Mary Waldner and Dale Rodrigues
Co-Founders, Mary's Gone Crackers
Mary Waldner and Dale Rodrigues are the co-founder of Mary’s Gone Crackers, a line of gluten-free snacks that she developed after her long struggle with Celiac Disease. Mary’s journey to starting the company, which she did alongside her husband, Dale, is an extraordinary one. Mary comes from a background in clinical psychology, and for 26 years, she had a successful practice as a family therapist. In 1994 at the age of 43, she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley; staples in many American snacks. A self-described “creative baker,” Mary started making her own snacks at home from the type of ingredients that she could tolerate. She was motivated by the lack of tasty and nutritious products on the market at the time. After several years of tinkering, she hit on a recipe for a crispy cracker made from brown rice, quinoa, and seeds. She knew she had a marketable product because whenever she brought the crackers out so she had something to eat, friends and family would snack on them, and they began asking her to make batches for them.
Mary and her husband decided to officially incorporate Mary’s Gone Crackers in 2004, after five years of carefully solidifying the manufacturing process and their business plan. Since they got off the ground, the company has made great strides. What began as a product for the gluten-intolerant community has become a household brand. Their products have expanded beyond crackers to include cookies and pretzel sticks, and are sold widely across the United States, Canada, and Australia. The company has been recognized as a leader in the gluten-free space, having been on the forefront of developing tasty foods for a previously overlooked part of the population.
Rodrigues strives to operate at the highest level of truth and integrity that he’s capable of understanding at any point in time, and he likes to state “that understanding is constantly evolving.” Unorthodox in his management style, he believes in empowering individuals by creating a safe, creative, and autonomous work environment. “No one gets punished for taking the risk of making a decision at Mary’s,” Rodrigues states, “because without risk there is no growth, no evolution.” He sees constraint in job descriptions, doesn’t like them or their definition. At Mary’s, it is everybody’s responsibility to assure the company is great, successful. “If you see something that needs fixing,” he tells his staff, “then it’s your job to fix it.” It is sometimes challenging to work at Mary’s, as Rodrigues sets high standards: “We strive to start at ‘excellent’ and then go up from there.”