KENNEBUNKPORT – Leigh Reynolds was a mom with a sick daughter, and she knew she wasn’t alone. Using her decades of executive management experience – plus the scientific expertise of the very child who was ill – Reynolds decided to create a solution to the problem. The result? Gluten Free Therapeutics, a company that produces Celi·Vites, a line of scientifically formulated supplements designed specifically for individuals suffering from the debilitating effects of celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Reynolds and her daughter Taylor – a veterinary pathologist who holds a doctor of veterinary medicine from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine – introduced Celi·Vites to the market in November 2013.
The combination of skill sets possessed by the mother-daughter team made the decision to start the business a sort of “ah-ha moment,” Reynolds says. Among her executive experience was her role as chief operating officer of a successful Boston-based pharmaceutical start-up that eventually sold. As chief operating officer, she handled everything from quality and regulatory system oversight to sales and marketing. Her daughter’s educational background served as an ideal complement to her own abilities, she says.
Reynolds says she knew she wanted to live in Maine – where she had a summer home – before she started the business. “I chose the location and I decided to make it work.”
The duo spent more than a year in the research phase. Together they compiled current medical data to identify the common deficiencies in the diets of those living with celiac disease, particularly those deficiencies created by restricting dietary intake to products in the gluten-free marketplace.
The nutritional challenges of celiac disease are clear, says Reynolds. Gluten-free foods are manufactured differently from “mainstream” foods, and are not required to offer the same vitamin and mineral fortification as that found in dairy, grain and processed food products. Moreover, she says, celiacs may suffer from malabsorption of nutrients found naturally in food. Celi·Vites are intended to address both those issues.
The product is unique for several reasons, says Reynolds. First, it is created without diluting its premium ingredients, a practice common among supplement formulators. In addition, the product contains the correct recommended daily value of each selected ingredient. They are tested to be free of gluten to less than 5 ppm.
This labor of love – both professional and personal – “is going very well,” she says. “I’m very comfortable being an entrepreneur.
Q What were your most important needs in getting started?
A Our most important need was finding resource support here in Maine. We were starting from scratch and we needed the attorney, the accountant, the bank, all those people that touch a business every day. We were writing cards to them and we realized we have about 30 different people here in Maine. I thought, “Wow, that’s more people than I thought.” During my first year in Maine I became a SCORE volunteer. SCORE is a volunteer government organization managed through Washington. Every state has a SCORE office where business professionals agree to act as mentors. I have a mentor. They help entrepreneurs build a network a little faster. I knew about SCORE from before I got involved but I was blown away by how generous they were with their time and knowledge.
Q What was there about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
A My father was an entrepreneur. I am a third-generation business owner. My father’s business was left to him at a very young age, so I grew up in a household as a child of a business owner. He owned an asphalt company that built highways in Ohio. He was a mathematical genius, was so brilliant with numbers. I can’t believe how smart he was. For me, owning a business was as natural as breathing. I don’t think anything of it; I’m not fearful.
Q What do you think the advantages are of being a female entrepreneur?
A I’m still looking for those! I’m told there are advantages, but I haven’t seen them in action. I haven’t seen any disadvantages; it’s just business as usual.
Q What advice would you give to an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
A It’s very important to have someone you can turn to – some kind of guidance. Having a business is more about having an idea or a product. It’s all about how to structure it, and a lot of people lose sight of that. It’s not just, “I’m going to sell cookies.” It’s like having a mini-corporation. You can’t let anything slide; you have to be able to do everything. You don’t have to know everything perfectly, you just have to know how to get answers. A lot of people are willing to share their ideas, in Maine in particular. There’s a lot of talk of the state not being business friendly, but I think it’s a perfect place to have a small business. So many people do it. I love having a business in Maine. Everyone here does it.
Q If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
A No, I don’t think so. I knew my weaknesses going in and I knew my strengths and I had developed ways to use both. Self-awareness is very helpful. I wouldn’t have done anything any differently.
– Kristine Millard
Gluten Free Therapeutics
Leigh Reynolds started Gluten Free Therapeutics, a company that produces Celi·Vites, with her daughter Taylor. Celi·Vites is a line of scientifically formulated supplements designed specifically for individuals suffering from the debilitating effects of celiac disease or gluten intolerance.