Small Business Spotlight of the Week: admin | March 10th, 2011


I fluctuated between being a vegan and vegetarian for nearly three years.  Though the promise of breakfast sausage eventually lured me back to the dark side, I still feel a certain kinship and understanding with those that have special dietary needs. It can be daunting and down-right frustrating to find a restaurant that has a diverse array of options if you don’t want to eat cheese, bread or meat.  This struggle is especially true for those who do not have the choice to convert back to more traditional eating habits.

Claire and Rich Mercer started after years of wishing there were an easier way to find places that served gluten-free options.  Claire has been diagnosed with coeliac disease, a small intestine auto-immune disorder that renders its sufferer unable to digest gluten.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  The pair wanted to help out other coeliacs in eating good food and still adhering to their necessary diet.  So, they created an online search engine that will allow people to search the city they’re in for restaurants that have gluten-free menu items.

Rich kindly took the time to answer a few questions I had regarding

1.  How did you get things designed before crowdSPRING?  (or, if this is your first project, what other options were you considering?)

We have been considering hiring a design agency as well as freelance designers and other crowd-sourcing websites.

2.  Why in the world did you decide to use crowdSPRING?!

After meeting with several designers and talking with friends and colleagues, it seemed apparent there is a large amount of risk with the traditional model in that you engage one designer, only for you to realize their ideas don’t fit with your tastes or requirements. crowdSPRING enabled us to put our project to multiple designers and chose a design, not a person. This way we were able to see so many different ideas from different designers; a variety that would not have been otherwise possible.

3.  What’s the single best small biz resource that you’ve found (magazine, website, blog, etc.)?

Google Apps has really helped us with enterprise scale email and document management with a start-ups budget. It also helps us keep all our documents centralized as well as shared calendars on top of the great email service. We are using the free service which is more than enough for our needs and gives us features that would cost a lot elsewhere. We are also now evaluating Manymoon from the Google Apps marketplace which adds project management to our domain which gives us simple integration with calendars, docs and mail.

4.  If your best friend told you they were going to start a business, what’s the ONE piece of advice you’d give them?

Do something you’re passionate about! It’s inevitable that starting a business will throw many challenges in your path, and it’s at those moments it really helps to be able to draw on that passion to get past them.

5. How is eating gluten-free like starting a business?

I think starting out on a gluten-free diet can be very much like starting a new business. At first you’re constantly faced with daunting decisions and you are always learning new things. Starting out gluten-free means you are constantly checking food ingredients and knowing your health will suffer for any mistakes you make. It’s much like with a new business where there are a lot of new challenges and plenty of things to learn. Ultimately the health and success of your business is tied to how you deal with them.

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  • It’s tough having a disorder that restricts your food choices. We wish eatingGF success and hope that they can help many people with Celiac disease find great places to dine in when outside the home.

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