It can be defined in different ways, depending on the creator and the consumer. We talked to six young alumni who have created their own definitions of feel-good food, whether it’s workout fuel or gourmet sweet treats made from fresh ingredients. These entrepreneurs have filled us up with their stories, advice, and even what’s in their refrigerators (lots of condiments, it turns out!).
Although each innovator had an appetite to make food with simple ingredients, none had previous experience running a food business.
Several are “ultralight start-ups,” founded with very little out-of-pocket capital and growing from what the business generates on its own. Most use locally sourced ingredients. Some are picking up on current trends, like food trucks or going gluten-free. All of them have taken what seemed like a crazy idea and found a taste of success.
BY ALETA MAYNE
Frava’s story begins at Colgate. It was spring 2010 finals week, and like every other student cramming for exams, Evan Berman ’10 needed his caffeine fix. It was too hot to drink coffee, though, and he’d never enjoyed the bitter taste. Energy drinks were off the table because Berman didn’t want a carbonated beverage in the morning. Plus, “I didn’t like the health consequences associated with ingredients I couldn’t pronounce,” he said. Berman had his “aha moment” while sipping juice one morning. He then built on it during a brainstorming session with classmate Geoff Karas ’10 and Chloe Goldman (a Cornell student who was Karas’s girlfriend) as the trio studied in the Coop. In the frisson, fruit met java. And fruit + java = Frava.
But, Berman hadn’t set out to become an entrepreneur and, as his parents were telling him, he needed to “get a job” after graduation. So the idea for the drink was put on the shelf as the economics major secured an accounting position with Deloitte and Touche. However, working in finance wasn’t quenching Berman’s thirst; he still wanted to pursue his beverage brainstorm. Through networking, he arranged a meeting with a bottling plant owner, who liked the drink concept enough to introduce Berman to a scientist at Arizona Iced Tea. The scientist agreed to start testing concoctions if Berman put down a retainer fee. Berman had some savings from selling sunglasses at New York City street fairs on the weekends in college, so he invested $5,000 to get things flowing. Karas and Goldman were also initial investors and co-founders.
The Frava formula required some finessing. “The first time, it was so bad,” joked Berman, who tested the various formulas with a small group of friends and family. He told the scientist what he did like — “which wasn’t much” — as well as what he disliked. Iteration after iteration finally led to a drink that tickled Berman’s tastebuds. Focus groups finalized the process.
The end product comes in four flavors, contains 40 percent fruit juice, and is boosted with natural caffeine from green coffee beans. The natural caffeine is healthier and less likely to cause crashes than its synthetic counterpart that is used in other energy drinks. One 8-ounce serving of Frava contains 100 milligrams of caffeine, which is roughly equivalent to a generic brewed cup of coffee. Because green coffee beans are unroasted, the drink tastes like fruit juice but has the kick of java.
Pouring out his remaining sunglass-venture savings, Berman hired a brand agency and created a website. He then found an investment partner in Howie Weinstein of Hunters Point Investors, who provided the capital and logistics to help launch Frava in January 2013. “The next thing I knew, I had quit my job,” Berman recalled.
Frava soon attracted the attention of Drink King (run by the former CEO of Snapple), which now distributes the drink in New York City’s five boroughs and New Jersey. At press time, Berman was finalizing a deal with a large Midwest distributor.
Employing seven full-timers, several temps, and a number of interns (including a bunch of Colgate students), Frava is all about keeping the company brand young, fun, and slightly irreverent — take its “F Your Life” and “Give an F” charity campaigns, for example. Alex Portin ’12, one of Berman’s first hires, leads the marketing efforts. He’s developed strategic partnerships that get Frava in the hands of teens and 20-somethings at events like skateboarding competitions and glow-in-the-dark dance parties, as well as the older crowd at the PGA Tour and charity functions. Portin and Berman have also gotten attention by using guerilla marketing campaigns. Last July, armed with megaphones, Super Soakers, and samples, the Frava team targeted trendy New Yorkers waiting in line for “cronuts,” a much-hyped donut-croissant crossbreed. The stunt landed Frava in a Wall Street Journal article.
|L to r: Evan Berman ’10, Alex Portin ’12, and Connor Feuille ’12
The drink also caught the attention of a fatigued Forbes reporter who reviewed the java juice when he happened upon a sample: “If there were a spectrum of ‘Most Painless Ways To Quickly and Efficiently Get Your Caffeine Fix,’ Frava would be a category leader.”
