When Katie Parkins was 12, she started taking her own order at restaurants. On the back of a blue thank you note, she would write not just what she wanted to eat, but her allergies as well. Parkins has lived with severe food allergies, and thus a nervousness of eating at restaurants, since she was a toddler.
“I had to become responsible very quickly, as my life depends on whether or not I choose to eat a food item,” Parkins said.
A year after she started writing her blue thank you notes, Parkins launched MyTealTicket, so she and others could “eat with ease.”
MyTealTicket is a double-sided restaurant order form. On the front is a list of common allergens and an “other” box, allowing customers to mark their allergies. On the back, is a space for the server to write the order, table number, and seat number. Parkins, now 14, suggests users mark their allergens before placing their order, and then ask their waiter to give the form directly to the chef.
The form’s teal color makes it stand out from other order forms, allowing restaurant staff to easily spot the order and allergens. Parkins chose teal because it is the color of food allergy awareness. Part of the proceeds of MyTealTicket benefit Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), an organization Parkins said has provided her family with education, resources, and support.
“It is such a privilege to donate to FARE and help continue to further the research toward finding a cure for food allergies,” Parkins said.
Hours after launching MyTealTicket, Parkins started receiving orders from throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. Restaurant goers and workers alike have expressed their appreciation to Parkins.
“I started receiving a lot of thank you messages for making it," Parkins said. “…It always makes me smile when I receive a note from someone telling me how much they enjoyed their dining experience while using MyTealTicket."
Parkins takes those positive experiences and constructive feedback to continuously improve her product. When a restaurant manager suggested she add a space for “Table Number” and “Seat Number,” she acted. And when customers requested the addition of sesame and the replacement of gluten with wheat, she made the change. Then she was asked to create a Spanish version of MyTealTicket, so she worked with her mom and Spanish teacher to make it happen.
“It was fun to translate the English version into Spanish because I was [and still am] taking Spanish in school,” Parkins said.
Katie’s parents are incredibly proud of Katie and her business. They encourage parents with entrepreneurial children to talk with their kids and help them create a prototype.
Editorial Intern Rebecca Rakowitz invented a rotating flip flop organizer when she was Katie's age. No one bought it.