My Gluten Free Bread Company was born in a strategic planning session, not around baking bread, but how to employ young people and sustain the programs of My Place, a housing and life skills development program for homeless and at-risk youth in Appalachia primarily between the ages of 18 and 22. My Place was founded by Venerable Pannavati in 2009.
We wanted a social enterprise that promoted conscious living, gave youth an uncommon skill, and had strong revenue potential. We had never heard of celiac disease or gluten-intolerance but we were considering a bakery based on the Greyston Foundation model. The question was, could an ordinary bakery in a small town make it?
When we learned an estimated one in every 133 people is gluten intolerant, we were shocked! Each of us around that table decided we were potential victims of this little known disease. Right away we started comparing complaints after eating such as bloating, gas, irritable bowels, headache, mal-absorption, etc.
A research and development team was assembled to make a recommendation to our board of directors. Included were two dietitians from area hospitals and two businessmen to consider the feasibility of this specialized operation.
We contacted the CSA certification agency and discovered we’d have no competition as a regional wholesaler. Then, we talked to the local Celiac Group and people on the street. We were amazed at the number of folks in our small community who had or knew of others who were gluten intolerant or actully diagnosed with the disease. Finally, we contacted one of the largest grocery chains in the region for input, and their excitement around the possibility of being able to offer good tasting, freshly baked, gluten-free products to their customers convinced us. The rest is history.
Our goal has a double bottom line in social mission and business. We want (as the CEO of Greyston said) to do good AND do well! We envision global advocacy and support as the commercial enterprise increases its territory and revenue.