Better Batter Balances Business with Charitable Giving: Q&A with Owner Naomi Poe

I first met Naomi Poe at a State College Celiac Support Group picnic, where she was slated to be the guest speaker, in July of 2011. She had traveled from Altoona, PA, her hometown and the location of her gluten-free baking mix company, Better Batter. At the time, Better Batter’s sole product was a gluten-free version of all-purpose flour, and I found myself wondering how much useful information a person could possibly provide about a basic flour mix. It turned out that talking about her company was not what Naomi had in mind.

Instead, she shared her own experiences with having celiac disease, an immune system condition that causes the body to attack and destroy the nutrient absorbing villi in the small intestine when gluten is ingested. She spoke of her two sons who have celiac disease, one of whom is also autistic. Naomi stressed her commitment to using quality ingredients (or, as she later put it, “no funky foods”), her quest to support sustainable agriculture, and her efforts to adhere to the philosophy at the core of her business and life; give freely.

I listened as Naomi fielded a range of questions—from nutrition, to product brands, to personal health issues—from a group of people whose lives had drastically changed as a result of gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, and rye and, as such, a common component of the traditional American diet. After the presentation, group members migrated toward Naomi, who stuck around after dusk to share her expertise and offer advice to those struggling with their own diets, lifestyles, and continuing health problems.

I watched as Naomi chatted with the group of people surrounding her, giving her contact information to those who would need further help and offering specific advice to those with immediate questions. I walked to my car just after sunset, knowing that someday I would talk with Naomi again. I wanted to know more about this business owner who gave so freely of her time and knowledge. It would be two years before I found the opportunity to do that.

In those two years, a lot changed at Better Batter, but the important things, Naomi would point out, stayed exactly the same. True to her philosophy, she dedicated an entire afternoon to speak with me about her company, her childhood, her education, and her views on everything from emerging business models to core life values. What follows is a Q&A in which Naomi shares the events and circumstances that have shaped her life and led her, on what some might call a destined path, to where she is now.

In honor of celiac disease awareness month and to help raise awareness, I will be posting this Q&A as a five-part series through May 31. Links to each installment will appear below …

Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 1: A For-Profit Business with a Nonprofit Heart

Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 2: Personal Struggles Lead to Business Big Bang

Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 3: GMOs, Fad Diets, and Making a Positive Difference

Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 4: Thoughts on Business from a “Person in Business”

Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 5: Taking Over the World One Gluten-Free Product at a Time



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