When Berman puts down his squirt gun, he acknowledges that underneath the fun is serious risk. “The consequences are real. If you make a mistake, it costs a tremendous amount of money. It could cost jobs. It could cost the actual success of the business,” he said. But, Berman is taking it all in stride and drinking in the experience.
Berman’s business advice: “You have to be willing to get kicked in the stomach, punched in the face, and get back up.”
In Berman’s refrigerator: “A ton of Frava, a bunch of Bud Lights, and some hard liquor in the freezer. I order in every night, so there’s some leftover Thai food and pizza.”
From seedling company to overnight success
People used to only associate “chia” with terracotta figurines like Garfield sporting a green Afro. But recently, chia seeds have sprouted up as a superfood in the health food hemisphere and gained a strong following. Leading the tribe are a couple of Colgate alumni.
“Chia seeds are the fastest-growing category in the whole-food world right now,” said Shane Emmett ’00, CEO of Health Warrior, which sells the seeds loosely in bags and in different varieties of its Chia Bars. Emmett’s claim is no exaggeration: his company alone grew 650 percent last year, having sold millions of bars.
The tiny seeds come from the Salvia hispanica plant, a member of the mint family that is native to Mexico and Guatemala. ABC News called 2013 “the year of the chia among the health conscious” — the 1-millimeter powerhouses are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein, as well as a portion of the recommended daily intake for calcium, phosphorus, and manganese. They can help with weight loss, reduce blood pressure, improve heart health, and combat diabetes.
Although one branch started in the ATO house at Colgate, Health Warrior’s roots trace all the way back to Aztec warriors, who ate chia for endurance in battle and hunting expeditions. Like their ancestors, today the Tarahumara Indians — touted as the greatest long-distance runners in the world — are also powered by chia, as Christopher McDougall wrote about in his 2009 bestseller Born to Run.
Emmett had read the book when it was first published. In 2010, he got a call about it from his fraternity brother Dan Gluck ’00 who, with his co-worker Nick Morris, had devoured the book and sought out the seeds. “At the time, nobody had heard of chia,” Gluck recalled. “We would go to [health food stores] asking for chia seeds and the employees looked at us like we were crazy.” So, the two fitness buffs and former college athletes found them online, started putting them on almost everything that went into their mouths, and noticed a difference in their workouts. The other difference they noticed, however, was in the product they were getting. Because the seeds were such a rarity, they would come in clear plastic bags with a personal thank you note. “The seeds had twigs and dirt in with them,” Gluck said. “It was kind of gross.”
Recognizing a business opportunity, Gluck knew he wanted to bring Emmett on board. Not only had they been tossing around business ideas since rooming together in ATO, but Emmett was fully immersed in the agriculture, health food, and real-food movements through his garden business United States of Food.
“There might be a really big opportunity here,” Emmett thought. “There are all these changes in the food world. There’s the diabesity (diabetes and obesity) crisis on one side, and then all these people working out like crazy and [getting into] the real-food movement.”
Emmett signed on as CEO, and he runs the company from their Richmond, Va., office. After working with him to devise the strategic direction and goals, Gluck and Morris — who kept their full-time jobs at a New York City hedge fund — entrusted Emmett with the day-to-day operations. They are still the largest owners of the company as well as advisory and board members.
Health Warrior got its first big break when, without their knowledge, a January 2012 Wall Street Journal article mentioned that NFL player Ray Rice was endorsing the seeds.
“All of a sudden, we were the number two selling item on all of Amazon,” Emmett recalled. They sold out of their inventory within a couple of days. That in itself was a learning experience: to prevent future supply chokes, they established partnerships with suppliers who grow chia in diversified locations — which also helps them avoid weather-related crop issues. Ever since, Health Warrior has been on a run. Their products are on the shelves of more than 1,300 stores, including Whole Foods nationwide, REI, Wegmans, and Stop & Shop.
Top: Dan Gluck ’00
Bottom: Shane Emmett ’00 and wife Julie
In addition to the five employees at the Richmond office, the company has three in New York City, including Shane’s brother, Casey Emmett ’08, who is one of the sales managers. Like their product, the Health Warrior headquarters is something out of the ordinary.
“Whenever we hire someone, they have to build their own desk, because we think that’s a good metaphor for life in a start-up,” Emmett explained. And because they consider themselves a lifestyle brand, kettlebells and a pull-up bar are on hand for workout breaks; employees are also encouraged to ride their bikes to work.
