Life. Love. Living. Marsha Hebert’s calls to action in providing her community and those across the country with her gluten- and dairy-free products. Her cooking skills, creativity and passion have convinced even die-hard junk-eaters that eating healthy tastes great and puts great into their bodies.
“You can eat an apple or you can transform it into a variety of no-guilt and delicious baked snacks – and that’s just with an apple.” she says. “My gluten-free recipes are exciting! Eat for Life by Marsha is about loving and living through healthy and tasty food choices.”
In 2021, during the pandemic, Marsha incorporated her proudly Canadian health and wellness startup Eat For Life by Marsha as an online business, but her additional dream of launching a physical store came true this past November in Kensington Village.
A one-stop shop, Eat For Life by Marsha carries nothing but gluten- and dairy-free ingredients and products, as well as ready-made meals and treats, with free local delivery. She has her own line of cookbooks and magazines, while her recipe packs are customized for one’s special dietary needs. Customers can cook with Marsha by getting recipe packs in advance to use in her virtual classes.
Hard work and entrepreneurial spirit
A member of the Board of the Canadian Celiac Association, Marsha made it her mission to help others when she was diagnosed with celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to eating gluten – a protein found in barley, rye and wheat. If the disease is left untreated, serious health complications can result. Eating foods without the protein improves one’s health considerably.
“When I came to Canada from Jamaica in 1985, I was diagnosed with anemia,” she says. “My adopted Canadian diet at age 12 affected my health. My struggle continued into my early 30s, until I discovered that anemia is a symptom of celiac disease. When I switched to a gluten- and dairy-free diet, my condition improved tremendously.”
Marsha attributes her youthful appearance and glowing skin to changes in diet. “My daughter Simone, who has different learning abilities, was also put on a gluten-free diet to feed her brain and it’s made a positive difference,” she says.
In 2017, Moncton, New Brunswick became Marsha’s gluten-free testing ground. “I chose Moncton because I learned that 67 per cent of the population was suffering from obesity—seniors especially,” she says. “I would go into homes and cook gluten-free meals for them and they were amazed at how much better they felt. I also started taking my gluten-free cookies to market and they were a hit.” This experience fueled her ambition to return to Calgary, her home, and start the online store to reach more people, while working at a day job.
Concerned about affordability for her clients, she continued to develop and share her recipes with wholesome ingredients and foodstuffs anyone anywhere could buy inexpensively at mainstream grocery stores. Additionally, she created different recipes with the same ingredients to save customers money.
What’s in a Name?
Marsha’s corporate background, along with courses to prepare her as a food mentor, honed her talent in reaching people. Even her name—Marsha—is an acronym that captures her philosophy, identity and distinct brand:
M for Motivation
A for Action
R for Results
S for Solutions
H for Happiness
A for Accountability
“For happiness, I ask new clients, ‘What’s your perfect life – your joy?’” she says. “I help them to visualize what’s attainable, to say yes to who they are, yes to solutions to celebrate one’s self. The goal is not to change the person, but to change the process towards better health and enjoy the journey.”
Growing with Calgary
“I love my city and country,” Marsha says. Identifying as a multicultural person, whose Jamaican background includes French and Portuguese, she was nevertheless shocked by the racism she experienced in her early years in Canada.
“When I eventually moved to Calgary in 1997, the racism was silent,” she says. “As a Black or multicultural person, I had to work twice as hard to prove myself and be recognized. Even when I started my online store, I always made sure I had a backup plan, in case I was let go from a job because of my colour. I had to check constantly on how I looked externally, which is tiresome, but I was determined not to let it get to me.”
Today, Marsha recognizes that diversity, equity and inclusion are top of mind in Calgary. She credits Black Lives Matter for advancing positive changes and Black History Month for promoting awareness. She appreciates the Calgary Chamber’s concerted efforts to embrace more people from other cultures. In terms of equity, “I’d like to see fewer restrictions on getting funding for small/new business owners who clearly contribute meaningfully to their community,” she says. “We need that leg-up to flourish.”
Besides opening a café, she is working on cookbooks as a seasonal venture and revitalizing her magazine for clients. She also plans to approach corporate businesses to include gluten-free options for workers and at events. “My long-term vision is to have a store and café in every Canadian city, with gluten-free foods that are accessible and affordable,” she says. “I’m pumped for 2023.”
To learn more about Marsha and her business, visit eatforlifebymarsha.com.