Disability advocate Lele Griner loves to bake. She worked in bakeries during high school, interned at a bakery in college, and started working at a bakery after graduating from Destination Dawgs at University of Georgia.
Griner is also a proud advocate for inclusive post secondary education (IPSE), like Destination Dawgs. IPSE gives students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) the opportunity to attend college in an inclusive setting and find careers in the fields of their choice. Students in IPSE take courses that support their personal career goals alongside university students who may or may not have IDD.
“It’s important to have a true college experience, be able to go to sporting events and activities with mentors, and be immersed in college life,” said Griner. Griner graduated from Destination Dawgs in 2021 with a focus on food and nutrition.
During the pandemic, Griner and her sisters began working from home and decided to start baking together at their home in Atlanta. Her older sister, Lucy, started the Instagram account @BakingWithLele. Her twin sister, Allison, takes photos and videos of Griner and her creations to share on the account.
Lele Griner is the head baker for Baking with Lele
Lele’s sisters help out in the kitchen, and her mom, Saretta, coordinates and gathers supplies, but Griner, who has Down syndrome, is head baker. Griner leads the kitchen, finding recipes and baking creations from start to finish.
In addition to head baker, Griner is also the model on her Instagram account where she shares photos and videos. With over 1,300 followers (and growing), Baking with Lele is sharing her skills with the world. On her Instagram, you can find updates from Griner, baking challenges, guest bakers, and of course, lots of her sweet treats. Her bio reads “Spreading joy through baked goods! Advocate for inclusivity and following your dreams!”
“The Instagram makes me happy!” said Griner, “I love the comments!”
From college she learned how to make healthy foods, but her internship at Alumni Cookie Dough taught her about making sweet treats. Griner worked in the kitchen at the Alumni Cookie Dough dessert shop in Athens as an intern for two semesters. She followed recipes to make different flavors of cookie dough. One Baking with Lele Instagram post featured Alumni Cookie Dough, describing her internship saying, “This is where Lele truly gets to shine and be independent! It’s such great practice for owning her own bakery one day!”
Before that, Griner worked at Publix Bakery in Buckhead and the Sloppy Floyd bakery in Atlanta while in high school. She also helped bake for Darden’s Delights, a pie shop opened by a family with a daughter with Down syndrome.
Today, in addition to Baking with Lele, she works at Crumbl Cookies where she rolls cookie dough and frosts and decorates cookies.
Griner’s baking journey has mostly been shared through friends, but her family sees her vision growing into something even bigger, with Griner leading the way. She introduces herself on Instagram saying, “I’m a baker with Down syndrome who has a dream to bring joy to others, advocate for my special needs community, and eventually open my own bakery!”
“I want to keep baking because it is my passion,” said Griner, “I love that we can advocate for others with special needs through this business.”
Her advice for other young people who want to start a business is simple and direct: “Just go for it!”
To see what Griner is whipping up next, follow her on Instagram @BakingWithLele.