Although he’s tight-lipped about what Health Warrior is cultivating for 2014, Emmett was willing to share that “We’re making something that’s not really been thought of before, and it’s genuinely healthy and delicious.”
We’re curious to see the possibilities on the road ahead for this tribe of warriors.
Emmett’s business advice: “Do the right thing. That sounds simplistic, but there are a lot of hard choices to make in terms of how you deal with business partners and investors. There are times that might look like a gray area, but if you step back, there’s usually a right decision and a wrong decision. Being honest and always making that right decision will benefit you in the long run, even if it feels like you have to take some lumps in the short term.”
In Emmett’s refrigerator: “It’s chock-full of Chia 3.0 prototypes, Greek yogurt, almond milk, Rick Bayless Mexican sauces, champagne, corn tortillas, huge amounts of lettuce, and a lot of baby carrots.”
Gluck’s business advice: “Two key ingredients that I live by are passion and hard work. My dad told me if you do what you love, it won’t feel like work. He was spot-on. My high school yearbook quote was from football coach legend Vince Lombardi: ‘The difference between a successful person and others is not in lack of strength, not from a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.’ This quote means so much to me. The world is a competitive place and there is always someone out there who has less than you but wants what you have. Once someone gets complacent, they lose their edge.”
In Gluck’s refrigerator: “My fiancée and I don’t eat too much at home. But we keep the fridge stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables. Mika typically roasts vegetables she buys at the farmers’ market during the week and we will snack on those. Other staples include hot sauces, mustards, jams, fresh juice (to make our daily chia frescas), hummus, and yogurt.”
Sarah Stewart ’04 went from developing books for international children in their mother tongue to creating a frozen childhood treat for the tongue. Pop Nation, her Bay Area gourmet frozen pop business, raises the bar above the standard cherry and grape. Flavors like Blueberry Lemonade, Springtime Strawberry Pie, and PB&Fluff appeal to the child at heart, while others like Brandy Poached Pear, Viet Café, and Hibiscus Mint with Grapes make for a sophisticated dessert on a stick.
Stewart had been working for Room to Read — a nonprofit organization that publishes children’s books in 23 languages to improve literacy in Asia and Africa — when she decided in 2011 that it was time for something fresh.
“I’d always wanted to work in food,” explained Stewart, whose love of cooking stirred in her at a young age while spending time in her mom’s kitchen. Opening a food cart seemed like the simplest way to get started. When announcing her plan at a party, Stewart learned that her friends Anne and Mark McGinty had the same idea, so they partnered up. Meanwhile, Stewart’s brother, Tim, was driving across country in search of a California adventure. Having watched their dad, Bob Stewart ’73, work cohesively with their grandfather and uncle, Sarah was eager to bring Tim on board. Tim had been a cheese maker in Vermont and also credits their mother for his fascination with food.
The foursome decided to produce frozen gourmet pops — for their versatility and because they wanted to take advantage of California’s agricultural richness by using locally sourced produce.
Unbeknownst to their friends, dinner parties served as blind taste tests. “We were trying to get reactions without people knowing that we were considering going into business,” Stewart said. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, so they set up shop in a shared kitchen and started peddling their pops at farmer’s markets and from pushcarts on the streets of San Francisco.
In keeping with the goal of using locally sourced ingredients, Stewart — who handles the purchasing — has established close relationships with several Bay Area farmers. One day last year, the Pop Nation crew even picked their own strawberries (200 pounds in about an hour) for Strawberries ’n Cream with Basil pops when Eatwell Farm was short-staffed.
Sarah Stewart ’04 and husband Cameron Pittelkow ’05
Working in a shared kitchen was beneficial to Pop Nation in its infancy because it helped the business newbies to be surrounded by other food companies. But as Pop Nation grew, so did their needs. So, last March, they launched a Kickstarter microfinancing campaign to raise $50,000 for their own commercial kitchen and equipment. The funds came through, allowing for expansion. Now they’re pushing out between 5,000 to 6,000 pops a week, through direct distribution to about 20 stores locally, and at corporate catering events and weddings. At press time, Pop Nation was in the process of partnering with Dairy Delivery, a local distributor servicing more than 400 stores from Sacramento to Monterey, and the company was in talks with Whole Foods and other grocery chains.
All of their frozen treats are gluten-free and vegan, which comes as a surprise to customers hooked on their creamy Sea Salted Dark Chocolate pops, for example. They’re up to 85 gourmet flavors and counting.
