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RapidChat: Elliott Rader

When Elliott Rader was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 33, he suddenly came to realize the lack of nutritious (and delicious) gluten-free products that were readily available on grocery store shelves. 
Elliott Rader

When Elliott Rader was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 33, he suddenly came to realize the lack of nutritious (and delicious) gluten-free products that were readily available on grocery store shelves. Now, with his own business, he's making sure that changes.
 Rapid Growth: At what age were you and your brother diagnosed with celiac disease?
 
Elliott Rader: My brother Marshall was diagnosed as celiac when he was 28. His diagnosis shed some light on some of my own issues, but I still lived in denial for a couple more years, so I was about 33.
 
RG: Growing up, what were some of the most challenging obstacles you had to overcome with this intolerance?
 
ER: Since we didn't understand our issues until we were adults, we grew up eating the things that, later in life, we avoided like the plague. I would say that living the life of a celiac has more inconveniences and annoyances than obstacles.
 
RG: If you could bring a single gluten-rich item back into your diet, what would it be?
 
ER: I really have a craving for a cheap, watered-down, American light beer. It just sounds so refreshing. Gluten-free beers have gotten better but they’re not the same.
 
RG: Many people see "gluten-free" as a fad or trend. What are your thoughts on this?
 
ER: There is definitely a fad component, but unlike the “fat-free” or “cholesterol free” fads of the past, there is a huge and rapidly growing number of people that are realizing they feel better when they avoid gluten. For people that are gluten intolerant or celiac this is a life-changing realization.  When something has a direct and immediate impact on your health and well-being is when it stops becoming a fad.
 
RG: What was the “ah-ha!” moment that lead to the conception of The GFB (Gluten Free Bar)?
 
ER: It was more of a progression of smaller moments than one big “ah-ha” moment. We were looking for a gluten-free nutrition bar that tasted great, used simple ingredients, and had plenty of protein. That was actually really hard to find 6 years ago, so we eventually arrived on the idea that there is an opportunity here and that’s how The GFB started.
 
RG: After spending years in the world of technology and advertising, how did you fare the shift into owning your own business?
 
ER:  Everything I learned in my previous career, especially at Google, are things that I apply every day at The GFB. I actually have a far deeper understanding of technology and advertising now that I have to apply it to our own business and spend our own money.
 
RG: What was the original GFB product?
 
ER: The product that started it all was our peanut butter bar. Super simple but delicious!
 
RG: How did you manage to expand your product line, and distribution channels, so rapidly?
 
ER: I’m biased but I do think we make great products and we all work really hard every day, so we’ve certainly come a long way, but I feel our growth has been more measured vs. rapid expansion. The GFB started as boot-strapped company and our growth has been, and continues to be, all self-funded. We are now in over 6,000 stores in the US, Canada, and even Europe, but we’re still growing at a sustainable, manageable rate.
 
RG: The Gluten Free Bar is also a certified B Corporation. What does this mean?
 
ER: Being a certified B Corp means that we do not consider profits as our only goal. It’s called the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits. We try to do the right thing when it comes to running a business so that we are leaving this planet a little bit better than when we found it. This movement towards sustainable business practices is picking up a lot of steam, especially in West Michigan, where we are proud to be part of the growing number of Certified B Corps.
 
RG: Why did you feel that it was an important certification for your business to seek out?
 
One of our core principles at The GFB is to do the right thing. From early on we tried to live up to that…like making sure we recycled everything we possibly could and that we were paying our team members a living wage. As we’ve grown, we felt it was important to expand our commitment to doing the right thing and to be held more accountable for our actions. By meeting standards set by a third party, B Corp certification is the absolute best way of demonstrating our commitment to ourselves, team members, partners and customers that we are using business as a force for good.

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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