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A-Mason idea

Social-media expert's pie-in-the-sky concept is off to a sweet start

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According to www.babycenter.com, a mom-to-be should not wait any longer than 45 minutes to head to the hospital after she goes into labour.

Unless there is pie involved.

Heather Daymond is the founder of Shut Ur Pie Hole, a cheekily named, home-based business specializing in individual slices of pie, which are baked and sold in old-fashioned Mason jars.

Last month, Daymond was delivering an order to a female customer in Transcona. After ringing the person's doorbell, Daymond was greeted by her customer's mother. The woman thanked Daymond for driving all the way across town but said the pies -- lemon meringue, strawberry and pecan -- would have to wait because, as she explained, her daughter's water broke five minutes before Daymond arrived. And that the two of them would be leaving for the hospital momentarily.

"Not so fast," came a voice from down the hall.

"A couple of seconds later, her daughter entered the room and announced she would eat first and go to the hospital second -- that she said she had no intention of missing out on her pie," Daymond says with a laugh, adding she now has a standing order to deliver "birthday pie" to that address for the next however many years.

Daymond lost her job as a social media co-ordinator for The Bay in January 2013 after the chain announced a series of budget cuts. She spent a year applying for positions in her field but competition was fierce, she says, and she rarely even made it to the interview stage.

The mother of two had always done a bit of baking on the side -- a skill she acquired "by osmosis" from her grandmother, while growing up on the family farm near Cypress River. So after wowing friends with some of her creations yet again in February, Daymond said to herself, "Maybe this is something I should try taking to the next level."

Daymond launched Shut Ur Pie Hole on March 14. And while that was a calculated move on Daymond's part (after all, March 14 is Pi Day, thanks to its 3/14 date-stamp), the notion of marketing pie-in-a-jar was a bit of a fluke, the owner admits.

One afternoon Daymond spotted some empty Mason jars in her cupboard. She figured if they could be used to make jam then why not pie? She lined the sides of the jars with pastry then added filling, leaving enough room at the top for a scoop of ice cream. She spent a few hours experimenting with baking times, then, after she was satisfied with the end-result, posted pictures on her Facebook page. At which point "the whole thing took off like wild fire."

In April, Daymond attended an entrepreneurial boot-camp in Brandon, where she and her pies placed first out of a field of 25. She followed that performance up with a top-four finish at the Manitoba Venture Challenge -- a Dragons' Den-style competition that was held at the Fort Garry Hotel in June.

"When we're at home on the couch watching Dragons' Den or Shark Tank, we're all thinking we have an idea that's worth something, right?" Daymond says. "But if somebody had told me 90 days ago that I would have sold $10,000 worth of pie by July 1, I would have said they were nuts."

Daymond devotes two days a week, 14 hours a day, baking in a commercial kitchen in the basement of Knox United Church, on Edmonton Street. She spends the rest of her time selling pie at a weekly farmers' market at the Manitoba Hydro Place Gallery, and distributing her wares to individual customers and retailers.

"I can't even remember what perfume is anymore," she chuckles. "I usually smell like butter tarts."

Erin Crampton, owner of Crampton's Market at 1765 Waverley St., found out about Shut Ur Pie Hole through Gourmet Inspirations, a company that promotes made-in-Manitoba products.

Crampton says her customers have had a few questions about Daymond's pies -- "Are they already cooked? (Yes) Is it just pie filling? (No) Can I freeze them? (Yes)" -- but after Crampton explains the product is precisely as billed -- a piece of pie in a jar -- "everyone thinks it's super-cool," she says. (Daymond's pies are also on sale at Cake-ology on Arthur Street, and Marble Slab Creamery on Corydon Avenue. There are two sizes to choose from: 125 ml ($5) and 250 ml ($10). Daymond also bakes whole pies, which sell for $20 each.)

Initially, Daymond thought her pies would be a specialty product -- the sort of thing people might fancy as wedding favours, to put on tables for their guests to take home, or as "Christmas swag." But advisers at the two seminars she attended told the Wolseley resident she should be thinking big -- that she should be trying to hook up with companies that already have a foothold south of the border.

If Daymond needs an endorsement to take her pies to that next level, she couldn't do better than an ex-Winnipegger now living in Nunavut.

"The other day, this guy Bob tweeted that he was in town for his dad's funeral and where could he get a good slice of pie," Daymond says. "Somebody tweeted back to him about me, so he met me at the church. He told me how his father absolutely loved saskatoon pie and he just wanted to find a quiet place to sit down, enjoy a piece of pie and think about his dad.

"After he left I thought, 'How great is it that my food gets to be a part of that experience?'"

Here's the kicker, though: don't expect Daymond to toot her own horn when it comes to how tasty her baking is.

"The funny thing about all this is I'm not even a pie eater," she says, noting she's a couple of weeks away from adding blueberry and cherry pies to the seven flavours she already has available. "I would always make pastry in university because it de-stressed me, but then I'd take it to friends' places to get rid of it.

"But everyone I gave it to would tell me the same thing, 'Omigawd, Heather, this is so good.' So I kind of knew I was doing something right."

For more information, go to www.shuturpiehole.ca

Earlier this week, everybody who attended a Wednesday-night, VIP dinner at the Winnipeg Folk Festival was treated to dessert featuring Daymond's saskatoon pie-in-a-jar. And on Aug. 28, celebrities taking part in a pie-eating contest at Red River Co-op Speedway will get to sample as much of Daymond's baking as they can down, in a pre-determined amount of time.

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2014 D11

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