Karen Freer: Free Bread


Satiating a craving is logical: find it, obtain, and eat it. But after a 2007 diagnosis with celiac disease, Karen Freer desperately wanted a dinner roll and was without options.

Celiac is an autoimmune disorder in which the small intestine cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barely and rye. With Freer’s diagnosis came diet modifications, but she missed only one item. Freer found herself admiring bread bins at the grocery store thinking, “I just want one of those that I can have,” so she had to make her own.

Since Freer was conveniently between several jobs in finance, she had time to devote to her new project. Before incorporating Free Bread, her line of gluten-free, kosher bread, in June 2011, Freer had to perfect her craft.  In 2010, she started baking for parties and got rave reviews, even from gluten eaters, she said.

After raising about $15,000 in funding from Indiegogo, a crowd-funding platform similar to Kickstarter, and private donations, Freer started producing in January 2012. While Freer admits she was in over her head in a lot of aspects of her business—like choosing not to write a business plan, or seek the advice of a financial advisor—she is not apologetic about acting on her impulse.

“I could have saved a lot of money if I waited,” Freer said. “But I didn’t want to wait because I was afraid someone would do it first.”

Her three varieties of bread rolls– cranberry “cranny pep”, oat “moxy” and jalapeno cheddar “jalaa”– are sold on her website in different quantities starting at six for $15, and croutons, called “flops” for $8.75 per one-pound bag.

Freer recognizes that she is of the lucky and slimmer proportion of artisan food-startups not failing, as Free Bread is in fact, expanding. It supplies hamburger buns for several New York restaurants, like 5 Napkin Burger, and is available in three Manhattan Whole Foods locations.

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