Healthy snack company launched during COVID-19 by Trish Thomas is booming
In 2017, Entrepreneur-in-Residence Thomas, recognized a problem worth solving—that more than 30 percent of the US couldn’t eat the same food as people they loved due to medically-mandated dietary restrictions (food allergies, intolerance, autoimmune disease) or dietary preferences (vegan, paleo, kosher).
“In my efforts to manage an autoimmune disease, I eliminated dairy, gluten, corn, soy and eggs from my diet, but suddenly found myself cooking two different meals and not eating the same food as my family because most ‘free from’ foods didn’t taste great, or had strange ingredients, and they refused to eat them,” Thomas said. “The solution was delicious, craveable food that they would enjoy, and I could eat .”
Later that year, Thomas co-founded the business while teaching ENTP courses at the College. Over the years, several Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program (ENTP) alumni interned or worked at the company and helped bring the Every Body Eat® snacks to market.
Alexa Bruni ’19, a finance major and entrepreneurship and innovation minor, joined the parent company, Whole & Free Foods, shortly after graduation.
“In the beginning, I spent a lot of time doing research on machines to produce the crackers and I also helped set up the fulfillment office,” she said. Like everyone else at the start-up company, Bruni was ready to jump in wherever help was needed. “This provided real-world experience, which I personally like. Having an entrepreneur as a professor gives the Lake Forest program real-world experience for students to learn from .”
Due to the COVID pandemic, Bruni left the company in March 2020, but was able to use that start-up experience to land another job in the food industry in her home state of Arizona.
Gerardo Gordillo ’20, an art history major and entrepreneurship and innovation minor, joined the Whole & Free Foods team in July 2020 and has worked in a multitude of roles since then, from designing promotional materials and packaging to suggesting changes that improved factory workflow.
“It’s all about pivoting and adapting to the needs of the environment,” Gordillo said.
“The College’s ENTP program is focused on teaching our students how to identify a problem worth solving and then mobilize the people, resources and networks to solve it,” Thomas said. “One of the greatest joys of the past few years has been sharing, in real-time, how what we teach in the classroom is applied in real life—and works!”
Thomas developed the concept of Product-Market Stick™ while teaching ENTP 270 Enterpreneurial & Social Ventures I: Product-Market Fit.
“Most early-stage ventures focus on Product-Market Fit, but they can still be beat by the competition. Product-Market- Stick™ is when customer loyalty is evident and customers begin to do the selling for you,” she said. “Today, Every Body Eat® has more than 40 percent repeat customers, and more than 65 percent of them have purchased three times or more versus the industry norms of 25 percent repeat customers.”