor brick-and-mortar bakery opened its doors, bringing Jill’s dream of running her own café to life.
It’s not only the mouth-watering keto treats that make Starburst Parlor stand out. Jill is a vintage lifestyle enthusiast, and her retro look is reflected in all aspects of the Starburst Parlor brand—from the packaging and advertising to the shop decor. The new Starburst Parlor bakery is filled with mid-century furniture and vintage decor that are sure to transport guests back in time. Jill also delights in client-inspired creations and makes extra efforts to ensure her baked goods are customized in ways that feel special to her customers, whether it be adding more of their favorite ingredients or making cake decorations to go with their party theme. Life deserves to be celebrated, and many celebrations include food: She is making a difference in the lives of her customers by providing celebratory baked goods and treats.
Photo: Starburst Parlor
About the author: Jenny Taylor is a marketing strategist and freelance writer who enjoys bringing inspirational stories to life through the written word. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three kids.