Although he may not have realized it at the time, Zachary Buckeye’s future would be determined by his mother’s brownies.
Buckeye, 27, a 2012 graduate from Twinsburg High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Akron in 2017. He worked at Turner Construction, designing buildings and supervising construction crews.
But after his 9-to-5 job, he would go home and bake brownies from 7 p.m. to midnight and get them ready for delivery.
“You are one decision away from completely changing your life,” Buckeye said. “I was baking brownies and posting them on Facebook, and people were offering me money for them. Things went from there. I put my personal life on the backburner. If you want something to come true, you need to put in the time.”
That time in the kitchen paid off. In July 2019, Buckeye left his engineering job and started Buckeye Brownies.
So how did Buckeye come to start making brownies in the first place? Through another passion: bodybuilding.
“I love the ability to change my physique,” Buckeye said. “It includes strict dieting, and it’s very competitive. I have a very competitive mindset.”
However, the dieting needed to go into body building competitions “is the hardest part,” Buckeye said. Competitive bodybuilding requires athletes to build large amounts of muscle tissue, followed by months of strict dieting. Bodybuilders are considered ready for competition when their body fat is less than 5% of their total body weight.
During these times of strict dieting, Buckeye said his mother, Jill Buckeye, knew he had “a killer sweet tooth by competition day.” She would make her son cookies, cupcakes and brownies to eat after the competition. Buckeye shared these sweets with his bodybuilding friends, with the three-layered brownies becoming a favorite.
So, Buckeye experimented with his mother’s recipe, first running Buckeye Brownies out of his apartment, then in his garage at his Akron home. He admitted there was some trial and error involved.
“I wish I did more shipping trial and errors,” he said. “I didn’t account for changes in weather and potential damage of the packages. We actually ship worldwide. I had to do additional paperwork for shipping internationally.”
One big switch was going from the standard oven in Buckeye’s apartment to a professional oven.
“That was a learning curve,” he said. “The first couple of batches in the professional oven, at the typical kitchen oven setting, they came out completely burnt.”
A commercial oven is hotter, he said, and there’s a fan that helps distribute the heat more evenly.
A big appeal of his three-layer brownies is their uniqueness, Buckeye said.
“You can’t go into a grocery store and buy a brownie that is stuffed with cookies, Pop Tarts or even chips,” he said. “We took the idea of a ‘brookie’ and just ran with it. Also, they are over a half pound each. Those are huge. So the visual appeal gets them to buy. The taste brings them back. The top and bottom are crisp, the middle is like a cookie dough texture. That’s why people love our products.”
In addition to the brownies, Buckeye said he also does customized brownie cakes. These are brownies backed in a 10-by-10-inch pan and left uncut.
Buckeye said that his background in engineering and bodybuilding have contributed to his success with Buckeye Brownies.
“I was always good at math and problem solving,” Buckeye said. “I loved building things out of Legos and constructing. Engineering is about solving problems, about building something the most efficient way, or designing something safe. There’s a lot of multi-tasking.
“Bodybuilding taught discipline. If I wanted to make brownies, I couldn’t watch television. I didn’t go out. It’s determination and discipline. Do I want to bake 10 hours a day? Not always, but then I see a post on Facebook or Instagram from people holding up and enjoying my brownies, giving them to their kids, with big smiles on their faces, and it’s all worth it. Discipline is choosing what you want now, and what you want the most.”
For details on Buckeye Brownies, visit https://buckeyebrownies.com
Reporter April Helms can be reached at email@example.com
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