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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

#17 Gail Becker

When Gail Becker spent 90 minutes preparing a gluten-free pizza for her sons, she knew there had to be a better way. The founder and chief executive of Encino-based Caulipower is always striving for a healthier, more nutritious meal. Her sons, Joshua and Eli, were diagnosed with Celiac disease at a time when grocery chains and restaurants were less than accommodating. “I really had the chance to watch the industry grow, and I began to notice over the years that they were putting a lot of junk in gluten-free food to make it taste better,” said Becker. “I waited for the industry to do something and they never did.” For Becker, all signs pointed to taking the task on herself. “At the time, my father passed away, about three years ago now, and when he passed, something inside me changed. He was an immigrant, he came to this country with no money, no family, no job prospects – he didn’t even speak the language – and he built a small business,” explained Becker. “When he passed away, I realized that I wanted to do something more meaningful. I wanted to do something that was going to help people, and I wanted to follow in my father’s entrepreneurial footsteps.” Becker has a background in marketing, with roughly 16 years under her belt at Edelman Inc. as president of strategic partnerships and global integration. Prior to Edelman, she served as vice president of communications for Warner Bros., director of communications for the Department of Health and Human Services, and press liaison to the Clinton/Gore campaign. Her experience working for large corporations and in the political world helped hone what sort of work environment she wanted for her 30-plus staff at Caulipower, an insight she feels is a trend among entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs. “It gets hard, hitting your head against that ceiling every so often. You take a look around and you say, ‘This isn’t how I want to come to work every day, or how I want to be treated, or spoken to,’ ” said Becker. “When you create your own business, you get to create the type of work environment that you want to work in.” She describes the work environment at Caulipower as open and collaborative, casual and friendly. Aesthetics and helpful people reflect her company style, with bright, white walls and garden-green furniture; a little company dog sporting a veggie bandana greets workers and visitors. “It encourages everybody to have a voice at the table,” she added. “You don’t need to pull a chair up to the front of the table, you’re already sitting there.” The relentlessly lighthearted outlook helps shape company culture too, Becker said. The dynamic helped the company power through rough patches while maintaining a positive, fun brand identity. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, we’re a bit irreverent, we have fun, we like to laugh and bring joy. Not all brands exude that,” added Becker. “We’re making food. What is more personal and enjoyable than food? When I worked at an agency, I worked for some pretty heavy industries and heavy topics – things that were not always full of joy.” Caulipower offers cauliflower-based pizza crust and tortillas along with pizza that includes gluten-free toppings. The company’s newest offering is a “veggie-forward” line of chicken tenders, one spicy and one regular, made with Naked Truth Premium Chicken. Caulipower stacks up well with other pizza brands in the United States, coming in at number eight out of 500, at least according to SPINS data. For Becker, the numbers show that Caulipower’s market extends far beyond those with dietary restrictions. “We don’t market ourselves as gluten-free pizza. We market it as a great tasting pizza that is better for you and happens to be gluten-free. I think everybody in that category is our consumer,” she added. “The whole notion of it is everybody can eat the same thing, no matter what your reason for eating it is.” Caulipower is in grocery chains like Ralphs and Whole Foods, and partners with restaurants to provide a healthier option when dining out; Chuck-E-Cheese is the latest to carry Cauliflower products. “I remember taking the boys there when they were little. If one of their friends would have a birthday party there, they couldn’t eat anything,” explained Becker. “I knew companies this size, when I started, usually don’t go into food service, but it was really important to me. As hard as it was to get things for them at home, it was 10 times harder out in the world.”

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