Our (2nd Annual) Founders’ Dinner

LaurelhurstMarket

As anyone familiar with Wild Friends might imagine, Erika and I spend a LOT of time together.

Not only is Erika my best friend, business partner, running buddy and (basically) adopted sister, but she is also my roommate. We’ve lived, worked, exercised, and socialized side-by-side pretty much non-stop for the past five years.  So… we know each other pretty darn well by now.

Lots of people compare business partnership to a sort of marriage — and they wouldn’t be too far off the money. It’s absolutely a committed, complex, relationship. Anyone who has ever started a business or worked on an extended project with one other person can understand the myriad of complications involved.

One of the questions Erika and I get asked most often is how we have remained best friends while also juggling these other shared roles.

It’s not easy. We’ve had our ups and downs. But, ultimately, what’s been the key to our success is the same thing that an old married couple might tell you: maintaining great communication.

It is so important that both Erika and I stay excited and passionate about the business — that our dreams for the company and our dreams for ourselves are expressed and aligned. When we forget the big picture, it’s all too easy to get lost in the day to day boredom of our separate tasks and phone calls. That’s when our little frustrations filter to the top, and (as our friends and families can attest) when our “old married couple” bickering rises in frequency.

This is why I love our new yearly tradition of a “Founders’ Dinner” (which we kicked off last year in style at Ox, here in Portland). Of course, we love any excuse to go out to a fancy dinner (that Meals and Entertainment section on our balance sheet was looking a little low anyways, right?), but above all, it’s a really good feeling to be out with my best friend, talking about the business we started together. Just like the good old days, when it was just the two of us and a couple food processors, and we could spend hours just chatting about our big hopes and dreams. No to-do lists or cash flow discussions or meeting agendas, just a great conversation.

This year for our 2nd Annual Founders’ Dinner, we headed down the delicious, carnivorous route yet again — this time to Laurelhurst Market. In between bites of amazing deviled eggs, sautéed collard greens, clams, steak and a glass (or two) of wine, we talked about all kinds of things (I’d be lying if I said we stuck completely to the realm of business… we are best friends too, after all!), but, most importantly, had a big-picture conversation about our company.

Wild Friends is going through some major transitions right now, and Erika and I are also making some big leaps personally as well. Taking the time to get on the same page, get excited for the year, reflect on how far we’ve come, and talk about next steps together is so fun — and it reminds me why we’re on this crazy adventure in the first place.

Real Talk: Starting a Peanut Butter Company

KeeleyT_PeanutButter

There are some things nobody tells you when you start a peanut butter company. Or, at least, nobody told us. So.. just in case you’re thinking of trying it out, here’s some real talk.

First, the most basic thing of all: you’ll have sell some peanut butter. You probably already knew that…

See, we were so fixated with getting our product on shelves, we sort of forgot what would happen once we got through the web of UPC codes and Nutrition Facts and store managers. But, all of a sudden, we had jars on shelves and we wanted them to go home with customers.

If you want to sell a lot of peanut butter, you have to convince customers that your peanut butter is delicious. The best way to do that? Give them lots and lots of samples on tiny little spoons. Oh yeah — you’ll have to buy a lot of tiny little spoons.

You’ll also need to buy sensible standing shoes, and probably a scarf, too, because sometimes the peanut butter aisle is really close to the refrigerated section.

Sometimes, a store manager will suggest that you sample directly next to the donut case. Maybe you’ll exercise really good self restraint for the next three hours. Or, maybe you’ll take a really big bite of a particularly well frosted maple bar… and then throw it away. That’s crazy, I know… but a few hours spent in a grocery store can make a person crazy.

You’ll definitely have to pick a favorite flavor, because people will want to know which flavor is your favorite. You can keep the same favorite… or maybe you change it every single time you sample. Whatever makes sampling a little more interesting is absolutely necessary.

You’ll probably end up flying to Austin, Texas, just for the day, to meet with the grocery megapower that is Whole Foods. Then your meeting might run late… and then you’ll miss your flight home. Whoops. You’ll head to a hotel and then sleep in the clothes you wore to the meeting (a dress… is also sort of a nightgown, right?).

You might end up in a plane, a car, and a ferry boat, all in 24 hours. Everywhere you go, your peanut butter jars and sampling spoons go too. Also, your best friend… which is kind of awesome.

Yeah.. it’s kind of a crazy life. If you decide to go start a peanut butter company, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

But here’s the craziest part… the most important part that nobody told us: It’s all totally worth it.