Nichole Wilson, Co-Founder + President

My journey with food allergies began before I even knew I was on it. My daughter, Ella, was plagued by bouts of “tummy trouble” for much of her young life, and at three I rushed her to the emergency room at 11pm for what I assumed was appendicitis. Instead, a CAT-scan revealed severe constipation, and we embarked on a three-year journey of elimination diets, high fiber diets, Gatorade/Miralax cleanses, laxatives, and antacids – all to no avail. Ella’s stomach aches and discomfort persisted.

Just as Ella’s journey was beginning, her newborn brother, Carter, was experiencing his own version of “tummy trouble” when breastmilk and formula made him spit up and writhe in pain. When we finally tried a ready-to-drink soy formula, Carter’s stomach discomfort gradually disappeared, along with his sleepless nights and a rash that covered much of his face. The diagnosis: acid reflux.

After making minimal progress with Ella, a new gastroenterologist recommended an endoscopy, and we learned that Ella’s body makes little to none of the enzyme that breaks down lactose. She is absolutely, positively lactose intolerant – consuming any kind of dairy, baked or otherwise, results in severe pain and a host of other issues.

In the blink of an eye, I became “that mom.” That mom who brings “special” cupcakes to the birthday parties, requests dairy-free snacks from the school cafeteria, and gifts boxes of Lactaid to all of her closest friends.

During this time, my husband was searching for the root cause of his constant inflammation and stomach issues. A battery of tests determined that he was also lactose intolerant and had a very high sensitivity to eggs and certain types of shellfish. Meanwhile, I identified my own sensitivities to dairy and gluten.

Now, not only was I “that mom,” we were “those people” – those people with special diets, those people who can’t just order off the menu, those people who pick at their food at dinner parties because they don’t want to tell the host what they can and can’t eat.

So how did I get here, co-founder of a food company? I met another "that mom" and we got going.

 

In the blink of an eye, I became “that mom.” That mom who brings “special” cupcakes to the birthday parties, requests dairy-free snacks from the school cafeteria, and gifts boxes of Lactaid to all of her closest friends.

 

I am the sum total of everyone who has invested in me: my father who shared with me that, “You get what you accept – from yourself and from the world,” my mother who often reminded me, “When you leave this house, you represent this house,” and my grandmother who encouraged me to “Never meet a stranger.” I am the sum total of these titans and a host of aunts and uncles who were as quick to praise my accomplishments as they were to redirect me with a firm conversation. 

As I grew older, I continued to benefit from the investment of others’ energies and efforts: teachers, coaches, friends, mentors, mentees, and, more recently, my own children. As I traveled to more than 30 countries, I embraced the world as my classroom and opened my heart, mind, and soul to any and everything the world brought my way.

I am not only shaped by those who believed in me, but also by those who believed that I wasn’t enough -- not Black enough, not white enough, not male enough, not rich enough, not poor enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, not agreeable enough, not feminine enough, not deserving enough. These became the defining moments that fueled the fire in my belly to seek out the hardest challenges, create somethings out of nothings, and do what others thought could never be done.

I leveraged this approach as I curated my career and sought out paths, not only less traveled, but also full of potential to stretch, disorient, and develop me. This led to careers in investment banking, corporate strategy, mergers & acquisitions (M&A), research & development (R&D), technology start-ups, nonprofit consulting, and most recently, leading a portfolio of 14 nonprofits that represent a $40MM investment in youth equity in Chicago. Each role has been a unique opportunity to pay it forward, pour into others, and build valuable tools and skill sets to use in service of others. 

Every Body Eat™ cofounders Nichole Wilson, Trish Thomas, Dick Thomas, and their kids

When Trish Thomas and I met, we tapped into and unlocked something remarkable in one another. I was searching for a way to bring groundbreaking innovation to Big Food, and Trish was looking for a better solution to a critical dimension of her life and family – eating together. Her dietary restrictions meant that she had to prepare two meals – one for her family and one for herself – or not eat at all. Trish was also eating some really disgusting food made from unpronounceable ingredients and trying to convince me that it wasn’t that bad. Well, it was. So, together, we decided to disrupt an industry and remind ourselves that we are enough.

Every Body Eat™ describes more than just the integrity of the products that our families create for your families. It also reflects the world that we want to see. A world in which everybody is enough and nobody is bound by limitations.

My family is still learning how to be “those people,” but thanks to Every Body Eat™, we can eat – and eat together. I am so grateful that my kids are not overwhelmed by a restricted diet that constantly makes them feel different or reminds them what they can’t do. Instead, they are busily crafting identities beyond their dietary restrictions. May they always know that they are enough.

Today and every day, I endeavor to use my powers, forged in love and fire, for good.

 

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