Herron School of Art and Design grad Audra Stam, who spent a good part of the last decade snapping shots of sprinters and hurdlers, always suspected she would one day have a creative business of her own. She just didn’t know it would involve vegan baking. But when Stam lost her job as a photographer with USA Track & Field near the start of the pandemic, she used her free time to work on converting some of her favorite sweets to plant-based versions. In early December, she turned her new know-how into Black Cat Bakery, featuring pies, custom cakes, and cookies free of all animal products.
Stam isn’t exactly new to vegan cooking. Her sister has been vegan for almost a decade, and Stam once prepared a multicourse plant-based birthday dinner for her. A dairy allergy, as well as her compassion for animals, finally convinced Stam to go vegan herself in 2017.
As much as she loves the technical side of baking, Stam gets the greatest satisfaction out of connecting with her customers, which she meets through pickup and delivery orders. And while the pandemic has been tough for many entrepreneurs, Stam is encouraged that more people understand vegan cooking now, as well as the need for businesses to adapt in creative ways. She’s currently looking for commercial baking space that will allow her to sell Black Cat Bakery goods at farmers’ markets and coffeehouses. “Honestly,” Stam says, “I just want to give good things to good people.”