Our latest #CanonSmallBusinessHero is award-winning chef, Shanice Parris who, in 2015, founded Gluten Freedom Club with the aim of creating the premier online destination for gluten-free cuisine. Her business sets out to show that people can cut gluten from their diet without sacrificing taste, offering delicious recipes that focus on preparing fresh dishes from scratch.
1. Tell us a bit about Gluten Freedom Club
Gluten Freedom Club is an online store and resource for gluten-free cooking. It’s also a growing community on a mission to make gluten-free life taste more delicious.
2. What’s your role at Gluten Freedom Club?
I’m the founder, chef, accountant, marketer – you name it!
3. Why did you start Gluten Freedom Club?
When I was ten years old my mother was diagnosed with coeliac disease, an autoimmune condition that can develop quite suddenly at any point in life and means that the body cannot tolerate the gluten protein. Since there is no cure for coeliac disease, the only option is to follow a lifelong strict gluten-free diet. The tricky thing is that gluten is hiding in so many foods and even in some beauty products, so being diagnosed means that a huge lifestyle change has to happen. I developed a passion for cooking out of the frustration that my mum could no longer enjoy so many of her favourite foods or eat out safely. I began experimenting in the kitchen, trying to develop gluten-free recipes that worked like normal.
4. What’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced as a small business?
Simply put, awareness. We have a small and engaged community but attracting new customers is a challenge. Gluten Freedom Club has grown organically and building a brand that is authentic has been key to that. A lot of free content is given to our audience to add value and educate them, which has helped to grow a loyal and engaged following but I want to reach and help as many people as possible.
5. How digital do you consider Gluten Freedom Club’s business operations?
At the moment I’m producing all of Gluten Freedom Club’s content myself and digital tools make this possible. I use the cloud to collaborate with my web developers who are based outside London for example. Everything that needs to go on the site is kept online so that I’m able to share documents and ideas with that team without being near them.
6. How much time do you spend on admin?
Too much! However, last year I worked with Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation and Canon who gave me some great advice on connecting my working environment to increase business agility and keep admin to a minimum. Cloud connectivity has been essential in this. Simple changes like connecting my smartphone to my Canon MAXIFY printer saves time every day and means I’m able to focus on developing the Gluten Freedom Club community.
7. What’s the one piece of tech you couldn’t live without?
Whilst it’s not strictly tech, I couldn’t live without social media. More than ever, customers want to connect emotionally with us and this is what keeps our audience loyal. They want to know about our story, about what's going on behind the scenes and they want to be able to connect directly to us. I learnt that a really effective way to achieve this is through social media and I’ve now got a plan in place which has seen excellent results.
8. If you could give one piece of advice to other small business, what would it be?
Since working with Canon and Emma Jones, the one piece of advice that has really stuck in my mind is to stay focused on your overall goal. There will be lots of opportunities that come your way, but some will not be aligned with what you are really trying to achieve. Thinking in this way helped me to clarify my goals and ambitions for Gluten Freedom Club and has helped me to grow in the right direction over the past year.
9. What does success look like for you and Gluten Freedom Club?
Gluten Freedom Club has already helped thousands people around world who are living with coeliac disease. My goal is to use digital to help grow this online business, whilst expanding its reach and ultimately helping and inspiring as many people as possible.
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