With her startup, gr8box, Terri Jordan wants to make life sweeter (and crunchier and saltier) for snackers with food allergies.
According to researchers, as many as 15 million Americans may have some kind of food allergy. Like anybody else, they want to be able to enjoy a snack that won’t make them feel bad or, in the worst case, send them to the hospital.
Not-so-fun fact: In a typical year, food allergies cause about 200,000 trips to the emergency room, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found.
With her new subscription-box service, gr8box, local entrepreneur Terri Jordan is trying to make life a little simpler and sweeter (and saltier and crunchier) for people with allergies.
Every month, gr8box subscribers receive a box filled with eight healthy snacks. All of them are free of the eight most common allergens: milk, egg, soy, peanut, wheat (gluten), tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Jordan started shipping her first boxes this month.
The snacks—which can be ordered individually through gr8box’s website—are all produced in facilities that are allergen-free, too. They don’t even let those eight allergens through their front doors, on the chance that traces could end up in the finished product.
“Our research showed that those eating an allergen-free diet wanted access to more items produced in dedicated facilities,” Jordan said.
‘There Has to Be a Better Way’
Jordan knows there’s a need for a service like gr8box because, several years ago, she was diagnosed with food allergies.
She was a student at the time, studying molecular biology at the University of Kansas, when she started suffering a series of symptoms, including fatigue, short-term memory loss and asthma.
A good friend had discovered that she had celiac disease, and she encouraged Jordan to get tested, too. Turns out, Jordan reacted negatively to practically everything they tried—eggs, milk, gluten and soy. “I had them pretty bad, and it turns out that was causing inflammation in my body to go rampant,” she said.
The day after she got her results, Jordan was scheduled to travel out of state to visit her father. They ended up at the grocery, searching for food she could eat without aggravating her allergies.
“We walked around for over three hours reading labels,” she said. “We finally just said there has to be a better way.”
Her original idea was to build an app or a database that could be used to find allergen-free products. Since she didn’t have money for a developer, she started learning HTML and other languages so she could built the product herself.
‘I’m Bootstrapping the Whole Thing’
Instead, that led to Jordan creating her own Web development shop, WizeWebz. It blossomed. Her idea for an allergen-free business fell by the wayside.
Until last year, when Jordan applied for the E-Scholars program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. One of her clients suggested she apply for E-Scholars program as a way to scale her website business. But she realized her original business idea could be resurrected as a subscription box.
E-Scholars gave her the push to start approaching suppliers and doing the nitty-gritty work of launching gr8box. It also introduced her to classmates that are helping with packaging design and photography—in return, Jordan is building sites for their companies.
“I’m bootstrapping the whole thing,” she said.
It’s been a little tricky to find food companies that meet gr8box’s standards, but Jordan has discovered real gems. One of her first is FreeYumm honey apple oat bars, a product that’s never been sold in the United States before.
Jordan hopes that, by introducing people to products that won’t trigger their allergies, gr8box will fuel FreeYumm and other companies that are doing the right thing.
“If we help strengthen the manufacturers that take extra measures to keep us safe, our hope is that they will be able to produce more products for us in the future.”