Becoming an Accidental Food Entrepreneur
Today’s post is courtesy of Nicole Ledoux, co-founder of 88 Acres, a healthy snack company:
I had never known anyone with food allergies before meeting my husband on Match.com. On our fourth date, his meal was cross-contaminated with nuts and I found myself speeding down the streets of Boston to get him to the emergency room. It was a pivotal moment for me, forever changing how I think about food. I’ve always believed food to be the last legal pleasure in this world, while for Rob, it’s been a bit of a minefield, as he has a severe peanut and tree nut allergy.
The morning after our ER visit, I emptied my pantry of all nuts and foods that were not safe for Rob. It thrust me into a life-changing, unknown arena and journey to relearn everything I knew about cooking. I began to build a repertoire of recipes made with tasty, nutritious ingredients that both Rob and I could enjoy together. The cookbook by popular cupcake shop Babycakes was where I learned about alternative ways of cooking and how to put my own free-form spin on it. In time, I found that these plant-based recipes also appealed to my vegan, gluten-free, and fitness-focused friends.
Providing for My Family with Food Allergies & Becoming an Accidental Food Entrepreneur
As our relationship evolved, we began training together for a triathlon. On our weekend bike rides and hikes, Rob had limited nutrient-dense convenience foods he could pack and eat on-the-go. We started tinkering in our home kitchen with homemade craft seed bars so Rob and I could share snacks that we both would enjoy and were safe for his nut allergy. It was a partnership from the beginning. I was baker and Rob was taste tester. Soon we began sharing with our friends, family, and running club. We gained such a following that we decided to make a go of a healthy foods business that could solve a need for more families than our own.
I had been moonlighting baking the bars and wrapping them in parchment paper to share with our community. We became entrepreneurs by accident together. When Rob’s dad gave a speech during his retirement party about taking the leap to start his own business so many years ago and never looking back, I turned to Rob and said, “we have to give this a shot or we will always wonder what if.” Shortly thereafter, I left my finance career to start the company.
Our mission is to create simple, wholesome food that is delicious for families to enjoy together. Our recipes bring it back to basics. We focus on healthy ingredients that you can easily find in a pantry. Growing up, Rob found some of the convenient options for him came in packages with stigmatizing labels and a focus on what wasn’t in the foods rather than celebrating what is.
As Rob tells me, “it was isolating to be at the nut-free table at school. At the time, there weren’t brands creating tasty snacks for both allergic and non-allergic consumers. That’s why we knew we wanted to build an inclusive, empowering brand and foods that could be shared with friends and colleagues.”
Food is community and meant to be shared. We create our foods to be delicious and suitable for a range of diets avoiding commonly troublesome ingredients like wheat, soy, egg, dairy, and nuts. I am a farm-raised foodie but I look to feed my family as well as myself, and that means using healthy ingredients and avoiding allergens. My infant son was also recently diagnosed with a milk allergy. So now I’m reinventing my pantry again and refreshing our family go-to meals and food choices. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned so far with each of you. Stay tuned, I’ll be back next week to share my best tips for choosing wholesome ingredients!
I’m a new mom to a son, Emmett Red, and a foodie both at home and the office. After a decade in finance, I returned to my roots. I grew up on an organic farm in Western Massachusetts and am wife to a husband with nut allergies. My husband, Rob, and I love to travel the world, hike, and crush it at road races. Unsatisfied with the options for healthy, nutritious snacks that Rob could eat on our weekend adventures, we started making our own snack bars at home. Now we are the proud owners of 88 Acres, an artisan food startup crafting small batch snacks made with simple, wholesome ingredients and free of dairy, gluten, egg, soy, tree nuts, and peanuts. I’m excited to share my experiences balancing owning a business and providing for my son as well as how I navigate cooking for a family with food allergies.