Driven by Health: WholeMe

By Melissa Kjolsing

Sometimes you do everything right and still get the short end of the stick. About 12 years ago, Mary M. Kosir’s husband Michael was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. That’s not the kind you get because of bad habits — lack of exercise or poor diet. It’s the kind that manifests regardless of lifestyle.

Mary began reading up on autoimmune disease, and, in an act of marital solidarity, decided to eliminate grains from her diet. She says she began feeling healthier almost immediately. But it made snacking a lot more complicated — no granola bar here, rice cake there.

Mary experimented in the kitchen to create the perfect snack — grainless with nutrients that provided long-lasting energy, including good fats and natural ingredients — and one that helps to stabilize blood sugar.

She and friend Krista Steinbach founded WholeMe in 2013 and went to market with two all-natural, preservative-free bars and an almond-coconut cluster product about five years ago. The bars are currently not sold as the company focuses their efforts on the cluster line, which has recently been introduced in single-serve packaging. The company offers six other products, such as Cinnamon Banana Chip Clusters, and is working on a new product line to be released late next winter.

Kosir credits much of their success to a great partnership. Steinbach, with a background as a pastry chef, “is the introvert,” Kosir says, so she handles a lot of the behind-the-scenes work. “I’m the extrovert,” says Kosir — with 20 years at the Carlson School, the last 10 as assistant dean of the undergraduate program. 

Kosir says they plan to expand geographically this spring and hope to double revenue by the end of 2018.



Melissa Kjolsing is the director of the Minnesota Cup, an annual entrepreneur competition at the University of Minnesota.