In 1995, two friends connected through a mutual friend and had a delightful time together. They became Facebook friends when Facebook came out. Throughout the years, they “Liked” each other’s pictures, Kerry as a single woman working in New York City and Heather raising her family in Wichita as a working mom. They never saw each other again until fast forward 25 years, the summer of 2019.
That summer, Heather McDonough was taking her middle child to college, in New York City. She researched her network and reached out to Kerry Brown, the woman she had met many years ago, who she mostly knew via their short online interactions of support and smiley faces. They met up in NYC.
Coincidentally (or not!), Kerry had begun the AIP diet due to her challenges with autoimmune diseases. She had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (10 years prior) and recently, doctors had found a lump on her thyroid, thought to be cancerous. Her identical twin sister had discovered AIP through her journey with anxiety and panic attacks – and suggested Kerry give it a try. Meantime, Heather had become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and had undergone training to be an AIP coach. She had also done AIP, due to her struggles with Psoriatic Arthritis. Their reconnection introduced Kerry to a world of AIP recipes and products that made the AIP diet so much easier. They began to think – if they could come up with the right products and branding – perhaps they could create a company that could solve many of the challenges of being on a restrictive, restorative diet.
Heather had been an athlete all her life. She had always been active and into health. And her work background would be the perfect fit for driving the creation of new products for the business. Heather had created and managed a deli inside a health food store. She had launched and was currently running a Keto granola company. And, as mentioned, she had her NTP license and was an AIP-pro.
Kerry’s experience fit right into the other needs of the company. She had played Division 1 basketball at Davidson College and then worked with a brand naming company through her 20’s. She then went on to manage lululemon athletica’s US marketing for 8 years, during its largest period of growth. When she left lululemon, she launched and managed New York City’s largest and most luxurious hotel…for dogs. When she and Heather reconnected, she was on the hunt for what could be next.
As they spent months together in New York City while Heather’s daughter settled into school, the two women began spending time in their kitchens. Back and forth, with many failed attempts, Heather and Kerry explored a variety of product recipes to consider for a potential business. Finally, they landed on 3 cookie mix recipes with which they decided to launch.
It was now late Fall 2019, and they needed a name for the company. But there was so much to say– the mixes had such specific ingredients, they were restrictive, free of so many things–how could they say this in a way that was captivating, clear and unconfining? Then one night, as Kerry breastfed her 20-month-old in the dark closet of her New York City apartment (which was serving as her baby’s bedroom for the time), the idea of the G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. acronym came to her. An acronym allowed them to say everything they wanted to, while still being succinct. And when someone says, “that cookie mix is gangster”, it could only mean one thing–delicious.
From there, they each put in a small investment and bootstrapped their way to launch. January 15, 2020, just before Covid, they launched their new baby, eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R.