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This week we chat to Fiona from Miss Fi Gluten Free, purveyor of cakes, biscuits and breads, all gluten free and delicious to boot. She tells us her story about how she transitioned from baking for her daughter out of necessity to baking as a business, and how she has identified and now supplies a growing niche market with her products and sees her business as a way that she can contribute to the world.
Tell us about Miss Fi Gluten Free – what’s the background story on how you started your business?
Miss Fi Gluten Free is all about creating biscuits and breads that are not just gluten free but also free from soy, eggs, nuts and artificial colours and flavours. Our philosophy is simple – we create allergy friendly food that tastes delicious and has minimal ingredients, we believe food should taste so great you want to eat more of it and should do you no harm so you can be guilt free when you do eat it. Our breads are also vegan friendly and great for your gut health. My 22 year old daughter has been gluten intolerant her whole life which is the reason I first began baking without gluten many years ago. We have always been an organic and healthy eating family as well as being big foodies, I started by developing different foods that my daughter could still enjoy without feeling deprived of one of life’s little pleasures. I incorporated the gluten free aspect into my healthy eating philosophy and came up with some unique and great tasting food.
What kind of products do your offer and how are your products unique?
Our biscuit range has some punchy flavours, flavours you can really taste including Chilli Chocolate and Sesame Shortbread and our breads are true wild sourdoughs with no added bakers yeast. As with all our products these have minimal and only natural ingredients. The flavour combinations we have developed are quite sophisticated so they usually appeal to the mature foodie audience who may or may not be gluten intolerant but love a full flavoured food experience where the gluten free element is a bonus. Our ‘free from’ list contains the most common allergens making our products suitable for coeliacs as well as people who are sensitive to soy, nuts and eggs.
Baking of course, although I’m not sure that I have a truly typical day, my day could be anything from research and development to strategising my marketing to sourcing new ingredients to planning the launch of a new product and everything in between. I’m continually developing new products and playing with flavours which includes loads of research and experimentation as well as keeping an eye on what the market is looking for. I walk several km’s a day which is not just great exercise but also a kind of meditation for me, I find that’s where my answers come in. I can be stuck on something and not know the next step, I will go for a long walk and along the way the answer will come to me.
Tell us about how social media and online selling has helped you grow your business and find customers. What platforms do you currently use to grow your business?
I use both online and offline marketing platforms which include Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for online and networking and word of mouth for offline.
What struggles have you had with your business?
Several that really stand out – sourcing true gluten free ingredients with no danger of cross contamination, unreturned phone calls and emails which requires you to be really persistent and maintain your faith which can be a challenge in itself at times. Luckily for me I’m determined, patient and driven. Cash flow has also been an issue which is a problem for many people in the beginning when they are just starting out. You also need to know when to stay focused and when to take a step back in order to move forward, starting your own business is one of the most challenging things you will ever do and in terms of personal growth walking this path will press all your buttons so sometimes you need to step back and integrate what you’ve learned before taking another step.
It’s not easy to start a new business, especially in an industry where there is so much competition but we know our products are quality products, we don’t compromise on the ingredients we use or short change our customers by watering down our philosophy. Our core beliefs are behind every product we create and we really take on board what our customers tell us.
I’m in business with my partner which is both challenging and a plus, we have completely different strengths which is fantastic in a business partnership but it can be difficult to have a clear line of separation between your personal and your professional relationship at times, you have to be conscious of making the switch between the two.
There are loads of books I’ve found inspirational along the way, I especially love reading stories of people who’ve persisted with their goals and made them happen. Developing and growing as a person is something I really focus on so I read a lot of books that challenge my mind and keep me learning and stretching. Some books I recommend are Creative Visualisation by Shakti Gawain, any of the books by Dr. Jill Ammon-Wexler, Richard Branson, Dan Millman, Paulo Coelho and Dr. Phil McGraw..to name just a few. Ghetto Physics, Breaking The Taboo, What The Bleep series and the Thrive movement videos are awesome, as is the video series about Gluten Glut by Anne Buzzelli. You can find the Anne Buzzelli videos for free viewing on the Resources page on our site at http://www.missfiglutenfree.com.au
What’s your vision for Miss Fi Gluten Free for the future and how do you see your business contributing to the world?
The movement toward simple, natural and healthy food is growing now which makes me really happy as do the farm to table initiatives out there now but we still have a long way to go. The food we eat plays such a big part in our mental, physical and spiritual health, these are all connected and greatly impact our ability to live our best life. It’s incredibly important to me be able to contribute to the world in a constructive way, the food we create and the long term vision we have is all based around that philosophy. What we consume effects our state of mind, our gut health, our energy levels and what we are able to create for ourselves.
Food flavours are one of the simple joys of life, food should taste so great that you want to eat more of it for the flavour and be so nourishing that you are safe in the knowledge you are doing no harm to yourself by eating it. Sharing food connects us with others, our social, business and family lives often revolve around food and we live in such a fast paced demanding world that it’s more important now than ever before to make the right food choices.