(Left: Josette Johnson. Right: Josie’s Best Gluten Free Mixes | Photos courtesy of Josie’s Best Gluten Free Mixes)
Sisters resident Josie Johnson’s mastery of combining a pinch, a spoonful, a half cup and a cup of this, that and other healthy ingredients has resulted in a rewarding adventure.
She creates tasty baked goods to be enjoyed by others who are following gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and GMO-free diets.
Johnson is the CEO and founder of Josie’s Best Gluten Free Mixes that currently offers gluten-free pancake, waffle, crepe and muffin mixes.
It wasn’t until her first term at Whittier College in California that she began to suspect something wasn’t quite right with her diet. She grew up in a “foodie family,” and her dad, Russ Wohlers, was the chef at Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle. With the dorm food not being on par with her dad’s cooking, she found she was eating a lot of wheat products.
“I didn’t feel good and I was having migraines, bad skin and other issues,” she said. “I was eating toast all the time.”
When she returned home for holiday break, her parents’ concern for her health prompted her to see a doctor, and that’s when she learned she had a gluten intolerance.
That’s when she began to experiment with making her own gluten-free products. Laughing, she said she had a pantry with containers of different ingredients. It was her husband, Marty, who encouraged her to give one of her pancake mixtures to her dad, who in turn gave it to the owners of the Original Pancake House in Bend. She started selling her gluten-free products at the farmer’s markets in Sisters and Bend.
With the encouragement of her friends, family and loyal customers, she would visit grocery stores with an electric griddle and a pitcher of batter offering to make fresh pancakes for the store owner. Despite many strange looks and being turned away, a manager at Whole Foods gave her the go-ahead. Now her mixes are in stores across the U.S. including Market of Choice across Oregon, all the Whole Foods in the Pacific Northwest, Food4Less, Newport Ave. Market and Central Oregon Locavore. They can also be found online at josiesbestgf.com and Amazon. “We have seen explosive growth during the pandemic because people are baking again,” she said.
She’s grateful for the support and advice she has received from Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) Sisters manager Caprielle Foote-Lewis who guided her through the various steps of her business.
“EDCO provides the best free business advice you can get,” Johnson said. “Caprielle is incredibly helpful. She has been a wonderful sounding board for my ideas, and she wants to see me succeed.”
A busy mom with three young sons, Hudson, 7; Carson, 5 and Rowan, 2, Johnson said she often loads them up in her van to deliver products to stores. Her mixes are made in a “Top 8 Allergen Free Facility.”
“I do have a nanny twice a week, and I am grateful my office is next to my home. I can often open up the warehouse doors and watch my sons play outside while I work on getting packages ready to ship,” she said.
Johnson’s advice to anyone with their own ideas to start a business is to begin by waking up an hour earlier each morning. In the beginning, she said it was hard work especially with her young family and managing an equestrian family. Even though there were days she felt like she was pulling a wheelbarrow up a hill with a rope, she persevered because she wanted to provide a healthy and tasty product for others who are gluten intolerant.
“A new business takes work and it requires you to just keep going until you eventually get that one breakthrough that makes it all worth it,” she said.