Entrepreneurship spotlight: Sawyer Sparks
May 4, 2009
Sawyer Sparks’s quest to develop a gluten-free beer didn’t launch a microbrewery business. Instead, a kitchen mishap yielded a product the Bloomfield, Indiana native never expected – Soy-Yer Dough.
A non-allergenic modeling compound, Soy-Yer Dough is a fragrant, gluten-free alternative to Play-Doh. For children who are allergic to soy, there is a soy-free option as well.
Both versions come in a variety of colors and scents. “With Soy-Yer Dough, blue is blueberry, red is cherry or strawberry, and dark orange is tangerine,” explains Sparks, an agricultural economics major. “We even have scents like root beer and mint.”
Sparks says that when one of his professors commented that she couldn’t drink beer because she has celiac disease, he and some classmates tried to brew a gluten-free version. The beer formula never panned out, but during one step, they noticed the compound looked like Play-Doh.
After some research, Sparks discovered a market in children with certain health issues; those with celiac disease can’t tolerate gluten, and many kids with autism are on gluten-free diets. So with some advice from the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, he patented his formula and began marketing it through his Web site, http://www.soy-yer.com/soyyer/.
Someday, Sparks may sell the patent for Soy-Yer Dough or at least contract with an Indiana-based factory to manufacture the product. “But it has to be the right company,” he says. “Currently, my mom hand-makes every batch, including the orders of 500 that we get from businesses that put it up on their Web sites.”
- Sascha Harrell