“Thinking of new flavors has become an obsession,” Stewart said. “During fruit season, meals, dessert, and even drinks, we think, ‘OK, how do we turn this into a pop flavor?’” Her husband, Cameron Pittelkow ’05, “has probably tasted thousands of renditions of different pops,” she said.
When asked if any flavors have been a flop, Stewart answered: “Gazpacho. I thought it was tasty, but my brother told me it was like frozen salad dressing. I’m still convinced it can work.”
Watch Sarah Stewart ’04 talk about launching Pop Nation during Colgate’s Entrepreneur Weekend last spring
Stewart’s business advice: “Be flexible and open to hearing other people’s advice. Also, try to take a step back at times and ask: Are there things we need to change, and if so, what?”
In Stewart’s refrigerator: “I’ve been on vacation, so it’s pretty empty. I’ve got homemade beet pickles, kale, a lot of yogurt, and eggs. My husband brews his own beer, so one shelf is filled with beer. And I’m a big condiment fan, so I think the majority of the stuff in there is probably hot sauce.”
A healthy culture
A dare issued by his cousin took Hamilton Colwell ’01 from behind a trader’s desk to running a Greek yogurt company.
His cousin Abby had dietary restrictions during her pregnancy due to gestational diabetes, and she wanted Colwell to use his skills to make her a healthier yogurt (a staple in her diet). As a student, Colwell had researched the science behind food processing and had managed restaurants in his summers off. He accepted her challenge.
“I had a basic understanding of how to make yogurt, but I consulted a number of professionals and went online to learn as much about it as possible,” he said. Taking his newfound knowledge to the kitchen in his Manhattan apartment, Colwell worked with a simple yogurt culture and used a double boiler, heating pad, candy thermometer, and a beach towel to serve as an incubator. He passed the results out to his co-workers at JP Morgan. “They told me it was some of the best yogurt they’d ever had,” he recalled.
But Abby wasn’t only interested in the taste: she wanted a yogurt that combined prebiotics and probiotics, which are beneficial to the digestive system. Colwell enlisted the help of a registered dietician and consulted scientists at Cornell’s School of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The result is a probiotic Greek yogurt that is GMO-free and made from 100 percent grass-fed cow’s milk. There are a whopping 50 billion probiotics per cup — more than 50 times the number in each competitor’s cup.
The SUNY Morrisville Dairy Barn was where the yogurt got its start (they have a program to help emerging brands), and later Colwell found a dairy processor in central Pennsylvania to produce it on a mass scale.
He decided to call his product Maia yogurt after the Greek goddess of spring and rebirth. There are now six flavors and they’re experimenting with 16 others, with plans to release two in the fall and six in 2014. “Everything from a peach to a mango guanabana,” he said.
As Maia has grown from its 2010 launch when Colwell was running the company out of his parents’ basement to now gracing the shelves of major grocery stores in New England, he admitted that it’s been “a pretty steep learning curve” at times. “The hardest part is making enough product,” he said, adding that the biggest stores will sell 1,000 cups of Maia yogurt a day.
One of Colwell’s worst weeks was caused by a paucity of pineapple. He wasn’t able to sell that flavor while he waited for a 2-ton cargo container of pineapple to cross the ocean from Hawaii. “When you’re talking about a dynamic category like yogurt, which is much different than anything else in the food business, the grocery stores don’t want to wait for products,” Colwell explained. “It’s a very demanding environment.”
Hamilton Colwell '01, after a long night of production at the plant
With more and more kinds of Greek yogurt appearing on grocery shelves every day, Colwell has been building the Maia culture by personally putting it in the hands of consumers. At least once a week, he’ll make an appearance at grocery stores to give out samples and coupons.
“It’s been a long journey,” Colwell said. “Nothing can prepare you to grow a product in an exploding category.” Despite the challenges, it’s all worthwhile when Colwell reads the messages that arrive in his inbox and mailbox daily, from fans praising his yogurt for leading to weight loss, feeling healthier, and just simply craving the taste. “One woman e-mailed me this morning saying that she buys twenty cups of vanilla bean a week. Reading that, I had a smile ear to ear.”
Colwell’s business advice: “Always ensure that you have sufficient capital, especially when you’re looking to grow quicker. Cash is more important than your mother. (I love my mother, but without sufficient cash in a food start-up, or all the luck in the world, it is tough to win.)”
In Colwell’s refrigerator: “A week’s worth of Maia yogurt! Yes, I’m serious. Along with some vegetables, milk, leftovers, and a couple of beers.”
