Jessica Mindell’s gluten intolerance and love for baking inspired her to launch Jessica’s Natural Foods.
When Jessica Mindell started Jessica’s Natural Foods in 2009, she never expected it to be something she would still be doing 10 years later. The company has grown from its roots in Mindell’s home in Birmingham to sales in more than 30 states and is featured in major grocery store chains such as Whole Foods and Wegman’s. All the company’s products are gluten-free.
Mindell has an engineering degree from the University of Michigan but has always had a passion for baking. During college, she worked one holiday season at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor where she worked in a commercial bakery.
After working for a number of years in engineering, Mindell quit her job and began baking full time.
The inspiration for her company came shortly after learning that her husband has a gluten intolerance. Mindell’s love for baking combined with the limited availability of gluten-free baked goods led her to begin experimenting in her own kitchen. Eventually, she began taking small batches of her oat-based granola to local stores who agreed to sell them.
When perfecting her recipes, Mindell would often make little containers of the granola with small tweaks made to each container. She would number the containers and give them to friends and family, asking them to report back to her what they liked best.
Mindell, a mother of two, one of whom attends preschool at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township, often jokes that the company was her first child. She will also be the first to admit she didn’t quite know what she was doing in the beginning.
“I didn’t have a formal business plan,” she said. “When I was going to stores and offering samples, one store said they would take a case of each, so I had to go home a figure out how to make an invoice. All the stores are so supportive of local businesses.”
This year, on its 10th anniversary, Jessica’s Natural Foods got re-certified as a woman-owned business through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
“I am really proud of being women-owned,” Mindell said. “It’s a great way to connect with other small women-run businesses.”
In the 10 years since its conception, Jessica’s Natural Food’s product line has expanded to include syrups and mixes for gluten-free baked goods.
“All the products I have are based on needs for my family in my own life,” Mindell said. “My daughter wouldn’t drink milk, so I created the strawberry syrup to make it taste better. We wanted to get the kids on a gluten-free diet, but many gluten-free products are rice-based, which has a lot of arsenic. I wanted to create mixes that were not rice-based to cut down on the amount of arsenic my kids were getting.”
Mindell does not have a set business plan for the future but says that she believes future products will also be based upon her family’s needs.
To learn more about the company or purchase products, visit jessicasnaturalfoods.com.