Founder Friday: Jessamine Daly-Griffen, Om Nohm Gluten Free

Millions of people in the U.S. have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the consumption of gluten damages the small intestine. This damage affects the body’s ability to absorb key nutrients from food, and there is currently no treatment for celiac disease – other than adhering to a gluten-free diet.

But living a gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t have to mean having fewer food options. Jessamine Daly-Griffen started Om Nohm Gluten Free to create a community that is supportive of people with celiac, wheat allergies, and other special food needs. Om Nohm Gluten Free offers a wide variety of gluten-free goodies including cookies, cakes, bars, granola, and bread, and you’ll find Jessamine at the Fredonia Farmers’ Market every week. They also sell their products to local restaurants, and will be opening a brick-and-mortar location in Fredonia later this winter.

Read about Jessamine’s inspiration to build a community for those living gluten-free and the impact of becoming an Ignite Buffalo winner in today’s Founder Friday!

Tell us the story of how your business got started.

Necessity is the mother of creativity, no? Om Nohm Gluten Free had a simple beginning: developed out of a need for a couple of people, the word and food-sharing spread, the recipe development specialized, and the need in our community and for larger space recognized. Restaurants also want to feed people that have to eat gluten-free, but don’t always know how – some came on board with Om Nohm Gluten Free to provide their gluten-free options.

People very often have special food needs, but keep them private. Om Nohm Gluten Free is a place for them to gather and enjoy repast. It’s more than food. It’s affirmation. It’s nurturance. It’s a community.

With the specifics of celiac, an autoimmune condition, a person medically needs food prepared in a dedicated gluten-free environment. While we offer that, we offer so much more. Our food ranges from sophisticated, high-end desserts that anyone is thrilled to enjoy, to homestyle, hearty, rustic breads and goodies packed with nutrients.

What do you do? Your business?

I bake gluten-free food for people and sell it to them in cool places. I have studied and developed all my own recipes over the last 13 years, bringing nutritious, delicious, enjoyable gluten-free food into the mainstream in Chautauqua County. I have created several points to get the food: I sell at the weekly Fredonia Farmers’ Market; I sell to several local restaurants; I take personal orders (booking sometimes months ahead); I have built a tiny house/food trailer for special events, offering fresh vegetarian foods and vegan gluten-free baked goods; and I am bringing my brick-and-mortar commercial kitchen and retail bake shop to Fredonia, NY – hopefully by late this winter!

What has been the biggest accomplishment for your business to-date?

Recognition. Om Nohm Gluten Free’s biggest accomplishment so far has definitely been winning the Ignite Buffalo $25,000 business grant attached to training and mentorship. It wasn’t a win for Om Nohm Gluten Free – it was a win for the entire celiac community and for those with other various food needs, wheat allergies, food sensitivities, or vegan or plant-based diets.

When I first won this grant, I thought that certainly the $25,000 was the most important win. Then, after realizing the grant was attached to a year of curated trainings, the trainings and education became the most important part. It wasn’t until we started attending the workshops and having conversations with other Ignite winners that I realized that while the cash prize and trainings are so valuable, the relationships developed with the other business owners of Ignite are the longest-lasting value.

Most of the money from our grants goes to labor costs of a business – paying people who help with the build-out of a space, operational costs, etc. The trainings grow my brain and specialize me toward business (I have an education degree, not a business degree!). But the relationships extend way beyond either of these direct levels. We are making plans to follow each others’ businesses through the years, work together, and to assist each others’ businesses through conversations, support, and sometimes just showing up.

Our businesses are young. We, as owners and creators, are vulnerable, and we have put our families in these positions with us. A circle around us clapping for us can give us the courage to get out of bed and give it another day, another week. A “you’ve got this” strength in community has grown out of 43North’s Ignite Buffalo.

Goals for the next year? Three years?

