Click here for Episode 1 of AMERICAN DOERS, a new 12-part video series featuring original thinkers, innovators, craftspeople, risk-takers and artisans across the United States.
Shareena Casterline fell in love with baking at the age of 10 when she made her first batch of gooey, warm chocolate chip cookies from a family recipe given to her by her adoptive mother.
“The first time I realized I loved myself was when I baked” Casterline, 30, tells PEOPLE. “It was the first time I was really able to accept my adoptive family.”
Given up by her biological parents when she was 3, the baker was shuffled from group homes to foster care until she found her loving forever family with Nancy and Larry Casterline in Denver, Colorado, when she was 10. Casterline, inspired by her father who catered in his spare time, experimented with baking recipes growing up and dreamed of one day opening up a pastry shop.
“As a toddler, I would pretend I owned a bakery in Paris or New York,” she says. “Never in my wildest fantasy did I think it would happen.”
But it did.
After graduating culinary school in 2012, a determined Casterline moved to Manhattan to pursue her lifelong dream. She opened an online bakery, Madison Street Bakehouse, in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since.
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She sells a single product through her e-commerce site – the “Maddy” cookie made from roasted ground almonds with notes of citrus and Madagascar vanilla. And with a steady increase of clientele (and the upcoming holidays!), Casterline expects her sales to increase exponentially.
Although Larry has since passed away, Casterline is sure her dad would be proud of her accomplishment.
“I’m just out here doing me,” she says. “I’m living my dream.”