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Entrepreneur Mary Waldner’s gluten allergy led her to start a cracker company.
As applications for the 2009 Inc. 500 | 5000 arrive, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of the companies that are vying to appear on our ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. (For more information and to apply, go to http://www.inc5000apply.com.) One that caught our eye was Mary's Gone Crackers, a company in Gridley, California.
Founders Mary Waldner and her husband Dale Rodrigues started a small cracker company in 2004 for a simple reason: Mary, who has Celiac Disease, can't process gluten, and couldn't find gluten-free snacks that satisfied her. Five years later, Mary's Gone Crackers is no longer small—the company is growing so fast that it's under consideration for the 2009 Inc. 500|5000 list.
"We live and breathe this company," Mary said. "We're the largest shareholders and still very involved with the company everyday."
That means that when the couple traveled to Ecuador this year, vacationing was an afterthought. They were there to inspect quinoa, a South American grain that is an essential ingredient in their product.
As the company matures, Mary and Dale add staff (now over 60 employees) and products. Their hard work has been rewarded, not just with money, but recognition. In 2008, Mary's original cracker won "Most Outstanding Cracker" at a trade show hosted by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
Mary, the company's founder, was thrilled that her organic recipe got mainstream acclaim. Now, she says, it's Dale's turn to be excited: he is the force behind the business side of Mary's.
"I don't think I've ever been more excited in my life than I am right now," Dale said.
Regardless of where Mary's Gone Crackers lands on the Inc. 500|5000 list, Dale said, he's happy with the company's success.
"It's just been a wonderful business overall," Dale said. "I'm having a lot of fun."
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