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Meet Jen Cafferty of The Gluten Free Media Group in Downers Grove

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jen Cafferty.

Jen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Ten years ago there was barely anywhere to go to learn about living a gluten free lifestyle. I ran a small event where we brought in top chefs and bloggers to teach people how to do gluten free cooking and baking. We also had a few brands sampling their products. We kept expanding this concept and now run the largest gluten free expos in the US.

Over the past 10 years, I have taught cooking classes, led lectures, met with various groups and companies as a consultant and have helped shaped the gluten free landscape today. I now have a team of people that help me run the company and together we have built the Gluten Free Media Group.

Besides our Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expos, we own Find Me Gluten Free, the world’s largest gluten-free restaurant finder. Over 3 million people use the mobile app and website and it has been an amazing journey watching it grow. I teamed up with Jason Elmore, the Founder of Find Me Gluten Free almost 5 years ago. Together we have grown users by over 10,000 per month and increased the capacity of the app. A new version will be launched within the next few months and I know our users are going to be very happy with the functionality.

In the middle of those programs we launched a TV show called Living Free and a subscription box program called Send Me Gluten Free. The TV show never went very far and we sold off the box program to Love With Food.

Over the past 10 years, I have learned so many things. Work hard, things take longer than you think they will, be humble, always be honest, get help from those that are smarter than you in certain areas where you need help, sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and there are times you really have to fight hard to get your point across.

I am so proud to help over 3 million people each year. When I am at one of my Expos and get to see our community, it keeps me going. We have an amazing group of people living the gluten free lifestyle and I continue to build programs to help their needs.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My struggles have changed as my company has grown. We are still very small, under 10 employees, so one of the big struggles is getting everything done with a small staff. And I truly hate being the “HR person”, especially when it comes to letting someone go.

When I was starting out, I did EVERYTHING myself. I was the event planner, marketing manager, customer service person, etc… I had two toddlers at home and I remember laying up at night wondering if I had made a mistake. One time I didn’t ask a graphic designer for an estimate and I was sick all night thinking I may have bankrupted the company. I had no idea if I owed her $2,000 or $20,000. It all worked out and I never made that mistake again!

The worst struggles for me are when I have a disagreement with another woman business owner. There is still such nastiness amongst women in the workplace. It always makes me sad when that happens. I have high hopes that we can get past it, but it seems to still be a real issue.

Another struggle is trying to market our products with a limited budget. I hear people say, “I wish I would have known about your event.” We only have so much money to spend on advertising and the event is so helpful to the community. I just wish we had a better way to tell more people about it.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Gluten Free Media Group – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize in helping gluten free brands reach consumers in ways that also really help the consumers. Each of our programs help brands with marketing but also are extremely helpful to the public.

Our Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expos are known to be the best place to try gluten free products. We also have a large peanut/tree-nut free section and all of the samples have the allergens indicated. For anyone wanting to try products, take classes and purchase specialty items, the Expos are the place to be. We run 9 shows across the US and attract thousands of people at each show.

Find Me Gluten Free is the largest gluten-free restaurant finder in the world. It is often compared to Yelp! and has over 3 million users annually. The app/website is helpful because it is a platform where the public can go in and rate the restaurants. Whether a good or bad experience, they are all in there. When someone is traveling or trying to find a new place to eat, most people find FMGF to be invaluable.

I am most proud of the fact that I have grown this company slowly over the past 10 years and built it up to a point of stability where we can truly say we are the biggest and best at what we do. From the top down, the company is built on customer service, honesty and understanding the needs of our clients, both brands and consumers.

We sit in the hub of the gluten free world. We reach over 6,000 gluten free brands, 3 million gluten free customers and the numbers continue to grow. There aren’t any other companies that I know of that truly reach that many brands and customers at the same time. We have built a web of connection that is vital to the industry.

What sets us apart from others is definitely our forward thinking and our customer service. It is rare to find a company that works as closely as we do with both our brands and the public. We build our programs to meet the needs of our customers and that has what has kept us successful and moving forward in a smart manner.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
2018 has a lot of new changes for our company. We will be adding a Denver Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo to meet the needs of that region. We will be announcing our findings of a landmark study looking at how the gluten free world has changed over the past 10 years. And there are some very exciting updates happening with Find Me Gluten Free.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
The Gluten Free Media Group

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

2 Comments

  1. Lacey

    September 13, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Thank you for your interview with Jen. She has an unbelievable commitment to helping people with Gluten and other food allergies. We cannot measure how much she has helped the gf community.

  2. Sylvia Tam

    September 14, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Jen is the first person I think of when it comes to connecting with GF consumers. Her expos are always well attended, she takes the time to work with brands, and her creativity and dedication to the industry is just incredible. Many congrats to you, Jen and thanks VoyageChicago for the special feature!

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