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Food Producers Contribute to Communities to Change the World

By Lorrie Baumann

After wildfires devastated northern California’s wine country, Bellwether Farms was ready to help with a matching gift through its Bellwether Family_High-ResFarms Foundation. The wildfires have caused at least $3 billion in insured losses, according to the Los Angeles Times, which quoted state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who noted that the loss tally was likely to grow as more claims were reported by insurers. More than 40 people died in the fires, and about 15,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by the most destructive wildfire in California’s history.

The Bellwether Farms Foundation’s offer was a $25,000 dollar-for-dollar matching grant to provide a total of up to $50,000 to organizations providing direct assistance to northern California communities through food donations and support for recovery. Organizations receiving funds from the grant include the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

Bellwether Farms Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity, is in its first year of operations, set up by the Callahan family, owners of Bellwether Farms, which makes award-winning cheeses and yogurts in Sonoma County, California, to donate to charitable efforts, mostly related to hunger relief and food-related education for children. Callahan, the family-owned company’s Cheesemaker, says that the idea for the foundation came as he was reading about other companies that were actively seeking involvement with their communities and customers that went further than fundraising for causes in the moment. “Over the last couple of years, I was starting to think of ways to do a little more than just make cheese and yogurt,” he says. “We had always donated cheese and yogurt to local schools, the food bank, international organizations with local chapters — most of those were typically the smaller organizations that needed cheese for auctions at their main fundraising events.”

The Callahan family decided to pledge 1 percent of their sales to the foundation and then began figuring out how to get the money to the organizations working for causes they also wanted to support. They started by teaming up with the Whole Foods Foundation, which already had a mechanism in place to support better food options for children, which was a cause that the Callahans wanted to support. The Redwood Empire Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief organization serving north coastal California, from Sonoma County to the Oregon border, was another.

Bellwether Farms has also begun labeling its products with the Bellwether Farms Foundation’s mission statement. “We hope that people will think about these sorts of things when they shop and find ways to get involved,” Callahan said. “The package space is precious space, so I hope that the message there will be something that reaches the people who buy and enjoy Bellwether Farms products. … The food industry has to be part of the solution. We’re not going to solve the digital divide, but we can help with getting food to people and raising awareness about the problem.”

2016-Jennifer-Bice-Redwood-Hill-Farm-v2Not far up the highway from Bellwether Farms, Jennifer Bice, who sold her Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery to Swiss dairy company Emmi in 2015, has also been thinking about how her financial resources can make a greater impact on her community. This year, she started the Jennifer Bice Artisan Dairy/Cheesemaker Grant Award, which she intends to be a yearly award to a member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild who will use the money for creamery or farm infrastructure or for education that relates to improving farming or business practices. Bice, who will step down from overseeing day-to-day operations at the company in a few years, views the annual grant program as another form of succession planning to make sure that artisan cheesemaking will continue in her name even after she has retired to her goat dairy farm, which was not included in the sale. She is also giving regular cheesemaking workshops at her farm. “As I come into retirement, and I’ve enjoyed my business of raising dairy goats and making cheese, I wanted to find a way to mentor young and upcoming cheesemakers,” she says. “I’ll be retiring back to my farm, where I have 300 goats, chickens, an apple orchard, an olive grove, and a hopyard, so there’s a lot of work on a farm. I’m looking forward to being more of a farm girl.”

This year’s award recipient of the $10,000 gift, Erika McKenzie-Chapter, was chosen from a field of 10 proposals. “All of them were great prospects,” Bice says. “The recipient this year is a talented young cheesemaker. She makes beautiful farmstead cheese at her creamery, which is called Pennyroyal Farm.”

Pennyroyal Farm, home to more than 100 goats, was named for the wild pennyroyal mint that carpets the 60-acre farmstead and vineyard in Anderson Valley. McKenzie-Chapter began making farmstead goat cheese there in 2012, while her business partner, Sarah Bennett, oversees the vineyard, a flock of chickens, and a tasting room that sells their cheese and wine. McKenzie-Chapter is using the Bice grant to purchase equipment that will improve productivity and efficiency on the farm and allow for increased production of the Pennyroyal Farm cheeses. “Her process calls for treating the milk very gently, and this custom-built milk tank [purchased with the grant] will allow her to improve her efficiency while still handling the milk delicately,” Bice says. “She knows each of her goats by name, like I do in my herd.”

