Recently we asked a simple question on Facebook:
Q: If you could ask our Chairman & Founder Mary Waldner for advice on one thing, what would it be?
I was humbled by the number of questions fans wanted to ask me and intrigued by the variety of questions they asked. Our Resident Nutritionist Valerie helped to answer a few questions since we received so many, and below I’ve compiled several responses that I’d like to share:
Ruth B., Ruth L., Diane, Lisa, Salma & Adoree all asked me similar questions so I thought I’d answer them together. The process of starting our business—going from making a product in my kitchen, to manufacturing on a large scale—was a long journey. The decision was in 1999, after I’d been making the crackers by hand for many years and seeing that people loved them. Not just gluten-free eaters either, but everyone, from kids to teens and adults everywhere I went. I knew I was watching an unusual response and decided we needed to make them on a bigger scale. I also knew that even if I gave everyone the recipe, no one would bother to make them because they were labor intensive, so I had to make them for everyone! I’ve always enjoyed feeding people healthy food. My crackers are unique too so I also knew we had something special.
From 1999 until 2004, when we actually launched the company, was a very busy time. My husband worked on a business plan and I learned about the right equipment to turn my hand-made process into something more automated. We also looked for investors, learned about the food industry and distribution, packaging, designs, how and where to buy bulk ingredients, naming the company, developing a logo, talking to lawyers about corporate structure, and tried to find a manufacturer who could make the crackers in a gluten-free facility for us. We made lots of cold calls and asked lots of questions to very generous people in the industry who took the time to explain. Any time someone suggested we call someone, we did. I look at my notebook from back then and some of the contacts I made are still people we are doing business with today. Perseverance was the name of the game. We were committed to our vision and did whatever it took to make it happen!
As far as what I would say to women wanting to start their own business, some of it is the same as what I’d say to men: do your homework, know your market, understand why your business or product is needed in the world, and identify why and how it will succeed. Think BIG because you are going to be working really hard to make this happen. The world needs optimistic, big visionaries! DON’T do this alone. Make sure you have lots of support. As far as special advice to women: you deserve to be successful and have the right to take up space and create your vision, just like men do all the time. Women tend to feel less deserving or entitled than men, so beware of that in yourself. Know what your skills are and what areas you will need help. I could not have done this without my husband Dale — his skills are completely different than mine, so we made a good team.
Shannon, I tried to answer the first part of your question above; however I did not have to substitute ingredients in our industrial version of the crackers. We only had to change the process a bit and add more water to the recipe to get the dough to flow through the specialized equipment. I originally fought the change in the water amount, but it turned out to produce a better cracker!
The first gluten free cracker I made at home was the Original Cracker and I do not make them at home anymore, thankfully! It’s much easier to open a box from our dedicated gluten-free facility! I eat the Mary’s Gone Crackers® love Cookies® (which are vegan) out of the box too, but I still experiment with new flavors and new ingredients in my home kitchen.
Daphne, That cute guy is my son! I am a lucky mom.I’m still leading new product categories although I have input from our sales and marketing teams, data experts, and our employees. I’m always motivated by what I want to eat, what ingredients I want to use, and what we can make that is unique to the market. I want to make quality products that people are looking for and need to nourish their mind and bodies.
Angela, Going gluten free is an opportunity to eat more healthfully! But start with the good, healthy basics like protein. Studies have also shown that when people eliminate gluten from their diets they often lose fiber and don’t replace it with gluten free whole grains and beans – this is important. It’s essential to make sure your family is getting enough fiber every day.
When you decide to buy gluten free packaged foods, look at the nutritional label and notice the fiber content and the sugar content. Cereals often claim to be whole grain but don’t actually have much fiber in them. Ideally, we should be eating a minimum of 35 grams of fiber per day. Use brown rice or quinoa pasta. Stay away from GMO ingredients like corn, soy and canola unless they are certified organic.
I love making pesto, which adds a nice flavor to vegetables and fish. I also use lots of onions and fresh or dried herbs in my cooking. The cleaner my food, the more awake my taste buds have become. Lots of times I’ll use just a little sea salt and let the fresh flavors of the ingredients speak for themselves.
As I changed all my cooking to gluten free I thought about all the food that I’d loved and instead sought out a way to make gluten free versions, or improved versions. When I really want some great bread I’ll use breads from Anna’s bread mixes. (Lots of fiber and great ingredients.) I’ve served rolls made with her mix at Thanksgiving that no one knew were even gluten free! I’ve developed my own flour blend that I use, but Bob’s Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills have good versions as well.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. I’ve made some heavy, leaden baked goods on the road to developing something delicious. Try to sneak in bean, coconut or nut flours into whatever you are making—adds more fiber, protein and a deeper flavor. Remember to have fun with your food and teach your husband (and kids) to have fun too — you’ll be cooks for life!
Jennifer, I loved going to Virgin Gorda, a little island in the British Virgin Islands. I also loved going to Ecuador—to the mountains and the rain forest. There we visited some of our quinoa growers in the mountains! I love going to our friends’ land in far up-state New York where it’s quiet and beautiful and we can play in the river. I also love visiting Manhattan. I guess I’m flexible!
Thank you to these fans who shared their comments and questions with me on Facebook! I’ll be answering more fan questions soon, so if you have questions for me, make sure to post your question below in a comment on my blog or on our Mary’s Gone Crackers’ Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/MarysGoneCrackers
In good health,
(Image Credits: © 2013 Facebook and © 2013 Mary’s Gone Crackers, Inc.)