I’m a mom of 3, with 2 children who have multiple life-threatening food allergies. I’ve been advocating for food allergy awareness and inclusion for over a decade as a parent, coach, PTO member, den mother and girl scout troop leader. I think people want to include kids with food allergies, but if you’re not affected you don’t know how. As an engineer and web tool developer for Procter & Gamble and Bank of America, I knew I could change that. That’s why I created SnackRoots.com
It’s a web tool that generates custom shareable lists of snacks tailored to a groups’ collective allergies (ex. Mr. Walter’s 2nd Grade Safe Snack List, Soccer Lasers Safe Snack List, Troop 2019 Safe Snack List, etc.)
Anyone who cares for groups of children where one or more has a food allergy or intolerance: school teachers, school nurse, coaches, daycare providers, preschool teachers, grandmothers, scout leaders, parents hosting birthday parties or playdates, etc.
I was a stay-at-home-mom, advocating for food allergy awareness and inclusion 24/7/365, while occasionally teaching DIY art/craft classes at a local art studio.
Being able to help many children be safe and included–disrupting the status quo of “make kids with food allergies sit alone at another table and bring their own food”. My daughter had a reaction to the snack provided during an elementary school Valentine’s party, from that moment forward I vowed that I would advocate and create controls to prevent that from happening not only to my children, but every child at our school and district. My school nurse and I developed tactics/controls for our elementary school, and were asked to sit on a task force to revise the school district food allergy policy and guidelines. Throughout this process, I trained room moms, gave speeches and learned how badly the schools needed a tool like SnackRoots. I wanted to create something parents could use nationwide, not just in Columbus, Ohio.
I don’t like the word failure, it means lack of success. For me, if I can help one child other than my own be safely included then I consider that a success.
I am a lover of all feedback–especially the negative kind. I use it to help create a better product for my users. The only way I can make SnackRoots grow is by listening to my users.
I think my biggest challenge is jumping back into tech and marketing after a 10 year break. There are so many new languages and social media tools–in many ways things are better than they were a decade ago, but the learning curve is steep.
I gave up on the idea when it first came to me in the fall of 2016, I thought it would be too risky and difficult to re-learn programming after taking a 10 year hiatus. I tried advocating for “no snacks” at sports, and in the classroom, but parents continued to crawl out of the woodwork sharing unsafe snacks; that’s when I dove in and committed to the idea in 2017 and I haven’t looked back.
The flexibility, and the fact that I was going to be creating safe lists ANYWAY for my kids’ teams, classrooms (and many others at our school), scout troops–knowing that I can help other parents/teachers beyond my immediate circle makes me very happy.
There isn’t a thing that I dislike about being an entrepreneur, deep down I always knew I wanted to work for myself. I was always juggling part-time jobs through high school and even put myself through engineering college by working part-time. I’m an original thinker, and working for large corporations confirmed that I was destined to become an entrepreneur someday.
I self-funded my business and although the tool is free for users, I have almost reached profit-making status in a short 4 months. Once I start making a profit, I plan to donate a portion to End Allergies Together (E.A.T.), a non-profit that directly funds scientists researching a cure food allergies.
I always knew I wanted to own my own company. I have a lot of hobbies including sewing, gardening, painting, crafting, and interior design so I thought my business would be more focused on consumer products–maybe I will venture into that someday, but while my kids are at home my focus is on them. When I left my corporate job back in 2006 I knew I wanted to invent/create things that would improve motherhood. I find inspiration at every stage of my children’s lives, and our food allergies have been a major pain point for us. I’m always looking for ways to minimize our risk while maximizing fun.
SnackRoots is the first tool of many I envision in the future. Right now my kids are elementary/middle school age and SnackRoots has helped us tremendously. I am already working on another tool that is geared for whole families and will be very helpful for teens with food allergies as well.
Don’t wait, shed your fears and go for it! Try to do it with as little to no money as you can, that way if you don’t enjoy it you have nothing to lose. Starting a business is like trying on different hats, if you don’t invest much and don’t like how it feels working/running a particular business, you can easily move on to your next idea!
1 – I went to a 2 week Pop-Up Business Course in Colorado last September. It was free and put on by a company based in the UK (popupbusinessschool.co.uk). Without this course I probably would be still dreaming about starting my business. They have an online option available if you’re thinking of starting a business you love for little to no money.
(Pic of Me in Colorado attached)
2 – Google Analytics, it helps me see what marketing tactics are working and which aren’t, so I can focus my efforts more efficiently.
3 – Google Trends – helps me find keywords to incorporate in my blog posts to generate the most organic traffic.
4 – Social Media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have helped me reach people beyond my local circle. I’ve even had people from Australia and Latin America ask me if I could create sites for them!
I split my day into different tactics: social media marketing, post writing, PR, and technology requirements gathering. That way I’m working on everything a bit each day and don’t get behind.
I love listening to podcasts while oil painting, practicing yoga, and when the weather improves I’ll spend a lot of time tending to my garden.
You can make your safe snack list in 4 easy steps (it takes less than 1 minute): 1 – Name Your List, 2 – Select Allergens Your Group Is Avoiding, 3 – Enter Your Email Address, 4 – View & Share Your List
If you make a list for your child’s class/team/troop/party and love it, please share a testimonial and link to SnackRoots.com on Facebook. My dream is 3-fold: To help as many families with food allergies as I can, Gather data to influence the snack/food industry to show that food allergies affect the entire classroom, not just 1 in 13 kids, and generate funding for a cure.