Every summer, kids line the street corners and set up shop. Lemonade on a hot summer day is, for most kids, the most reliable way to refill their piggy banks or buy a new toy. But, how many glasses of lemonade would you need to sell to make enough money for a trip?
When 12-year-old Elizabeth Valdes asked her parents two years ago about going on a school trip to Washington, D.C., they agreed to it — only if she raised half the amount. Her father, a chef, suggested making nut butters that she could sell to help raise the funds — her own lemonade stand of sorts.
Elizabeth’s nut butters were a hit and she ended up raising all the money needed for the trip. “So, we were like, ‘Obviously, this has some legs. It can go somewhere.’ And then we decided to turn it into a business,” says Bridgette Valdes, Elizabeth’s mom, who helps to make the nut butters.
Elizabeth’s Nutbutters now sells nine different types of nut butters ranging from a creamy cashew to a delectable coconut chocolate blend. The pair started off making the nut butters in their Westside home and sold the nut butters to those in their community, including Elizabeth’s teachers, and at local farmers markets, where they learned that giving out samples was their best way to win people over. They currently sell the nut butters locally at Whole Foods, Brown Street Market and Cooking Time, as well as online.
With business booming, Elizabeth’s Nutbutters quickly outgrew her home kitchen. Elizabeth and Bridgette now work together in a commercial kitchen in West El Paso after school or on weekends to make the nut butters. Bridgette starts by roasting the different nuts — peanuts, almonds, pecans, cashews and hazelnuts — sourced from Azar Nut Company. Elizabeth carefully grinds the nuts and then measures out the ingredients before adding them to a mélanger that mixes the ingredients. She then bottles, labels and seals the nut butters. With three siblings at home, Elizabeth says it’s a fun break to spend time with her mom –– just them two.
“I really just like being in the kitchen and with my mom. It’s a very nice, relaxing experience,” Elizabeth says. “It’s just being able to cook — because I do enjoy baking and cooking too, so it’s just been a really nice bonding experience.”
Before the D.C. trip even came about, Bridgette was already making almond butter on her own so her kids could have a healthy treat. The pair have carried on the tradition of making healthy nut butters without too much sugar and no preservatives.
Elizabeth’s school trip eventually got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she’s still deciding what to do with the funds. For now, though, she says she plans to continue the nut butter business.
“Before I started this, I wanted to bake when I was older,” Elizabeth explains. “I still do, and this has definitely intrigued me even more about all the different possibilities that you can do with baking.”