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OUTSIDE IN: This is the fourth in a five-part series.
P.E.I.’s Melanie Wildman wanted to start eating healthier – both for own her benefit as well as her family’s.
But when she couldn’t find a nut-free protein powder to cook with, she decided to create her own.
That motivated Wildman to start Nutracelle — a business that makes a variety of flavours of pre-biotic protein and fiber powder products that are nut and gluten free.
“I realized there were millions of us in North America that deal with food allergies. And, we don’t know where to turn for safe food. Now, there’s more allergy-friendly food, like cookies and candies, but there isn’t, really, (anything) for friendly food,” she said.
Since Wildman, founder and CEO, launched the business in 2016, sales have added up to more than $2 million.
The business was self-funded, she explained.
“I hadn’t approached anyone about doing it. I was just so passionate about creating it and getting it on the market, I kind of dug in and just started doing it,” she said.
“I think it’s tough to look at your husband and say, ‘Well, we’re not mortgage free anymore. I just put us all into debt for this.’ When you really believe in something, you’re willing to make the sacrifices to make it a reality.”
Wildman had been looking for healthy eating options while struggling with her weight over the years. And, about 10 years ago, she had bariatric surgery – a procedure on the stomach or intestines that induces weight loss. She lost more than 100 pounds.
As well, the need for a nut-free option was for the youngest of her three children. He has a life-threatening nut allergy.
The products are made in Stratford, P.E.I., shipped and stored in a warehouse in Mississauga, Ont. and then exported to customers as far away as Georgia in the U.S. and Yellowknife, Newfoundland and Labrador, and northern British Columbia in Canada.
The company is looking at expanding exports to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.
Since the products were included under the previous NAFTA trade deal and the proposed USMCA (U.S., Mexico and Canada) arrangement, watching recent negotiations were “a real nail biter,” she said.
Wildman is a former Mrs. Canada pageant winner and Mrs. Universe runner-up. Originally from Milton, P.E.I., she lived in Saskatoon for a while and then came back to the Island in 2015 to start the business.
“When we started the cooking show, we had a few hundred viewers who would watch the video, so it was a little lonely out there. But now we’re over a million-and-a-half views on our YouTube channel and over 15,000 subscribers,” she said.
“So, we are really reaching more and more people. Again, it just comes back to helping people, showing people easy, yummy ways to enjoy food they love, like pizza and cookies, but do it in a healthy way.”
Wildman and Nutracelle won four 2016 International Business Awards (nicknamed the Stevies) – gold awards for startup of the year, best new product and business woman of the year plus a silver award for innovator of the year.
She said the company’s success rests on building a community and trying to help people live healthier lives.
“I think the key to being successful in building a community that believes in what you’re doing is to put them first.”
Where are Atlantic Canada's entrepreneurial success stories?
Click the photo or headline to learn about this go-getter.