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Women in Wellness: Making Gluten Free more accessible, with Vanessa Phillips from Feel Good Foods

I believe that people are here in order to make a bigger impact in the world — and with my book, ‘Make an Impact’, I had the chance to prove that hundreds of people are using their influence to improve other people’s lives. As the founder of the Health Bloggers Community, my mission is to support people […]


I believe that people are here in order to make a bigger impact in the world — and with my book, ‘Make an Impact’, I had the chance to prove that hundreds of people are using their influence to improve other people’s lives.

As the founder of the Health Bloggers Community, my mission is to support people with growing their passion into a business — and so many women are building businesses empires all over the world.

This series is a chance to spotlight some of these women.

“I put up an ad online and had like 20 orders after the first week, which grew to 50 orders a week after a lot of gluten-free bloggers started writing about this girl in the West Village delivering gluten-free lasagnas and my order count exploded.”

Vanessa Phillips


I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Phillips, Co-Founder of Feel Good Foods. Vanessa was a former restaurateur, managing partner, and founder of Friedman’s Restaurant at New York City’s historic Chelsea Market, before taking the leap to execute her dream of having her own gluten-free business.

After Vanessa’s celiac diagnosis led her to independently learning to navigate her gluten intolerance when it was not as mainstream as it is today, she began making gluten-free foods out of her studio apartment in Brooklyn and delivering them by bike. After establishing New York’s first and leading gluten-free restaurant, she wanted people to be able to take that food home with them.


Hi Vanessa, thank you so much for joining us. Would you please share with us how you got started with Feel Good Foods?

Growing up my favorite food to eat was Chinese. My parents had a lot of Chinese restaurants and ordered in a lot — I had overexposure to gluten products. I always used to say to my mom I thought I was allergic to something, but would always say “I don’t care what it is as long as I can keep eating these eggrolls.”

When I found out I was celiac, I was devastated Chinese food was no longer an option for me to eat. When I met Tryg, he also shared my love for Asian food. He had worked at Nobu, John George, Spice Market, it was a shared passion of ours. He asked me one day what foods I missed… then I listed off egg rolls, dumplings, and tempura, and he started cooking me dishes from his former restaurants, tweaking them to be gluten-free.

I felt bad for celiacs who are really hungry and miserable and didn’t have access to someone like Tryg day-to-day like I did.

While Tryg was at Balducci’s as their executive chef of prepared foods, I was in PR at the time. Still wanting to be involved in the food side of the food industry, I had done a trial run gluten free menu for my father’s restaurant- and the foods were met with rave reviews. One day someone had come into the restaurant, and the customer liked these lasagnas I made so much she asked if she could buy it in bulk to take home.

I put up an ad online and had like 20 orders after the first week, which grew to 50 orders a week after a lot of gluten-free bloggers started writing about this girl in the West Village delivering gluten-free lasagnas and my order count exploded.

I was living in a 450 sq ft studio apartment and realized it wasn’t economic, so I took down the add and regrouped, which is how the inspiration for Friedman’s came to be. However, I loved the idea of people serving my food in their homes and I never got over that idea…I knew that one day I would come back to that concept, but it was on the back burner while Tryg and I launched Friedman’s. Feel Good Foods was born from that. It’s Friedman’s but in a box.

Food takes us back to our favorite memories. It’s what we surround ourselves with when we are feeling joy or sadness. Being able to offer foods that people crave and want to indulge in, but in a “feel good” way, is the ultimate health and wellness gift we can give.

Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?

  1. I start each day, first thing in the morning, by nourishing my body with healthy foods.
  2. Positive thinking yields a more positive life. I believe that your thoughts can become your reality.
  3. Moving my body is the best release of negative energy. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or stressed I try to shake it out.

Early on, there were other CEOs and founders that I looked up to. I wanted to be just like them and didn’t even know them.

Today, a few of those influential people have become some of my closest friends and peers. It’s funny the things that we think are so far away and unfeasible can one day be our reality. No one/thing is really out of arms reach, especially when you believe that you are as good as the company that you wish to keep.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Underestimating the amount of capital it would take to successfully launch our business. Biggest lesson: finding people when you are pre-revenue to believe in your idea and put money behind it…it’s not an easy task.

When it comes to health and wellness, how are you helping people making a bigger impact in the world?

Food takes us back to our favorite memories. It’s what we surround ourselves with when we are feeling joy or sadness. Being able to offer foods that people crave and want to indulge in, but in a “feel good” way, is the ultimate health and wellness gift we can give.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

All it takes is one person believing in you and that person can open one door that can lead to another door…it becomes a domino effect.

Early in my career, when I knew I wanted to get into grocery stores but had no experience, I met someone who was previously a buyer for Whole Foods.

I sent him our products in a Ziploc bag with no packaging or a business roadmap and he was able to get me in front of the buyers, get the product accepted, and in turn launch our business. He believed in what we were doing before we even knew what we were doing.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The movement would be called “focus on the good”. Follow the good in your life, focus on it, relish in it, and you’ll be amazed at how good you feel.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We offer foods to people living with food allergies or autoimmune disorders. I know from experience that this way of life comes with a feeling of deprivation. Feel Good Foods centers around mealtime which is a time to gather and share with friends and family. We are bringing our customers joy through the foods that they have been missing.

What is your “Thing I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started”?

Don’t expect overnight results. Creating a sustainable and successful business is like running a marathon…it takes a long time and it is a journey. I wish I knew that because there are so many times when I have thought to myself “I should’ve made it by now.”

Do you have any “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would they be?

Fellow CEO and self-starter, Kendra Scott. I was recently at a conference where she spoke and I really respect her vulnerability and honesty about what it takes to not only be a woman in business but the challenges that come along with building a lifestyle brand.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Sustainability is a big one for me. From the foods I eat to the clothes that I wear, I live a life that is mindful of my consumer choices and the impact that they have on the world. It’s important for me to take into account where my products come from, trace back to their origin and understand who made it and what kind of benefit they reaped by providing me with that product. Educating ourselves on what people have to go through to feed our unrealistic consumerism habits/ways is extremely enlightening.

Are you looking to connect with Vanessa? Make sure to follow @feelgoodfoods on Instagram and check FeelGoodFoods website.


About the author:

Fab Giovanetti is a business mentor, published author, influencer-specialist, best known as the founder of the Health Bloggers Community and co-founder of the Register of Health and Wellness Influencers.

Serial start-up founder and professional troublemaker, she is obsessed with avocados and helping people making an impact in health and wellness. Sounds like you? Get daily tips on how to grow your influence via the HBC magazine.

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