Watch Hamilton Colwell ’01 and other alumni Thought Into Action mentors discuss how Colgate prepares entrepreneurs to succeed.
“So this is what clouds taste like,” is how one Yelp reviewer described Pacific Puffs, a San Francisco–based cream puffery founded by Rhys Carvolth ’07 and his brother Trent. From classic sugar to coconut cream to fruit whip, their baked-fresh-daily puffs are making mouths happy.
Remember when cupcakes were all the rage? The Carvolth brothers were inspired by that trend, seeing it as an opportunity to leave their cubicles in the financial district and capitalize on their mother’s cherished cream puff recipe. When they told Mama Carvolth, though, she joked that the two of them had never cooked so much as a grilled cheese sandwich. Even so, she agreed to work with them to help perfect their puffs. And although the basic recipe is the same as the one for which she’d been praised at parties and special occasions, it took some creativity to quicken the process for mass production.
Rhys Carvolth ’07 (left) and his brother Trent
Remember when cupcakes were all the rage? The Carvolth brothers were inspired by that trend, seeing it as an opportunity to leave their cubicles in the financial district and capitalize on their mother’s cherished cream puff recipe. When they told Mama Carvolth, though, she joked that the two of them had never cooked so much as a grilled cheese sandwich. Even so, she agreed to work with them to help perfect their puffs. And although the basic recipe is the same as the one for which she’d been praised at parties and special occasions, it took some creativity to quicken the process for mass production.After developing a business plan, the brothers opened up a little shop on Union Street. On their opening day in July 2009, the 200 puffs they had baked that morning disappeared by 2 p.m. They locked their doors and posted a hand-written “Sold Out” sign. They continued to make a limited amount while they gained an understanding of their ingredient costs. “And it created a little buzz that we were selling out every day, so it was a marketing tactic as well,” Rhys said.
At first, Rhys kept his job at Dow Jones. He would awaken at 4 a.m., help Trent bake the cream puffs, head to his 9-to-5 while Trent worked at the shop, and then return to Union Street until 8 p.m. closing time.
“We didn’t take a salary to start,” Rhys explained. “We wanted to be very cautious because we honestly didn’t have any idea what we were doing and knew we were taking a big risk.” After six months, the brothers analyzed their profits and figured that Rhys could put in his two-week notice. And fortunately, “ever since, we’ve had steady growth,” he said.
Soon, they hopped on another trend in the culinary world: “We’d saved quite a bit of money, but not enough to open a whole other location,” Rhys recalled, “but we did have enough to start a food truck.” That was about two years ago, and the Puff Truck “took off.” In fact, running into double bookings, they immediately realized they needed a second one.
One of their strategic locations for the food trucks is feeding the hungry masses at Silicon Valley firms like Facebook, Apple, and Google. So, the Carvolth brothers decided to puff up their offerings and use the pastry as the basis for a sandwich (think crossaintwich). Pacific Puffs’ “savory” menu includes simple sandwiches with a gourmet twist, like the BLT with applewood smoked bacon, butter lettuce, heirloom tomato, and roasted garlic aioli.
The success of the trucks gave them the drive to open a second shop, which is a café that offers both their sweet and savory menu items. They sell anywhere from 800 to several thousand cream puffs a day, depending on catering and truck schedules. All of their ingredients are locally sourced, starting with a dairy company in Santa Rosa (where they grew up), to Golden Gate Meats.
For the first two years, it was Rhys and Trent exclusively working the kitchen, but the growth of Pacific Puffs has enabled them to get some help. They now have three part-time chefs and are hiring more. The brothers are “still heavily involved in the production,” said Rhys. “We’re there seven days a week, baking.”
The day the Scene caught up with Rhys, he was in his own kitchen, preparing for a big family dinner in honor of his mom’s birthday party. And for dessert? Cream puffs, of course.
Carvolth’s business advice: “Go for it. There’s never a better time than right now, especially for young entrepreneurs who don’t have the pressures of a mortgage or a family.”
In Carvolth’s refrigerator: “For dinner, I am making one of my favorite dishes, chicken balsamico. So, I have about ten chicken breasts marinating in balsamic. And then I have fresh pesto for pasta. Also, I have some cantaloupe, a six pack of Mendocino Red Tail Ale, a bottle of prosecco for celebrating tonight, some cucumbers, strawberries, eggs, bread, milk, lettuce. And I have basically the world’s largest condiment collection.”