“In some ways, Erika reminds me of myself,” she adds. “It takes a lot of gumption to keep going with limited resources, but when you’re really passionate about your business and about your goats, that really resonates with people.”

Across the country in Maine, Aaron Anker, Chief Granola Officer of GrandyOats, thinks of having a greater impact on his community and the world around them both in terms of providing employment in a rural area of western Maine that doesn’t have a lot of other jobs to offer and by converting the company’s power source to solar energy as well. “We’re also partnering as much as we can with organizations like the Audubon Society and other land conservation organizations. I think it’s what feels right, so you do it,” he says. “Supporting environmental causes and local organizations has been part of our mission since the company started. We’ve always tried to help out. It’s not just a local thing – it’s also global, when you’re sourcing organic ingredients from around the world, it is essential that you’re not polluting those places.”

The company installed its 288 solar panels in the fall of 2015 while moving operations into an abandoned elementary school that had been a blight in the community. The solar panels went into the ball field where the youngsters used to play, and two years into their operation, the panels are creating more than 100,000 Kilowatt-hours of electricity, and the company is on track to power most of its facility from that output. “When we opened the school, we put in a higher efficiency cooling system, efficient ovens, electric forklifts. We removed all fossil fuels from the premises,” Anker says. “The idea that we’re going to change the world as one small company is true.”

While these companies started with businesses, Dignity Coconuts is a food business that started with a mission. The company started in 2010 as a nonprofit working in the Philippines on poverty and modern-day slavery, then turned to business as a way to help solve these social problems. “We asked, ‘What do you have that we can build a business around?’” says Dignity Vice President Erik Olson. “They said, ‘We have lots of coconuts.’”

Dignity went to work on building a business around coconuts and found a way to make a better coconut oil, avoiding the conventional cold press, which produces oil with a heavy coconut flavor and which belies its name by heating the oil to 160 degrees or more, according to Olson. “Most do not want every dish to taste like coconut,” he says. Dignity oil is produced from certified organic coconuts, using a centrifuge that spins the coconut cream to separate the oil. “We found this method produces a mild taste and smell and is a truly raw product you can’t get from other methods,” Olson says.

JPEG-03777The company sells the oil in 4-ounce jars that retail for $5.95 and 15-ounce jars that retail for $14.95. Lids of the jars are signed by members of the staff in the rural Philippines, and revenue from the sales is used to transform rural communities with high unemployment, few educational opportunities and a lack of clean drinking water. According to the company, workers are paid a fair wage, farmers are paid above-minimum prices for their coconuts, employees have ownership options, and the staff and management are always more than 50 percent women.

“It’s not going to stop here. We have structured our plan to make it reproducible. We are going to build more and more plants all over the world. There are plenty of coconuts to harvest out there!” the company says on its web site. “And it won’t be confined to coconuts. We want to go to communities and ask them what they have. Then we will build our business based on our values and their resources. We have a big dream for the future. Dignity is going to change the world.”

If You Can’t Find It at Willey’s Store, You Don’t Really Need It

By Lorrie Baumann

DSCN2007The Willey’s Store is as much a social and cultural hub for the small town of Greensboro, Vermont, as it is a country mercantile that stocks hardware and clothing as well as grocery staples and a selection of specialty foods that includes what Cheesemaker Mateo Kehler acknowledges as the best display of Jasper Hill cheeses in the country. The clothing, the hardware and the grocery staples appeal primarily to the community’s 600-700 full-time residents, while the fancier food adds to the joy of a summer house on the lake for the thousands of vacationers who flood into Greensboro every year between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Rob W. Hurst is the fifth-generation storekeeper at the Willey’s Store. “My grandmother was born in a room right above the cash registers,” he says.

