FROM REJECTION TO RECOGNITION - ALLERGY CAMPAIGNER JULIANNE PONAN AWARDED AN MBE
Allergy campaigner and award-winning businesswoman Julianne Ponan, founder of top 14 allergen free brand Creative Nature, has been awarded an MBE for services to business, exports and to people with allergies in the New Year’s Honours List.
Julianne, who lives with her husband Matthew in Walton-on-Thames, has had to keep the honour secret for several weeks.
“I am honoured and humbled to be recognised with the award of an MBE in the 2023 New Year’s Honours list – made exceptionally special as it is the first year of the awards under the reign of our new King.
“When the news came in, I couldn’t believe it, it didn’t seem real. Today I’m so thrilled to be counted among so many who have been honoured for their positive work to make our lives and our society better.”
She received the honour for the work she has done to educate others about the risks, dangers and realities of living with allergies and anaphylaxis. This has been recognised alongside her determination to run a successful top 14 allergen free snack business in the competitive food and drink sector.
Julianne has severe allergies herself, including being allergic to all tree nuts and peanuts. If she is exposed to even small traces of some allergens, she can go into anaphylactic shock, which can impact her breathing very quickly.
Allergies are rising globally, especially allergies to food, and particularly among children.
“Living with allergies in our society is not easy. People like me can feel isolated, excluded and humiliated when we need to ensure that what we eat or drink is safe for us – and that can include what others eat or drink around us. There are times when others feel it’s unfair that their ‘freedoms’ are curbed because someone with a severe allergy is in the room. I seek to change that narrative and to encourage a more inclusive and empathetic attitude to people like me,” she said.
Her passion for living well with allergies led to the founding of her company Creative Nature which specialises in snacks, baking mixes and superfoods, which are all free of the top 14 allergens. Now in its 11th year, Creative Nature sells products online, through major retailers across the UK and into over 16 countries around the world (Julianne is also an export champion for the Department of International Trade and helps other SMEs to explore exporting).
“My team and I create products that I can eat safely and I’m very passionate about that. People who have severe allergies often have few choices, especially when it comes to food on the go, eating out or going to parties or events. Frankly it’s exhausting when you have to worry about what is being eaten around you. Airplanes are particularly scary as you can’t just leave the room if you feel an allergic reaction starting!”
Julianne is not just an award-winning CEO of an award-winning company in the competitive food and drink sector. She’s also a campaigner around allergies – she’s an ambassador with the Anaphylaxis Campaign and also for MedicAlert, the first person to be chosen by the organisation as an ambassador in their history. For the latter, she raises awareness of medical jewellery to provide life-saving information to health professionals in an emergency.
“Very few people who have allergies wear a MedicAlert piece of jewellery – yet it could save their lives. To experience an emergency situation as an allergy sufferer and then find the medicine being given actually contains an allergen is a nightmare situation. This reduces that risk dramatically,” Julianne said.
Julianne will be one of only a small number of people with mixed ethnic heritage to receive an award. Her mum is Kenyan and her dad was originally from Guyana. Julianne has been outspoken in the past around the barriers in business faced by women of mixed race heritage, including the difficulties in securing investment.
She is also a speaker across the UK and the world, talking about her journey with allergies, running a small business and her experiences of isolation and humiliation from her school days right up to the present day.
To find out more about Julianne visit https://julianneponan.com/