Surviving to Thriving: Founder of Cali’flour Foods Amy Lacey

The Californian entrepreneur and autoimmune activist on how changing her diet helped save her life.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Amy Lacey, the founder of Cali’flour Foods, was diagnosed with Lupus in 2010, becoming one of 50 million people suffering from an autoimmune disease in the United States. Prior to her diagnosis, her Friday evenings consisted of pizza and game nights with her family — but oftentimes, she’d wake up the next morning in pain. “It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Lupus that I learned I was suffering from flare-ups because of the food I was eating,” Lacey tells Thrive. Unwilling to sacrifice this special ritual, Lacey became committed to making a change that worked for her lifestyle. And thus, her flavorful cauliflower crusts were born. 

Here, Lacey shares how she went from surviving to thriving — opening up about everything from how she overcame a debilitating health diagnosis to the five pillars that are essential to her personal and business success. 

Thrive Global: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell us a bit about your story? 

Amy Lacey: I was about to turn 40-years-old and had just had my third child. I was struggling a lot and ended up developing a pulmonary embolism. The doctors ran a gamut of tests to determine if I had a blood clotting disorder, and that’s when they discovered I have an autoimmune disease, Lupus. This was such a hard time for me. I had a toddler that I couldn’t care for on my own. I couldn’t walk for nine months and was put on medications that had horrible side effects. I became very depressed, gained a lot of weight, and reached rock bottom when I had to send my youngest to stay with my in-laws for a couple of months. Naturally, I took this very hard and it was a very low time in my life as a mother and a wife. It was especially hard on my husband, who has a natural desire to help cure people, but couldn’t help his own wife. 

TG: How did you move from surviving to thriving?

AL: I spent a lot of time and energy researching, and hoping that I would gain knowledge of what I could do to heal myself through better food choices. It was then that I decided to turn my mess into a message. I knew that I wasn’t the only person out there experiencing these issues. I knew that I wasn’t the only person looking for healthy food alternatives. I began by eliminating all grains and heavy dairy. I knew I wanted to bring back our family pizza night, so I found a recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust that I just had to try. To be completely transparent, I have to say that my first attempt was a huge disaster —and that’s without considering the huge mess I made in our kitchen! But I was determined to figure this thing out. Finally, I was able to perfect the recipe and received 100% kid approval, which was a miracle in itself as my oldest son absolutely refused to eat veggies. 

TG: How has your life been impacted by this change you made? 

AL: My entire life has changed for the better. I was able to stop taking the medications that were originally prescribed to me, and my depression is gone. I’m able to have family pizza night again, and I can fully participate in the fun without having to worry about feeling bad the next day! Once I learned that I could use food as medicine, I knew I needed to pay it forward. I became certified as a life coach through the Martha Beck program. Here, I was able to coach others on how to take control of whatever issues they were facing and turn it into a positive experience! We started hosting a “healthy happy hour” where we would serve the cauliflower pizzas I created. After a few of these events, we noticed how much people enjoyed my recipe, so we took it to the farmers’ market and thus started the cauliflower pizza craze. There was a veggie crust available but not a cauliflower crust. This has been a very empowering experience. Being able to take control of my health was a huge blessing, and I’ve truly transformed my mess into a message. Now, I have a multimillion-dollar company that focuses on bringing the same healthy alternatives that changed my life to the dinner tables of others.

TG: Do the lessons you learned still resonate with you today?

AL: I learned so many different things during this process. First, I learned that western medicine may not always be the only answer to our problems. The prescriptions were not my only path to freedom. I learned that I had control over what I put into my body and got a better understanding of how each type of food affects me. I also learned that paying it forward and helping others gave me the natural high I needed to eliminate my depression. It was amazing to feel empowered to help others and make a true difference. Through this experience, I created a business that launched a new food product into the market that created a movement!  

Finally, the importance of reading labels. Just because something is marketed as a healthy option doesn’t mean it’s the right option for you. Read the labels and the ingredients list carefully. Learn what the different items are so that you can be confident in the food choices you’re making.

TG: What do you hope others can learn from your experience? 

AL: I live by the 5 P’s, and they’re great for anyone who’s looking to go from surviving to thriving in any aspect of their life:

  1. Pay it forward: It’s important to have a humble and giving heart; being other-centered, rather than self-centered. I truly believe that the more you give, the more you receive, and I’ve built my business around that mantra.
  2. Product: You must be passionate about your product in order to have the grit it takes to be successful. Building a business isn’t easy, and it’s not always fun. But if you have the determination, you’ll keep pushing through to the end. At Cali’flour Foods, we are so proud of the product we have made that we truly want it to be on every dinner table in America. It’s not for the money, it’s because it’s just plain good for you and we want to positively make an impact on lives! We use simple, fresh ingredients that satisfy people with autoimmune disorders, diabetes, dietary restrictions, and those who want to lose weight or simply eat healthier.
  3. People: I believe that people and relationships are some of the most precious gifts we have in this life. Surround yourself with like-minded people and build each other up! I take a lot of pride in hiring people that I believe are humble and hungry to make a difference. It is so important to have strong emotional intelligence. No one has time for drama. 
  4. Perseverance: When describing what it’s like to persevere as an entrepreneur and leader, I like to say, “There are a lot of highs and lows and not a lot in between.” It’s the best reminder for me to push through the lows because they are only temporary, and you must lean on the highs to carry you through those difficult times.
  5. Passion: If you are not 100% passionate about what you are doing, then move on. We are only here for a certain amount of time, so there is no reason to waste your time and energy on something you don’t love. You have to believe in yourself and be willing to chase your dreams. I chose to make a message out of my mess and look where it has gotten me. 

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