His title has been President and Chairman of the Board since 2010, when he gave up his corporate job in the information technology department at Central Vermont Public Service to take over the store. “It’s what I wanted to do when I was younger,” he says of his decision to come home to Greensboro and mind the store. “Anyone I worked for when I was younger, I always told them that if I ever got a chance to come home, I would. Greensboro takes pride in the store, and Greensboro is growing at the same time.”

Greensboro began as a blockhouse along the Bayley Hazen Military Road, which was built by George Washington’s order in the anticipation that it might be needed if the Continental Army staged an invasion of Canada. Today, the name of that road has been memorialized by Bayley Hazen Blue, a Cellars of Jasper Hill cheese that was honored in 2014 as the “World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese” at the World Cheese Awards.

That cheese and others from Cellars at Jasper Hill, which also calls Greensboro home, are part of the array of local products that Hurst stocks in the grocery that fills most of Willey’s Store’s ground floor. Hardware occupies the remainder of the ground floor, and an upstairs level offers clothing. Willey’s Store is a True Value hardware store and also a proud member of Associated Grocers of New England, and if you can’t find what you were looking for at Willey’s Store, chances are good that you don’t really need it. “Our specialty is definitely local products, made in Vermont,” Hurst says. “This area is very economically depressed, so not only do I have to have the premium items; I also have to have the staple groceries for those who live year-round up here.”

Other local products include cow, goat and sheep milk cheeses by three or four other farms within a few miles of the store, fresh produce, milk, yogurt, honey, chicken, pork and beef, as well as baked goods from Connie’s Kitchen and Bien Fait Bakery, which is gaining a national following for its Christmas fruitcakes. “A lot of local folks will make wreaths for the Christmas season and we sell those. We have folks who have nurseries, so we get bouquets of flowers,” Hurst says. “Our local eggs fly out of here faster than we can get them in.”

“Some national brands probably got their beginning on our shelves,” he adds. “Local movement is particularly strong up here. A lot of local folks are motivated to buy here to help us keep going, and that’s probably a huge factor in why we’ve been here for so long.”

Summer tourists buy the Cellars at Jasper Hill cheeses, Willey’s Store t-shirts and sweatshirts, toiletries in travel sizes, charging cords and cables that might have been forgotten at home as well as the groceries for their meals while they’re staying in their rental homes. Very often, those folks come in knowing that they need to shop for dinner, but they don’t have a plan for what they’ll be cooking, so Hurst and his staff do some of their merchandising around simple menus that they can suggest to their customers – very nearly a home-grown meal kit proposition in which they’ll suggest a local protein first – whatever’s on special – and then follow up suggestions for the side dishes and the wine pairing – all to help shoppers come quickly to their purchasing decisions so they can clear the store efficiently and free up a parking space outside for another customer. “Much as a restaurant depends on turning tables, we have to manage parking,” Hurst says, explaining that Willey’s Store has a few parking places in front of the building and there’s a small public parking lot across the street that also serves other nearby shops and municipal services. “If someone comes in and spends hours at the library, that’s a parking space I don’t have.”

The heavy emphasis on locally produced products helps to support the rural community that’s dependent on the dollars spent by summer tourists. They come to Vermont to spend a week or two at a time in the lakeside houses that were once family summer camps and are now mostly rental units operated by extended families who live and work elsewhere. Those families, often adult brothers and sisters who grew up spending whole summers at their family camps on the shores of Caspian Lake, now often come back to Greensboro only for the few days in spring that are required to open up the houses for the summer season and then again in fall to shut them up for the winter, leaving the town to its 600 to 700 permanent residents.

In the summertime, the town’s population swells to 2,000 or more, doubling the amount of business that comes into Willey’s Store during the week. Hurst is hoping that Kehler’s community development dreams of creating a critical mass of artisanal cheesemaking will help create a vibrant year-round economy for the small town. “As the population of Greensboro grays, there are a lot of houses on the main street that are dark because they only come up for the summer. I need to have year-round customers,” Hurst says. “By staying local and trying to edge toward the $15 min wage, employees will be able to afford to live in the area, so that every light in every house is on year-round. I have it in the back of my head as a goal, but the reality is that I have to accept the resort town mentality to keep us going.”

