OlyKraut is 15 Years Old!!!!
OlyKraut turns fifteen in September of 2023! Well time flies, sort of. Mostly as I think about this milestone, I’m very grateful to the many people and serendipitous events that have kept us going along the way. So please allow me to share with you some of the influential friends, supporters, co-conspirators, and organizations that have shaped OlyKraut into the business it is today.
In 2008, I founded OlyKraut with Summer Bock and Kai Tillman and we all shared a passion for fermented foods. Those early years wouldn't have been possible without each of our unique contributions. While I was diligently creating recipes and systems in the kitchen, Summer was teaching classes and spreading the word about the benefits of fermented foods, and Kai was coming up with recipes for our secret cafes, and getting OlyKraut out there to new venues. Together the magic of OlyKraut was sparked. While my co-founders both moved on to other projects after a couple of years, I'm grateful to the Olympia Universe for bringing us together when it mattered.
Now as far as sticking it out after about year 2, it would not have possible without our amazing employees! We have quite the list of brilliant folks who've spent time chopping cabbage or selling at the markets and we've been lucky enough to keep many of them around for several years. Some of our longest term employees have been Alexia Crousnillon, Nate Masse, Nein St Helens, Josh Hoey*, Iris Hilburger, Meghan Hintz, Zoe Knutson-Bradac*, Carley Mattern, Aletheia Larix, Domonique Juleon, and there are really too many to name. I just love our crew and I'm so glad they have been, or are still here! (*still here and going strong!!!)
We had a few very helpful community members along the way, like J. Kelly and Shaula Massena as well as our small group of investors in 2019. We are very grateful for your much needed support! No business is an island. :) And on that note, we are grateful for all the grants and awards we've won over the years, like our ten Good Food Awards, the University of Washington-Foster School of Business Business Plan Competition, Kitsap Bank Edg3 Fund, Eileen Fisher Woman Owned Business Grant, Business Impact Northwest Impact Pitch Competition, and the Rotary club of Olympia's Environmental Protection Award. Every time we are recognized we feel a huge vote of encouragement and reinforcement for the work that we do. We are also proud to be B-Corp Certified and are grateful to that community and the work they do. We completed the Enterprise for Equity program in Olympia in 2010 and got so much out of it and continue to draw on that experience, I have even enjoyed the opportunity to mentor some of their more recent participants – Oh the wheel of life…
Our biggest accomplishment is sticking to the goal of purchasing as much local produce as possible every year, and knowing that money is going directly into our local organic farms. That is exactly the economy that we want to be a part of and see thrive! As that was probably the most important goal and the one that has always been forefront in my mind, I’d say we’ve been pretty successful. (We could be a better capitalists, (but should we?) but when it comes to buying cabbages and making kraut? We rule.)
Each of the stores that carries OlyKraut and their employees who help customers find us are critical to our success, but none has had as much influence as the Olympia Food Co-op. They were our first grocery customer and continue to be one of our highest volume stores to date. What would we do without the co-op? I don't want to find out.
Thank you to all the current and past Board Members and advisors too (Shaula again, Piper Kapin, Willow Whitton, and Kendra James)! And now I really want to thank my partner, friends, and family for putting up with me and all the fermented madness that running this business entails. Thank you!
I honestly hadn’t thought through more than about a year or two when we started this thing and now I’ve had three people apply to work here in the last year who said in their cover letter “…I grew up eating OlyKraut…” !!!! (aside from making me feel rather old, this is really special and I love that OlyKraut is a part of people’s lives and those adult humans who might even work at the kraut factory now, are partially made of OlyKraut too. Kinda cool.)
There have been a lot of ups and downs but I’m pretty stoked that I’ve been able to make a healing food for the community while supporting regional farms and providing some jobs and generally keeping it real over here since 2008. Thank you to everybody for buying OlyKraut so we can keep making it and here’s to the next 15 years!
Verklempt with the ferments,
PS Over the next few months I'm going to try to post some blogs about why and how we do things over here at OlyKraut, so stay tuned!