Before she discovered the health food product that would change her life, Janie Hoffman suffered from overlapping autoimmune disorders, including lupus, scleroderma, and fibromyalgia, among others. The California native had spent much of her life struggling with body rashes, muscle weakness, and fatigue that sometimes rendered her unable to care for herself, among other chronic symptoms.
“The traditional way they treat these diseases is with chemotherapy and steroids," said Hoffman. “I tried those, and I did not have relief; in fact, I just experienced all the side effects of those treatments, which put me on a more holistic path of wellness."
Seeking a remedy
In 2009 a friend and personal trainer who studied nutrition told Hoffman about a little-known seed once a mainstay of the Mayan and Aztec diets that might be able to offer some relief. The chia seed—which originates from a desert plant native to the Americas, particularly areas closer to the equator—is among the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. It contains a concentrated dose of omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals.
“When chia seeds came into my life, the struggle went away, and I was completely restored to health," said Hoffman. “Not only did I go into 100% remission, I don't even test positive anymore."
Sharing what she learned
Hoffman had never intended to start a business, but when the then-meditation consultant began mixing the seeds into snacks and beverages from her home in San Diego County, friends and family kept coming back for more.
“When I started talking to the growers of chia, wanting to know how I could help them become organic and plant more organic chia, the question kept coming up, 'Well, how much chia are you going to buy?'" she said. “It was in those conversations that I realized, that in order for there to be more organic chia in the world, and for folks to know more about chia, there was going to have to be a brand that would lead that renaissance, and that's how Mamma Chia was born."
Creating a business
In the summer of 2009 Hoffman began experimenting with organic chia formulas and recipes, before opening an office in Carlsbad, California.
“I had never started a business before, so LegalZoom was a perfect place to go," she said. “It let me take my vision for the company and make it a reality, legally."
Since that time, the business has been growing at an incredible pace. Mamma Chia did over one million in sales in its first year in operation, landing a local contract with Whole Foods in October of 2010 before going nationwide the following year. Today, its products can be found in Whole Foods as well as Safeway, Kroger, Albertsons, Walmart, Target, and many other health and grocery stores nationwide.
Fulfilling her vision
As in the very beginning, Hoffman's primary motivation remains to spread the health benefits that can be gained from this once-forgotten seed, so that others can enjoy the results she discovered for herself.
“If you have a vision, don't feel like you need to have all the answers and all the parts and all the pieces," she advises. “I encourage people, if they have a dream, to follow it, and trust that those resources will make themselves known when they're needed."
"We created an entirely new category of beverages," says Hoffman, and the market seems to agree. In April, Goldman Sachs published a report titled In Search of the Next Billion Dollar Beverage Brand that named Mamma Chia as one of eight beverage companies most likely to reach the billion dollar milestone, as well as one of three that is owned and operated independently. “It came as a complete surprise and delight to us to be named to that list, but it was beautiful recognition," she adds.
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