The Gluten Free Expo: Excitement in Canada
The Gluten Free Expo: Excitement in Canada, By Lisa Cantkier
Last year, Margaret Dron opened the doors to her first expo in Vancouver and waited for the response. It turned out to be all the rage for the gluten-intolerant of British Columbia. With over 40 vendors offering products and thousands of attendees, her sold out event took off like a rocket, with samples flying off the tables within the first two hours.
On September 30, Margaret plans to do it all again, and she promises her expo will be even bigger and better! This time in “The Big Smoke” (Toronto), Margaret has several high profile experts filling her guest speaker spots. She has also more than doubled the number of exhibitors, with over 100 fabulous gluten-free companies showcasing their goods.
With plans to expand The Gluten Free Expo to cities across the country, this is just the beginning. Margaret’s schedule for 2013 already includes three large expos, with locations in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary!
I was given the opportunity to interview Margaret, Founder and Event Manager of The Gluten Free Expo, to discuss her expos and what they mean for the community.
Please share a bit about yourself. What is your professional background, and what inspired you to create The Gluten Free Expo?
My professional background is in marketing and communications. Having spent 11 years working for a number of global corporations, I secretly dreamed of working for myself. That came to fruition when a close friend of mine became diagnosed with celiac disease. It opened my eyes to gluten-free living. After a lot of research, I decided to try going gluten free myself for a few weeks and found that it left me feeling amazing. There was no turning back! However, finding products that I loved was challenging, so I decided to create the Expo to help make living gluten free easy and fun for those who share in or are curious about a gluten-free lifestyle.
Why a Canadian expo?
I’m Canadian and love the idea of helping expand the gluten-free market and awareness in my own backyard!
How many vendors and visitors were at your first expo in Vancouver last year? What was the response like?
Last year’s Gluten Free Expo was a “soft launch” for us to get the processes in place and fine-tuned for our attendees. We had 45 exhibitors, 2 fantastic speakers and well over 3,000 attendees come through the door. It was like a gluten-free party!
What can people expect from your upcoming Toronto expo (and will there be any surprises)?
Expect to smile! This year we plan to more than double the exhibit hall and have brought in more amazing speakers and over 100 fantastic gluten-free companies eager to share their products. In addition to enjoying a place to sample, buy and learn about gluten-free products, we’ve worked hard to provide sessions with amazing chefs like TV host Kathy Smart, and author Victoria Yeh – at no additional cost to attendees. We’re also working with some exhibiting companies to help provide product discounts to attendees that are exclusive to the Gluten Free Expo. Sign up for our newsletter for insider information on special show surprises and prizes!
How much expansion do you foresee in terms of new cities?
We’re leaving that up to the community! If enough people want us there, we will work hard to make it happen. Every month, we look at our Facebook page and see which cities the most people “liked” us from. So if you want to see an expo in your city, please “like” our Facebook page. We’d love to come visit!
What sets your expo apart from other expos?
There are two main things that set us apart from other expos. For starters, we’re very passionate about providing education at no additional cost, as we want to help attendees learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. Secondly, our show works hard to provide a destination for those with all levels of gluten intolerance – from those with celiac disease to those who simply want to feel better by reducing their gluten intake. We’re here to support you.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the Expo, your career aspirations or gluten-free living?
The Gluten Free Expo is designed by the gluten-free community. After each show, we ask our attendees to share their feedback about what they liked and how we can improve. And 100% of that feedback has been incorporated into our upcoming shows. We are also developing additional resources and tools as a result. We’re here to support the community, and we want to create a community you are proud and excited to be a part of. If there’s something you’d like to see, please help make it happen by letting us know. If you’d like to stay informed about upcoming events and developments, please sign-up for our newsletter or Facebook page, and we’ll happily keep you informed.
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Lisa Cantkier is a certified teacher and freelance writer with a special interest in broadening her knowledge of nutrition. As a diagnosed celiac, she enjoys and excels at researching and writing about celiac disease and gluten-free living. She is the founder of GlutenFreeFind – a comprehensive, free gluten-free directory that is healthy living focused, easy-to-navigate and offers accessibility – gluten-free style! Visit GlutenFreeFind.com on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Photo credit: Tracey Kusiewicz