In her regular column, Waltham Forest Business Network’s Jo Sealy finds a family that’s hungry for success
A serious food intolerance led a Leytonstone mother and grandmother to develop a solution that has now become a successful family business.
Rebekha Gooden’s daughter Ly’ora first developed multiple food intolerances and a severe peanut allergy in 2012, when there were few allergy-free products on the supermarket shelves.
Rebekha started baking cakes and sweet treats to enable Ly’ora to feel included with others, while her mum Marie-Anne Rasé also started baking bread.
Marie-Anne said: “Our friends started showing interest in our baked items and we realised there was a huge gap in the marketplace for food that’s free from all main allergens.
“There were some products out there that were free of one or two allergens but nothing that would be free from all main allergens.”
The company they created, My Gammies, now makes and sells baked products in two categories – bread and cake – with around 35 different products. They sell at farmers’ markets in Swiss Cottage, Parliament Hill, and Walthamstow. Everything produced is free from the main 14 allergens as specified by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The team has also ensured their factory and suppliers are also entirely free of those allergens.
My Gammies started in 2015, when, through the University of East London (UEL) where Rebekha was studying psychology, she and Marie-Anne entered and won a ‘best business idea’ competition – winning £6,000 and free mentoring.
“There was no turning back after the amazing support and push from UEL,” explains Rebekha. “UEL’s programme ‘Get Set For Growth’ provided us with professional resources and guidance to get us on the way.”
In June the company won gold and silver prizes at the Free From Food Awards. “We competed alongside the big players like Tesco and Asda – winning was a big boost for us.”
The business is growing, with three people doing multiple roles, and they now want to acquire new workspace, commercial machinery and equipment, and hire more staff.
Marie-Anne says: “We will be selling at more farmers’ markets, as well as providing regular products to restaurants. In fact, we are just finalising an order contract with a chain restaurant.
“Other plans include distribution of surplus products through local charities, sponsoring local events, and delivering seminars and talks to spread awareness of what goes on in the life of a child with food sensitivities and allergies.”
Any words of advice? “Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs so that you can have a strong support network. However challenging you think the business will be, it will be even more challenging.
“Expect disagreements and almost falling out with your business partners. Then, the business gets bigger than you are, and you have to get out of the way for it to prosper.”
For more information about My Gammies:
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