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An entrepreneurial spirit, a love of food and the need for tastier and healthier keto options led a Quad Cities man on a journey to find and share a “better way of eating.” Three years later, Allen Parker is rebranding his WOE Pizza and WOE Bakery operations as WOE Foods. He’s also expanding his product line and getting ready to take his signature healthy Way Of Eating, or WOE, national. “The overall goal is to become a household brand name across the country,” Mr. Parker told the QCBJ. “Everyone should have access to WOE Foods.” So far, WOE Foods’ healthy ketogenic friendly products are available at downtown Moline’s Heritage Natural Foods and in several Hy-Vee Health Markets across the Quad Cities where, for example, he often hosts demonstrations for customers. Mr. Parker also is working to expand his product line to more companies and other locations. “We have a few grocery stores outside the area who are interested in carrying WOE Foods and hopefully we’ll be able to make that happen very soon. Our goal is to get in front of Whole Foods sooner rather than later,” he said of efforts to woo the largest American chain of supermarkets specializing in natural and organic foods to sell his products. One of Mr. Parker’s early Hy-Vee supporters was Nuvia Aschemann, who then was manager of the Health Market at the Rock Island Hy-Vee. She currently serves as manager of perishables at a Hy-Vee in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but was happy to share her part in Mr. Parker’s journey. “We ran into each other at the store when he asked me about a product,” she said. The two began talking about healthy ketogenic eating and he told her he had just started a business. WOE’s Bronutz (brownie-donuts) were already being sold at the Central Store in Moline. Mr. Parker and Ms. Aschemann ended up talking about selling his products through Hy-Vee. “I sent it out to the other managers around town to try to promote it and it really got a lot of feedback,” she said. She understood why others wanted to share his “great product.” “I’ve been very health conscious my whole life,” she said, and had been a vegetarian for years. In addition, she said, “I’m a very big supporter of local products so I had quite a few local vendors.” She was eager to add WOE to the mix. “I think he’s a great person, a great vendor,” Ms. Aschemann said. “Just hearing his story kind of speaks for itself and it was a great addition to the store.” Grocers aren’t the only local business to think so. Mr. Parker’s products also can be found in Quad Cities menu offerings at eateries including East Moline’s Jennie’s Boxcar, three local Iron & Grain locations, Bad Boy’z Pizza in Moline and Davenport, and Coffee Apothecary, Bettendorf. He also is working to seal more restaurant deals. Meanwhile, the response to his plans to grow WOE Foods has been “really, really great,” Mr. Parker said. “People understand what I’m trying to do and why.” This latest and boldest expansion begins with his rebranded WOE Foods website at www.woefoods.com and the addition of his latest creation. The WOEkie is a keto, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free cookie. It joins a product line that already includes phatCRUST pizzas and vegan, keto, gluten-free, organic, no-sugar-added Bronutz in flavors including RebelCoco, ChocoNutter, and CinnaYum. “From keto to vegan, WOE Foods fits into most dietary lifestyles. Our goal is to share our love for the best ‘Way Of Eating’ Foods across the United States. We are here to serve and create better options to complement a balanced healthy diet,” WOE Foods’ website promises. “We have a niche, and our niche is wide,” Mr. Parker said. Filling it is another reason he’s excited to begin the next phase, which “will expand our customer base and create a wider reach of those looking for better foods,” he added. “New deals we are working on include teaming up with a co-manufacturer to produce our products so we can expand more quickly.” He sees a nationwide expansion as the next logical step in a process that began in a small home kitchen and moved to the 2,000-square-foot commercial kitchen at the Spotlight Theatre & Events Center in downtown Moline. The kitchen space also is home to two other small food-related businesses, and it’s where he and his staff create and package his WOE Foods line. He remains pleased with the arrangement but is eager to outgrow it. Mr. Parker knows WOE’s expansion carries risks, but experience has taught him that it pays to take a chance, he said. After graduating from Rock Island High School in 2000, Mr. Parker said, “I went the college route.” He later held jobs in management, banking, and sales, which helped him in his WOE Foods journey. “But my move toward a food business came from the need to be healthier and the understanding that I was not alone in that thought.” He also did his homework. “A lot of self work and self worth soul searching led me to dive deep into reading self help books on entrepreneurship,” he said. “The knowledge from that forced me to take action or let the opportunities pass by. I started a concrete decorating business called Concrete Blueprint, a dryer vent service called Dryer Vent Hero, I am sure there are a few others.” He put the things he learned and advice from mentors such as Scott Florence, owner of Mama Bosso Pizza, into creating WOE Foods. Another of those he consulted is Tom Trone, of the SCORE Quad Cities chapter, a nonprofit focused on helping small businesses. “Allen saw a gap in available food offerings based on his own personal experiences. He focused on developing keto foods to serve a niche that was underserved,” Mr. Trone said. “He validated the market by sampling and selling to specific keto-oriented target customers in the QCA. He has scaled his operation to meet the growing demand. Allen is now at the point of building on his brand and experience, narrowing his focus and expanding his market coverage.” Mr. Parker’s ambition and willingness to take a chance were evident from an early age. So was his love-affair with cooking and eating. “I am a self-taught cook/baker but learned a lot from my mother and grandmother and also a lot of trial and error,” he told the QCBJ. “I love food,” he added. “My grandmother was from the south and my mom has always been a great cook.” He was especially fond of her fried chicken, and she always made more than enough to go around. “When I was in grade school I actually got in trouble for selling my mother’s fried chicken because my schoolmates would rather have that than the school lunches being sold,” he said. The adventure started innocently enough when the then 8-year-old began bringing mom’s extras to school to share with friends. When others began asking to buy her chicken, he obliged, squirreling away the money he made under his bed. “I saved it. I didn’t spend it,” he said. That was a good thing since school authorities made him pay it all back. The experience didn’t dampen his entrepreneurial spirit, however, or put him off food, especially one of his favorite dishes: pizza. And one day, when he found himself about 100 pounds overweight, he said, he began exploring better, healthier ways to eat and still enjoy favorite foods like pizza. “I started WOE out of the need for better options that fit a low-carb diet and it grew from there,” he said. When he wasn’t working his day job at AT&T, for example, he began experimenting with healthy recipes – beginning with his favorite cheese-covered crusty pies. He began sharing them with others and then selling his healthy keto phatCRUST that he topped with vegan, paleo, keto, gluten-free, and dairy-free ingredients. “WOE Pizza started in my one-bedroom apartment,” Mr. Parker said. “There was no sleeping, but that’s the life you live if you want to push life forward.” It paid off, he said. “After the need and demand grew I moved into this kitchen and have been here since. COVID-19 took WOE for a little ride but we’ve been able to stay afloat and now are moving again to acquire more market share as quickly as possible.”