Hales Corners —After being honorably discharged from the Air Force after 10 years of service, wounded warrior Amber Frymark began searching for a new career.
'As a disabled veteran, I actually struggled with social anxiety, so having the average job was not working. I had to find a way to do something meaningful,' Frymark said. 'I felt like my only route was to create something on my own, with no lesson plan whatsoever.'
So, in 2015, she created Chowventions, a 'food invention company' based in Hales Corners.
Shortly after starting her own business, an acquaintance emailed Frymark about the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge, saying that she should enter.
She said, 'It can't hurt,' and early in June, the competition sponsors announced that she was a startup finalist.
Creating a 'Chowvention'
Her first product, which will be sampled by the judges and attendees at the competition on Wednesday, July 20, is a syrup mixture of ginger, apple cider vinegar, and maple flavors called 'Zwitchel.'
'Switchel (traditional spelling) is an old recipe for a drink that everyone from sailors to the Greeks to Romans to college kids on the streets in Massachusetts used to drink,' Frymark said. 'It was the Gatorade of their time, so to speak.'
Of course, this 'Chowvention' has its own unique flair. It can be added to a variety of drinks, from cocktails to ginger sodas. It's also all-natural, vegan, and gluten-free.
Frymark is striving to make her products as accessible as possible. Whenever she is able, she stays away from common allergens and excessive sugar.
'To the best of my ability, I'm trying to give people with a variety of dietary needs the opportunity to try a Chowvention someday,' Frymark said.
A food future
Though there have been struggles in creating her own business, Frymark has learned to enjoy the challenges.
She often says, 'Nowhere to go but up,' a philosophy that helps, given her background and circumstances.
'This comes from, really, the part of it about being disabled veteran and needing a new lease on life, thinking if I don't continue this, what is my life going to look like?' she explained. 'There are so many others like me out there and they're not doing anything. They're hiding away, and I don't want to be like them.'
Frymark's next goal is to make a thicker syrup for use in the food service industry.
She also has other products in the works, including both a grape and fruit punch low-sugar jelly and 'Booze Berry' food spread, both featured on her business website at chowventions.com.
Frymark says she has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was young.
At age 7, she tried making her own candy bar, which was ultimately unsuccessful — 'I got a tummy ache' — but she has made great strides as a food inventor since, taking cooking classes and working at local restaurants as a teen.
She says she has millions of other ideas, and 'The things that I invent will probably surprise me.'