What were you doing when you were 11 years old?
Playing baseball or the first Grand Theft Auto? Watching Hannah Montana and iCarly?
If it's 11-year-old New Jersey twin entrepreneurs Emily and Lyla Allen we're talking about, you're testing fresh, organic recipes over a hot stove, writing and promoting their Kitchen Twins blog, selling a new line of snacks available in the largest grocery chains and ramping up to do a cooking show on TV.
"We get a chance to hang and play with our friends during the day," Emily Allen said.
"But," Lyla added, "afterwards, we have to get our work done for our blog, present new recipes, answer questions, engage people, and get people interested in healthy foods."
Their Kitchen Twins' Make Your Own Kale Chips nibbles are currently sold in 500 stores across America with an upcoming deal on the horizon with Whole Foods. "That's pretty exciting," said the twins, laughing at the same time.
The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, as the Hamilton, NJ twins' parents are Brian and Cricket Allen, founders of The Perfect Snaque, a healthy food company that manufactures quinoa and lentil munchies.
Cricket said she never pushed her daughters toward something they didn't like ("You don't want to create forbidden fruit," she said), but her twins simply gravitated toward the family kitchen and nutritious fresh-focused foods.
"It's all my girls' doing," Cricket said. "I found just by casual observance that my girls were eating healthy and interested in cooking at a very early age" -- around 4 years old.
"We wouldn't turn down a good French fry or pizza or ice cream," Cricket said.
"We just like mozzarella with tomatoes and fresh basil more," Emily said.
A further fascination with cookbooks and food-oriented television led the twins to start blogging nearly three years ago about their recipes and their personal experiences with good and healthful food. "We don't push it onto anyone," Lyla said. "When we talk about good food or when our friends see us eating, they just always want a taste."
No sooner that they began blogging about picking fresh strawberries and making their own desserts, rolling date drops or snapping pictures of lunches (like a black beans with gluten-free vegetarian taco seasoning, home-made banana muffins and carrots), they found themselves invited to things like Careers Through Culinary Arts events in Manhattan and the Philadelphia Vendy Awards.
From a parent's viewpoint, Cricket Allen believes that her twins' outreach gave them confidence beyond the blog. "When my girls saw people responding positively, Kitchen Twins became less of an internal diary and more about sharing experiences."
Emily added that she and her sister Lyla are grateful that so many people have been interested in what they were doing. "It's nice seeing people respond to what we do, that they wanted to hear more from us," Emily said.
The twins will be featured in a reality show this fall, but a confidentiality agreement prohibits them from talking about it before it airs.
Until their autumn air-date, the girls must be content with the deal they currently have with the Kitchen Twins' Make Your Own Kale Chips hitting shelf after shelf through Yume Enterprises (their parents' distribution company that does likewise for Perfect Snaque).
"It's fun," Emily and Lyla both said, echoing each other. "You just shake them and bake them."
Stars of the school
The Kitchen Twins became healthy snack entrepreneurs after an elementary school contest.
In April 2014, then fourth-graders at Lawrenceville Intermediate, the twins won the township-wide Lawrence High School's Shark Tank competition -- an event modeled after the ABC show where amateur entrepreneurs pitch products to judges they hope will invest in their ideas.
The Allen girls conceived of kid-sized kitchen utensils and won time with Edison Ventures who advised them on how to market their kale chips.
"We wanted to get people excited about cooking fresh since we love cooking fresh," Emily said.