Mama Mentors is powered by Lincoln. Learn more about our partnership here. To us, our partnerships with brands are about so much more than business. We carve out relationships with brands whose values reflect our own and those of our members, and work together to thoughtfully tell stories and create experiences that speak to moms’ real lives and real interests.
Through projects like this one, HeyMama endeavors to enhance the professional success of our members by bridging the gap between those who have already arrived and the ones who are still on their way. We hope this journey will keep us all moving forward, just like Lincoln.
It should have been a time of celebration and joy. Shannon Allen’s husband, two-time NBA champion Ray Allen, had just scored more three pointers in a finals game than any player in NBA history, propelling his team to victory in a critical Game 4. But Allen and her husband’s focus was elsewhere: their young son.
“Our 17-month-old son, Walker, was suddenly not himself,” Allen told HeyMama. “He was lethargic [and] peeing through his diaper. Suddenly, he started vomiting.” Allen said that her husband had begged her to take Walker to a hospital if, the day after Game 4, he still wasn’t acting like himself. So when Allen woke up in a pool of her son’s urine, her son still lethargic, she called the hotel concierge to ask for medical assistance.
“They connected me via phone with a doctor whose name I don’t remember,” she explained. “But whose words will forever be etched in my brain. ‘Sounds like a virus, maybe a flu, could even be food poisoning. A word of advice, take him in, get him checked, but don’t leave there without a blood test.”
Allen took the doctor’s advice and took Walker to the nearest emergency room. The doctors and staff told her that her son wasn’t sick, but Allen refused to leave until her son had a blood test. “I finally stopped asking and demanded a blood test,” she said. “Twenty minutes later the doctor came into the room. She was white as a ghost and tears were streaming down her face. She said, ‘Your blood sugar is supposed to be between 70-120. Walker’s is 639. He has Type 1 diabetes and has entered a phase of diabetes called ketoacidosis, which means his blood sugar is poisoning him to death. If he doesn’t get insulin soon, you are going to lose him.’
This was the moment that changed everything.”
The mom of five quickly became an advocate for her child, doing whatever she could to raise awareness and money for research to find a cure for diabetes. But it was a desperate search to find something organic and freshly prepared Walker could eat when he was suffering from severe low blood sugar that propelled Allen towards entrepreneurship.
“What I quickly discovered was that what I was looking for did not exist. And that simple realization left me feeling powerless, defeated, and broken,” she explained. “I called my husband Ray and told him that if no one had big enough balls to reinvent fast food, we had to do it. It took eight years to get our doors open and 18 months to successfully complete our organic certification process, but we did it. We created the thing we wished existed and it’s growing!”
Allen’s company, Grown, is the first ever USDA organic certified fast food restaurant, with a drive thru, in the United States. “We make real food, cooked slow, for fast people,” she said. “I never dreamed of being a foodpreneur or restaurateur. The truth is, Grown was born from pure frustration and desperation.”
Of course, Allen is quick to point out that she did not create Grown on her own, nor has she been the sole reason it has continued to grow in popularity. “We’re so grateful to every single person that helped and supported us, encouraged us and even for the naysayers — you may not know it, but your lack of imagination and disbelief inspired us to push on, go harder, and to persevere,” she said. “We’re thankful to our amazing #grownteam that continued to invest in this collective dream to make Grown all over the country and the world. But most importantly, to our community of Grown guests in Coral Gables, Miami Dade, and South Florida that overwhelming and faithfully support us with your patronage, loyalty, and for championing Grown every single day. Your faith in our mission to change the world one USDA organic certified fast food meal at a time is the thing that sustains us.”
Having seen and benefited from the power of community, Allen also decided to give back by way of dedicated mentorship. She joined HeyMama’s Mama Mentor program, powered by Lincoln, to provide support, encouragement, and learned experience to a selected mentee.
“I’m an idea person by nature. Brainstorming, ideating, and holding space for women and momtrepreneurs to fulfill their dreams is the kind of work I could do full-time,” she said. So often we hear that folks are looking for ‘coches’ when what they really need is a cheerleader. I feel most alive and useful when I’m supporting the dreams of others.”
Which is just one of the many reasons why Allen is so thankful for the HeyMama community, now and as her business continues to navigate the ongoing difficulties borne from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“What Amri and Katya have built is the kind of community that changes generations,” she explained. So often we are looking for a place to be seen, heard, underwood and valued. It’s the last piece to feeling whole enough to actually put ourselves and our career and dreams first. Katya and Amri didn’t just save a few seats and make some room at the table. They opened up a banquet hall.”
As for Walker, Allen said her now-13-year-old is the most resilient, brilliant, loving, athletic, happy, joyful, kind hearted, and talented person she knows. “He makes everything look easy, because life with Type 1 diabetes, frankly, is hard,” she explained. “He has never complained, or asked ‘why me?’ and he doesn’t allow it to slow him down or to limit his dreams.”
Like mother, like son.