GOOD NATURE BREWING
The hoppy couple
Carrie Blackmore ’08 is the queen of Madison County hops, and she even has a crown to prove it. Well, technically, it’s a straw hat, and her reign ended in September, but it’s fair to say that she and her husband, Matt Whalen, are putting forth a noble effort with Good Nature Brewing in Hamilton.
Top: Carrie Blackmore ’08
Bottom: Blackmore and husband Matt Whalen
Blackmore met Whalen at her first job out of college, at the North Country School, a day and boarding school in Lake Placid, N.Y. She was a history and German major who was hired to manage the gardens and teach garden-based educational programming; he was a trained chef working as assistant kitchen manager. The couple returned to the Hamilton area when her father, John Blackmore ’68, was at the end of a 10-year battle with a terminal illness. They initially thought the move would be temporary, but then settled down in the summer of 2010.
“We had to come up with a way to stay,” Blackmore explained. So, they set out to translate their experience with farm-to-table eating into farm-to-glass drinking by starting their own microbrewery.
Although Madison County was once one of the largest producers of the country’s hops, disease and Prohibition ended large-scale farming of the crop in the 1900s. Blackmore and Whalen joined the band of brewers, farmers, and agriculture advocates working to bring back the lost industry. Whalen had been home-brewing for a number of years, so he started developing recipes using hops grown by Foothill Farms in nearby Munnsville. They then found a farm in Canastota where they could buy barley.
They set out to create their business plan in the fall of 2010, consulting with local business development agencies and doing “a lot of homework” to gain the know-how they needed. Now, Blackmore is the business brains, while Whalen is the brewmaster.
Even though Blackmore focuses on the marketing, bookkeeping, and inner workings, she still lives and breathes beer. She is surprised that she never gets sick of suds, although early morning tastings can be hard to swallow.
“A lot of large breweries have equipment that will do the kinds of tests that we’re using our senses to do,” Blackmore explained. They check for off flavors, clarity (“because we don’t filter, time is our filter,” she said), and carbonation. “Every morning, we have our little tasting panel, and that’s sometimes challenging if I haven’t eaten breakfast yet or I’m still drinking my coffee.”
Good Nature’s award-winning ales (they offer about 10 on tap, plus bottles) change seasonally. The handcrafted beers are made with local ingredients, are unfiltered, and contain no artificial additives. She wouldn’t go as far as to say that their beer is a health food, but Blackmore pointed out that several ingredients in their brews are good for you: “Hops are really great for preserving bone density, and there are a lot of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins — a huge amount of B vitamins, especially in unfiltered beer. We don’t use any of the nasty stuff, so when you strip it down, it’s grains, herbs, and water.”
From the Finger Lakes to the Capital District, bars, restaurants, and specialty beer stores across New York are selling Good Nature brews. And this summer, Blackmore and Whalen opened up a tasting room on Broad Street in Hamilton, keeping their original location solely for brewing. A grant from Colgate’s new Entrepreneurs of NY Fund made that expansion much easier.
Although they had considered expanding their offerings to tapas (especially given Whalen’s chef-pertise), they didn’t want to compete with the local restaurants that serve their beer. So, instead, they have a menu board with delivery options ranging from the Royal India Grill, to La Iguana (Mexican), to the Hamilton Inn. “This is a small community with a limited number of customers,” Blackmore explained. “Collaborating with other businesses and highlighting what they do, that’s a win-win for everybody.” Good Nature also supports local artists by featuring live music nights.
That focus on the community has earned Blackmore and Whalen much respect. And it’s not something they’re taking lightly. Reflecting on her crowning at the 2012 Madison County Hops Fest, Blackmore said: “We were up there with some impressive people who’ve done important things for hops growing, agriculture, and small business [in the county]. To be honored was pretty cool, especially given that we hadn’t been doing it for that long. [The community] embraced us right away.”
Blackmore’s business advice: “I spent a lot of time second-guessing myself, at least early on. I’ve learned that gut instinct is fairly reliable.”
In Blackmore’s refrigerator: “At home, a lot of Belgian beer (we just got back from the Belgium Comes to Cooperstown beer festival) … and we just got our CSA share from Smitty’s Market Farm in Morrisville. But that’s pretty much it, besides a lot of condiments. At the brewery, we’ve got part of a pig. All of our grain goes to local farmers, so sometimes they’ll barter with us. One farmer just sold us an entire pig that was raised exclusively on pasture and our brewer’s grains — and it is delicious.”