An Interview with Locate Special Diet Founder Jessica Meyer
Wonder Woman ain’t got nothing on Jessica Meyer. Starting in 2009, the nutritionist and serial entrepreneur transformed her blog chronicling her life with Celiac Disease into a full-blown gluten-free online community. Then in 2012, armed with a Master of Science in Human Nutrition and a background as a Gluten-Free Consultant and Functional Medicine Nutritionist, she built and launched her website, Locate Special Diet, which helps those with special dietary restrictions find restaurants, bars and grocery stores that cater to their needs. She set out to change the way locavores, the gluten-free, vegans, vegetarians, and organic lovers discover their new favorite eateries and drinking holes, and the site and companion mobile app are doing just that. Now, as the co-founder of social networking site Careio, Jessica is poised to revolutionize the way those with health conditions and those going through pregnancy connect and keep family and friends updated. Between adding new restaurants to Locate Special Diet, putting the finishing touches on Careio, and shredding a mountain on her snowboard, the Austinite discussed what inspires her, how she manages to keep on track in her home office in West Austin, and what’s next for her sites with CW Highlights.
You first made waves in the food world with your blog, ATX Gluten-Free. How did you get into blogging and how did you turn ATX Gluten-Free into the huge success it is today?
I first got into blogging shortly after my Celiac disease diagnosis. I wanted a place where I could write about my progress, share recipes I had come up with, and different gluten-free food options I was finding at restaurants along the way. At the time, there was definitely a need for a ‘gluten-free voice’ in the Austin community, and I wanted to be that voice. I wanted to help other people so I started going to food events and networking, talking with other gluten-free bloggers on the phone, email or social media channels. Things grew organically, and over time, the blog became more of a “community” and what it is today.
What inspired you to create Locate Special Diet?
When I was first diagnosed with Celiac disease, I struggled with finding reliable places to eat out at. I wanted to help those who are gluten-free, but also help other diet lifestyles such as ‘locavores’ (those that try to eat only locally produced food), vegetarians or vegans. Seeing the response I had on my blog from writing about local places that offered a particular item for the special diet community really sparked my interest to create something more. Something that people would use in their hometown or while they were traveling; something convenient, easy to use and reliable.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an entrepreneur?
I’m currently the solo-founder of Locate Special Diet so that is a challenge at times; learning to let go of my perfectionist ways in some cases; as well as accepting that things take time.
What is Locate Special Diet’s greatest advantage over similar products?
I really wanted to focus on the database and user experience. The app and website are both user-friendly. Our service also offers numerous ways for the user to get involved – whether that be from adding or saving tips, or adding photos and menus. We will soon be expanding on some features to also make the service much more interactive.
How are you getting the word out about Locate Special Diet? Do you rely largely on word-of-mouth, online ads, social media, etc?
Right now we are using social media to get the word out. Word-of-mouth is also spreading quickly! We also have several things in the works for 2013 – such as conferences, blogger campaigns, business partnerships, and advertising.
What’s next for Locate Special Diet?
We have so many things lined up for 2013! We are launching new cities, new features and more. We are keeping these under wraps until our big announcement in January.
You recently co-founded and launched Careio, an intriguing site whose users must be invited to join. What is Careio and what merits an invitation?
Careio is a social network for people with health conditions. It allows people to better communicate with family and friends during times that matter most. We sent out new invitations at the end of December. You can sign up for an invite by visiting www.Careio.com.
Where do you see Careio going in the future?
I see Careio being the go-to space where people seek support, prayer, and inspirational words during times they need positive thoughts and encouragement. I’m excited to see how Careio evolves in 2013, as well as continuing to craft the service to be the ultimate place for support.
Your background is in nutrition, but you’ve done a lot with technology, most recently releasing Locate Special Diet mobile apps. How did you learn about the technological side of your business (developing and maintaining a website and database, developing mobile apps, etc)?
Yes, having a background in nutrition doesn’t necessarily translate to automatically understanding technical information, so I just had to jump right in and learn. I researched the startup space and all the different things that went along with creating a user-friendly mobile app and website from scratch. Everything from programming terms and languages to UI/UX and IxD. I have had to take risks and just put myself out there, and I’m glad I have because I’ve learned so much along the way.
Locate Special Diet has one of the most comprehensive database of gluten-free, vegetarian and organic friendly businesses available. What was the biggest challenge you faced managing all that data?
Mainly just staying organized and making sure the dietary preferences for that particular business were correct! It took some time to get organized and obtain the data but we were able to make it happen, of course. In a sense we are still managing data, since we are constantly adding new businesses in new cities.
You wear many hats – serial entrepreneur, fiancé, consultant, blogger, snowboarder- the list goes on and on! How do you manage to stay organized and keep chaos from reigning over your life?
It definitely has taken some time to create a ‘balance’. I still struggle with it from day to day because things are hectic, and I do have a lot on my plate. I have become super organized and have my desk space set up to reflect that. I write a list of things to accomplish each day and I try my best to stay on task, but of course, things come up so you have to adapt and keep moving forward. I also use Evernote religiously to keep track of ideas, articles, pictures, and more. Even though I work all of the time, I still make family and my health a priority. It’s hard to completely ‘shut it off’ sometimes, but I make time to do things that make me happy- from snowboarding, to cooking for my family, spending time with my fiancée, taking our dogs for walks, and enjoying the quiet moments in life. I’m certainly grateful for everything.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I always love feedback, so if anyone has feedback on the Locate Special Diet website or mobile app, or Careio, please let me know!
Successful Women Entrepreneur Stories is featuring women that run their startups from home. Tweet me if you would like to be interviewed or have a special entrepreneur story at CW_JenniferB or email me at email@example.com.
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