Local startup Ella Bella Gluten-Free can now be found abroad!
The company landed its first international account last month, founder Mandy Groszko shared. She shipped one case each of her gluten-free flour, brownie, chocolate chip and sugar cookie mixes and two cases of her lactation cookie mix to a shop named Chisai-Bums in Okinawa, Japan.
“I am extremely excited, and just flabbergasted, that something I made and created is going halfway around the world,” Groszko said.
The Japanese shop is approximately 7,000 miles from Ella Bella’s home base in Fairborn, OH. Shipping was easier than anticipated — the presence of a US Air Force base at the destination allowed Groszko to use domestic pricing and domestic customs forms, all available on the USPS website, she said.
The Chisai-Bums store owner found Ella Bella through a closed Facebook group created for the community of mothers using cloth diapers for their new babes. The owner of a cloth diaper store in Fort Wayne that sells Ella Bella’s lactation cookie mixes posted a positive review of the cookies, along with a note about how she could sell them at a 100 percent markup.
The lactation cookie mix is the top retail product for Ella Bella, founded in 2012. Groszko launched the company when her daughter was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.
“I wanted to be able to make a single chocolate chip cookie that she would eat and like and that my husband would eat and like,” she recalled.
She developed the lactation cookie mix two years ago after a conversation with her longtime friend Allison Hopkey Fullenkamp, owner of samozrejme, a Troy store featuring eco-friendly parenting products. The lactation cookie mix includes additional minerals and vitamins that help new moms produce milk.
Groszko sold the cookie mix at samozrejme for a year before she began marketing the product, she said.
Ella Bella is currently on shelves in 21 retail stores, primarily in the Dayton-Cincinnati-Columbus region. You can also find the mixes on shelves in California and Alaska — those shop owners also found Groszko through the post in the closed Facebook group before purchasing her products through FAIRE an online wholesale marketplace for retailers seeking unique goods for their stores.
“The dream is to get into a store in every state across the country,” she said. “I have a gluten-free product, the flour, that allows people to get back in the kitchen.”
The Ella Bella gluten-free flour is a one-to-one substitute for traditional flours, whether it’s in a roux, a fried breading or a baked good, Groszko said.
“You can cook your family recipes,” she said. “You can have that family connection, that communication, that love that happens in a kitchen, and then it’s good food to eat at the end, and those people who don’t have to be gluten-free also enjoy the food.”