Darin Alpert is one of the most personable guys that I have ever had the honor of interviewing. He’s a super busy COO/partner of Find Me Gluten Free, Founder of the Gluten Free Calendar, and Founder of The Naked Pizza Foggy Awards. Find Me Gluten Free has an impressive 150,000 users every month and connects consumers to over 20,000 businesses that offer gluten-free options. I had a chance to catch up with Darin recently to see what’s new in his life.
Mara: So, Darin, you seem to be a Jack of all Trades; tell me a bit about how you found yourself in the gluten-free industry.
Darin: I like to call it “Connecting the Dots” every organization needs someone like that and it is really is a team effort with my partner Jason. We are like peas and carrots :) I actually was introduced to Jason Elmore our “Celiac CEO” in February 2012 by a mutual friend of ours. Jason had been working on the app since Fall 2010 and wanted some help marketing help.
Mara: As the COO of Find Me Gluten Free, how does your business help consumers to find gluten-free restaurants and such?
Darin: Our business is designed to help not only gluten free consumers but also their friends and family when looking for a place to eat. As you know, being gluten free or a Celiac usually has the final say on where a group of people are going to eat. It is easier if everyone is looking on the app at the same time for a place to eat.
Mara: What do you feel is the biggest need today in the gluten-free industry?
Darin: Restaurant education and mass media education. It frustrates us to see the media only talking about things like Mylie Cyrus and Domino’s and not the good things like Gluten Free Cutie in Georgia that has a completely gluten free bakery or Naked Pizza which has the best gluten free pizza on the planet!
Mara: I’ve also noticed that just recently that you’ve started up a website www.glutenfreecalendar.com that lists all the amazing happenings and events across the country for the gluten-free community. This is a much needed site; can you tell me a bit about it and what your future plans are for this site?
Darin: Gluten Free Calendar is to events like Find Me Gluten Free is to restaurants and stores. I partnered with Chandice Probst who is the creator of Gluten Free Frenzy and the President of one of the CDF Chapters in Phoenix to put on MLB and NBA Gluten Free Awareness games this summer and fall, we had our first event in Phoenix with the Diamondbacks and have Colorado Rockies (June 9th) San Diego Padres (July 21st), Los Angeles Dodgers (August 25) and Chicago White Sox (September 29). It is a lot of fun to mix sports and Gluten Free Awareness. We are hosting free gluten free pregame parties across the street from each ballpark and vendors can sample products and network with other gluten free businesses. These events are a lot of fun.
Mara: You also started up the first ever Foggy Awards for the gluten-free community. Where did the idea for this come from and what is the vision for these awards in the future?
Darin: The Naked Pizza FOGGY Awards came from my trip to Expo West in March 2012 and meeting so many great people in the gluten free industry. No one had honored the top people in the industry and we said “Why not us?” We like to think it is the Oscars of the gluten free world :) My fiance Alex came up with the name (Free of Gluten). Our original thought was the Gibbers (Gluten is Bad) but Alex thought it was a bad idea. She is usually right about things.
Mara: Enlighten me on the newly formed partnership between FMGF and Mark Cuban of Naked Pizza.
Darin: Mark actually heard about us and The FOGGY Awards in April and emailed the website! We did a double take before responding to his email. One of his Naked Pizza Franchisees told him about our app and Naked Pizza is now our preferred pizza, as a Celiac, Jason gives it two thumbs up! After we partnered with Mark, we also came to an agreement that he is now an investing partner. Mark has been a wonderful resource and we email daily. He is always open to giving us honest feedback. We are just bummed we didn’t get on Shark Tank. It would have been a lot of fun.
Mara: A big congrats to you and FMGF’s CEO and Founder Jason Elmore for your many successes. There’s just one more thing that I’ve gotta know…between the two of you, what’s stopping you from taking over the world at this point?
Darin: Thanks Mara! With great platforms like yours, it helps get the word out to everyone! As far as taking over the world, we’d rather help the gluten-free world first :), if we try to take over the rest of the world, we are going to need your help!