Depending on the time of year, 30 to 45 employees keep his five cash registers running at the front of the store. Grocery Manager Steve Collier is the 117-year-old store’s longest-serving employee. “He’s been here for at least 25 years,” Hurst said. “People know him.” Hurst himself, now 46, is the fifth generation in his family to work in the store, where he’s sometimes known as “the new Rob,” since his father, also a Rob, still works at the store too. The family’s sixth generation, Hurst’s nieces, Nakaya and Bionca Samuel, are still in college, and it’s too soon yet to know if they’ll ever join the store’s staff, Hurst says. “They’re enjoying their early 20s – out and about,” he says. “They’re enjoying life, but I did the same thing – went off to college, and it wasn’t until I was in the early 40s before I came back here.”

After the Storm, Cooking Rebuilds Community

By Robin Mather

Those of us not living through it may think the storm itself is the worst, but those who went through Hurricanes Harvey and Irma know that recovery in the storm’s aftermath is much harder.

For kitchenware manufacturers and kitchenware retailers, however, there is a small solace: Your businesses directly help your customers to rebuild community at a time when community is desperately needed.

Bill and Eden Brown, who own Isle Cook in Key West, Florida, say that they were “on the easier side of the storm.” Still, Hurricane Irma devastated their community, leaving lots of downed trees and power lines down. The Browns were lucky enough to avoid damage to both their home and their business.

“However, I will say that as a small business owner, it’s been a real hardship for us,” Bill says. “We had to evacuate more than three weeks ago, and we reopened for business Sept. 26, but there aren’t any customers because everyone here is trying to rebuild their own businesses. It’s mostly locals walking around.”

Although officials have said U.S. 1 – the only road to Key West – is all clear and its bridges all cleared for safety, and Key West International Airport reopened Sept. 20 for commercial service, Bill says that he thinks that a lot of tourists who had trips planned are cancelling those plans “because this just isn’t what they were looking for on a vacation. Most of the hotels are still closed.”

But eventually, he says, Key West – famous for its laid-back attitude – will recover. “The community is looking to heal and come together again,” Bill says. “A lot of that is going to be around food.”

Out in Houston, Texas, where Hurricane Harvey caused massive flooding, the feeling’s the same, says Heida Thurlow, Founder and President of Chantal, the 40-year-old maker of cookware based in Houston.

“Fourteen of our employees and family members were directly affected by Hurricane Harvey,” she says. “And that’s not counting me – I was evacuated from my house by a Blackhawk helicopter and taken to a hotel in Sugarland, and then had to evacuate my hotel the next day. I had nothing – no wallet, no phone, no nothing — I was wearing shorts and flip-flops when I was evacuated.” Fortunately, Heida’s daughter, who lives in Austin, Texas, secured a hotel room for her by phone, and ultimately made the drive from Austin to evacuate her mother from the Sugarland hotel.

Some Chantal employees weren’t able to return to work immediately, she says, because the roads around their houses remained flooded. But among those who could report, many employees went out to pass out water and food, and to assist in recovery efforts.

“Our corporate headquarters were not affected by either high winds or flooding,” she says. But for employees who lost their homes or their cars or both, she says, the company has set up a donations program, providing gift cards to Lowe’s or Home Depot for rebuilding, and to Safeway.
“I couldn’t get back into my house for 10 days,” Heida says. “I had to use a little paddle boat to get up the street to my house, and when I opened the door, there was still four feet of water in the house. I lost most of my own furnishings, some parts of my house are completely destroyed, and I lost my beloved 14-year-old car.”

But her own losses aren’t so important to her, Heida explains.

“So many people have lost everything, so many people will have to replace everything – and yes, that includes cookware. But we are ‘Houston Strong,’ and we’ll put our new lives together.”

