Vital Stats>> Lori and Mark Sandler, 43 and 47, respectively, of Divvies
Company>> South Salem, New York, manufacturer of gourmet treats made without peanuts, tree nuts, eggs or milk
2006 sales>> About $300,000
Inspiration>> Lori and Mark's son Benjamin was born with severe food allergies. As he got older, "he felt excluded from just about everything, because so much of our lives revolves around food and eating," says Lori. She began creating allergen-free treats that actually tasted good.
The Catalyst>> When did Lori know she had a business on her hands? "When my older children loved the cookies," she says. "Friends and [classmates] loved them, and teachers asked if I could bake them for their classes."
Perfect Timing>> Lori had quit her job to become a stay-at-home mom and Mark had sold his furniture rental business. They saw a market opportunity in the 11 million Americans who have food allergies. The Sandlers started their self-financed company in spring 2005 and opened a facility where no peanuts, tree nuts, eggs or milk were allowed.
Breakthrough>> They started selling online in October 2005; getting into Bloomingdale's was their first big break. Securing several locations in Disney World, including restaurants, hotels and bakeries, was another turning point for Divvies. "Disney has given us great credibility," says Lori. Currently, they sell their gift- and party-favor-size popcorn and cookies in all 50 states and Canada at places such as small boutiques and Bloomingdale's restaurants.
Mission Possible>> "There's a real passion here, and the inspiration is Benjamin," says Lori. "I'm on a mission to make this labor of love available to everyone, whether they have food allergies or not."
Liz Hamburg helps entrepreneurs launch new businesses as the founder and president of Upstart Ventures. She can be heard on WOR radio (710AM in New York) on Launchpad, a weekly segment focusing on entrepreneurs and small business.