Shelly Jordan Afthim is the founder of Maine-based Gourmet Passionista, makers of healthy gourmet appetizers. She turned to cooking while recovering from a life-threatening heart condition. Afthim’s healthy chicken meatballs were declared a winner in the QVC Sprouts contest.
“The QVC Sprouts program helps small businesses break into the QVC marketplace,” stated Afthim. “Our meatballs were the first food product selected to compete in the contest.”
“QVC Sprouts is designed to foster new entrepreneurial ideas and nurture the growth and development of small businesses, entrepreneurs and inventors” said Martin Bispels, Vice President of Business Development at QVC. “The program allows QVC Sprouts to directly engage with customers to tell a compelling story about their product.”
The road to success was never deterred by Afthim’s health issues. In fact, they may have paved the way. In 2006, at the age of thirty-five, she tested positive for Lyme disease, the believed cause of Afthim’s heart problems.
“I was told I would need to have a defibrillator implanted in my heart to help me survive, as my heart function was severely limited. In the spring of 2007, the American Heart Association asked me to be the Survivor story of their annual Heart Walk,” recalls Afthim. “I spoke at several events, telling others about my ordeal, the challenges that I had, and encouraged women to take their health seriously and to pay attention to warning signs that I had not.”
After a second surgery to replace the defibrillator, which was recalled, Afthim focused on cooking, her health and her family. She was determined to prove the doctors wrong when they said her heart function would probably never improve.
Starting Gourmet Passionista was a way for Afthim to return to work doing something she loves. Her healthy chicken meatballs, created with one hundred percent all-white meat chicken, were a big hit with friends and family. Their encouragement prompted her to go to market with the product in three flavors inspired by chicken cordon bleu, buffalo chicken gorgonzola and chicken parmesan.
Without telling anyone, Afthim contacted QVC and learned soon after sending samples that she had been chosen to compete in the contest. Her Gourmet Passionista Chicken Meatball Sampler was chosen the winner through an online voting process limited to social media promotion. The potential exists to present her product during a live QVC broadcast.