By Michelle Carfagno, Founder and CEO of The Greater Knead
There’s something special about following a passion and bringing your dreams to life.
It’s often easier to fantasize about your dream than it is to take action and turn it into your reality. Fortunately for me and many other women dreaming today, women like Roxanne Quimby of Burt’s Bees helped pave the way for me and other female founders.
I received a $10,000 grant and an opportunity to go to Burt’s Bees headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. I was inspired by nine other companies facing similar growth hurdles to mine. And I spent time with industry experts from all facets of the Burt’s Bees business. I saw what can happen to a dream if you keep persisting through all the challenges.
Burt’s Bees became the brand it is today by creating products and a company culture that follows “The Greater Good” business model. I was humbled by the things I learned and empowered by the stories and support of the Burt’s Bees team and other cohorts. Perhaps the most meaningful thing I took away was just how important a company’s culture is. I returned to my business and made immediate changes that have set us in a better direction with a team completely dedicated to the mission and change we are creating.
Turning passion into a business
Let me take you back to the beginning.
I always knew that one day I would start a business, that I would finally get the courage to take the ‘leap of faith’.
After college, that day kept getting pushed back. I always had an excuse readily available: It wasn’t the right time, I didn’t have the best product, I needed more experience, etc. The doubts led to fear and the fear kept me frozen.
Then, in 2012, my sister and grandfather were diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I saw the struggle they went through to find foods that were safe to eat, let alone foods that actually tasted good. It was then that I finally took action, that my passion outweighed my fear.
I started The Greater Knead with the mission that food should be created for the greater need of the gluten-free and top-allergen-free community. Our product line consists of bagels that are free of gluten, dairy, egg, soy, peanuts and tree nuts, as well as our newly launched bagel chip line. We do all our own manufacturing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, so we can control the whole life of the product from sourcing ingredients to ensuring top allergens never enter our facility.
I have lofty goals for my company, and I’ve learned that with lots of persistence and supported by a company culture that embodies your mission, those goals are attainable.
Women are kneaded
I was delighted to hear that the third cohort of Burt’s Bees Natural Launchpad will be dedicated to female founders.
There is no doubt that as a culture we have come a long way in taking restrictions off women. Now is the time for more women to jump in and know they are good enough to become entrepreneurs; that they have what it takes. There will always be people who doubt, who tell you it can’t be done, that you’ll never make it, you have no experience. If we support, uplift and encourage one another, there is no limit to what we can accomplish and how we can change the world together.
Empowering other women has been a priority of mine since I founded my company. I started out mentoring many women in the food industry, and as of 2018, The Greater Knead offers co-manufacturing to other women-owned brands that are trying to grow their gluten-free and allergen-free products and have similarly aligned missions.
The fact that Burt’s Bees’ roots came from a woman who dedicated herself to a mission and never compromised makes Burt’s Bees a perfect place for this next cohort to find its home.
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