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Challenges and Opportunities (Part 2 of Introduction)

Chris Niddrie - Friday, January 27, 2012

I spent about a week in the hospital coming to terms with my double diagnosis and learning how I would need to manage my blood sugar and my new diet. I had a fear of needles prior to this, and when I first returned home I had to ask my wife, Crystal, to give me the needles so that I wouldn’t have to do it. There is a particular technique involved- you must pinch a little skin and ensure that the insulin is injected into the fat, and not a muscle. After injecting, you wait a few seconds before pulling out the needle so as not to draw any insulin out. I was given a diagram of all the places on my body I could inject into, and discovered which places hurt more than others. Soon, I was doing the injections on my own and I had accepted that this was my new way of life.

While there was a lot of information about diabetes available to me, there did not seem to be much information provided to me about celiac disease. Although it was only a few years ago, things were different then. Celiac disease and “gluten free” were not terms that everyone knew. Restaurants did not have any gluten free options, servers and staff had no idea what you were talking about. The gluten free sections that now line the big grocery stores simply did not exist. Shopping was a hassle, and eating out was not something I wanted to do, ever.

After returning to work in our business, I had to inform my staff that I would no longer be able to taste most of the food we produced. Our catering and meal delivery business continued on, business as usual, but my passion had fizzled out. On a personal note, I felt like an outcast with two diseases and dreaded going into public. God forbid I would have to find something safe for me to eat, and then inject my insulin somewhere with people looking on. On a professional note, I felt like a failure with a company that I could no longer manage. Our business started to suffer and finally, after many long months of thinking about throwing in the towel…we accepted our situation and decided that we could overcome this obstacle. How could I regain the passion for my work and business, and be a real part of it?

It was on a camping vacation with our kids that we came up with the idea to try something radical. What if we made meals FOR people with celiac disease and food allergies? What if we changed our business completely so that I could taste EVERYTHING? This would be a huge challenge, but what did we have to lose?

So that’s how it all began. We closed our business for a few weeks to complete our transformation. All existing food inventory was donated to the Mustard Seed. Every piece of equipment was taken apart and thoroughly cleaned or replaced with new equipment. Walls, floors and the ceiling were scrubbed. We created a new concept, a new menu and opened with a new mission. It took time to rebuild a customer base and we decided to try and offer our products to those needing them in other cities. In just a couple of years, we’ve expanded our concept into a growing operation that now distributes to large grocery chains across the province. Within another couple of years you’ll see our products across Western Canada and perhaps beyond.

I’ve learned that challenge will ALWAYS bring with it opportunities. Today, I’m comfortable and confident with celiac disease and diabetes and I’m grateful that I can help others with what I do.

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