The first practical goal is to move Om Nohm Gluten Free’s “bake space” into the new location – we are currently working on the build-out at 45 Temple Street in Fredonia. Short-term goals include commercial kitchen install and approval by winter, retail bake shop space by mid-late winter, and sandwich/soup shop availability by late spring 2019 (or before!). I plan to hire one part-time employee by winter and probably another two in the spring. I’ll be looking for qualified baking help, barista and counter help, and someone to help curate and organize orders. I’d love to bring on a couple more restaurants or contract with a larger source, like a regional college, for their gluten-free offerings.

I’d also like to continue to engage local artists and creative people in keeping the space a fresh point for art presentation – our tables will all be made by local artists, rotating twice yearly; we will be having regular music, poetry, and visual arts events. It will also be the first publicly posted Safe Space supporting our LGBTQ+ youth.

Within three years, I’d like to have enough staff to bake for and provide consistent, regular appearances at all Om Nohm Gluten Free points – cafe, farmer’s market, restaurants/colleges, and food truck events. I’d like to continue to support local artists, as we are doing in the creation of our new space.

Om Nohm Gluten Free offers a bright spot in a dark world for people with celiac and other special food needs. We build memorable “Story-Food” from our own recipes, beginning, middle, and end – artistic presentation, sophisticated textures and flavors, plant-based when possible, and all in responsible packaging. Om Nohm Gluten Free is feeding the un-fed: gluten-free because it has to be, delicious for everyone.

Why Buffalo?

C’mon, this one’s easy. The northerners are an intrepid people – I wouldn’t live anywhere else. We help each other. We are sturdy and we exhibit the Finnish concept of Sisu.

Share some ways that you give back to the local community – and how others can get involved.

I have had many opportunities to share fresh-baked, gluten-free foods and financial donations to regional charity events and celebrations: Lakeshore Humane Society, public school fundraisers, career fairs and health fairs, Fredonia’s Women in Business Celebrations, the January 2018 Women’s March in Seneca Falls, the Tourette Association of Greater New York State, etc. The list is extensive. I am grateful for the opportunity to put my money where I believe our world needs support.

I also love to engage local artists: we have already engaged 6 local artists, and upwards of 10 more creative craftspeople in just the creation of our image. From input and advisement over aesthetic components, the creation of the logo, signage, imagery, and fabric arts for daily-wear work uniforms, to the very tables off of which we will eat and the music in our ears – Om Nohm Gluten Free is that place.  

The best way to get involved is to come on down and give us a try!  Check us out and follow us on social media. Follow the website updates to get involved in community art projects. Be watching for our pop-up party (date TBD – hopefully December) to celebrate the kitchen build!

Who has been your biggest motivator through the ups and downs of owning a small business?

With changing careers mid-life, a person can really be left questioning. I look to my children’s faces and wonder, “What can I create for them?” My muse has always believed in me, convincing me right from the start that this was a great plan – my gosh, he bought a building to help me realize this dream as ours intersect. Matty B., you know this is you! Notes on napkins, creative conversations with friends, food-passion, excitement, flavors, new ideas, late night post-yoga gab sessions. “Let’s do this. Let’s go.”

But a dream and a place are not even enough to make it happen; one needs those in the action plan to continue to motivate and fulfill the daily grind hours – my spouse with crazy drywall dust in his beard and banged-up knuckles; my loving family members with paint in their hair; my children stepping carefully over nails on the floor, hammering out old doorways, and living among too many bread pans and bread boxes; my friends all doing the labor together, flooring and gardening and sewing and scraping; spirits of grandmothers beside me in my kitchen; dear friends with cups of brown gold; others who know what it’s like to go unpaid for quite a while in the growth of a business; a community that loves granola. These are the motivators: action and love. I am the recipient of so very much love. Love is the motivator. Love in the form of drywall and electric, paint, batter and dough, pipes and drains, grout-stained fingernails, and box loading and laundry folding parties.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Roll up your sleeves, hon. It’s going to take over every aspect of your life for a while. Every bit of it is worth it because it’s not someone else, but we who create the community in which we want to live. One part Renaissance, one part Revolution, three parts Life, Heart, and Intention. You’ve got this. Do not shy away from action.