 

Making Customer Service a Cottage Industry

By Micah Cheek

Linda Kunz-Bayens, Owner of Cooking At The Cottage in Louisville, Kentucky, has made a name for her store by cultivating a kitchen class that is worth traveling for. The shop is best known for its cooking school, which draws students and date-night guests from hours away. “There are some other cooking classes in the area, and just recently we’ve had two new schools open up. Maybe when people are traveling for business, instead of sitting in a restaurant, they’ll seek out the classes that are going on around town,” says Kunz-Bayens. “They’ll learn something and maybe feel less alone or awkward getting dinner alone. It’s something they can feel like they fit right in doing.”

The school offers culinary education on everything from the cuisine of Sardegna to classics from Uzbekistan. Kunz-Bayens brings in local chefs who specialize in these cuisines. “We’re lucky we have a very diverse community. It’s just reaching out to different instructors, chefs, food truck operators, restaurateurs, whether they be big or small, for people to be able to experience the cuisine and decide if it’s something they like and ask some questions,” she says. “This way they can come and try five or six things, hear the backstory of the cuisine, and decide if that’s something they want to pursue making. And you’ve got the instructor there to say, ‘Here’s where you can source Vietnamese fish sauce,’ for instance.”

Fans of Cottage cooking classes come from all different walks of life. Some people save up to make a big trip to the store for classes, and some with more disposable income will make it a weekly event. Some customers will travel up to two hours to spend a weekend in Louisville that includes Cooking at the Cottage. Kunz-Bayens can count on regular customers to take up about half the seats for classes, the rest being strangers who are looking to try something new. “We have quite a number of gift card sales. People will give a cooking class as a gift for a wedding or holiday,” she says. “Maybe people who have come to date night want to come back and bring their friends or their bridge club, so they might come back with four more couples in tow. For some people, it’s part of their regular entertainment.”

By all measures, the classes at Cooking At The Cottage have been a success. Kunz-Bayens builds on that success to lure those students to become shoppers too. Kunz-Bayens runs the retail half of the store with a focus on good old-fashioned customer service. Exceeding the customer’s expectations is the name of the game for Cooking At The Cottage. “We’re willing to box or do whatever a customer needs, and if we have that product in our classroom we’re happy to get it out and let them play with it,” says Kunz-Bayens. “Unless it’s something critical, if they need a certain size baking pan and we don’t have it, we’ll say, ‘Here, take this home and bring it back when yours comes in.’ I haven’t had any problem with that. I guess there has to be trust. They just leave their name and number. I think all of us hear all the negative things about people and it starts to change their view. People are amazed when you do something nice for them.”

To keep prices competitive, Kunz-Bayens leans toward hard-to-find items and buys in bulk. “Our solution to that is to cross-market them in the store and with cooking classes, and then also to offer them at the lowest price the manufacturers will allow, rather than having sales,” says Kunz-Bayens. “Obviously you have to sell quite a few more than you would if you were doing MSRP, but people have learned to trust us. I’m hoping to build their confidence over time, so they don’t have to constantly be price shopping. Just because we’re a small independent doesn’t mean we’ll be priced higher.”

When organizing and reorganizing the Cottage, Kunz-Bayens pays special attention to how repeat customers will feel on their walk around the store. “You go to a store and you know where something is, and then they move it someplace. A lot of times I’ll give up and leave instead of seeking it out,” says Kunz-Bayens. “None of us have the time that we once did, we’re trying to spend it wisely. If you’re in a hurry, that might not be the time you want to look around and see what’s there.”

Cooking At The Cottage also exceeds customer expectations with an in-depth newsletter. “We send a cooking newsletter out twice a month by email. It has recipes and techniques, as well as cooking class times,” says Kunz-Bayens. “Instead of just saying, ‘Here’s the pots we’re selling today,’ that’s just another person pushing stuff. But when you’re giving them something, they look forward to it. We send close to 12,000 out twice a month, and these are not lists that we’ve bought; these are people who have asked to receive it. The average open rate is 25 to 28 percent. It’s giving people something they would enjoy, and want to hold onto instead of just trying to sell them more stuff.”

For the future, Kunz-Bayens wants to make changes on multiple fronts. Bringing attention to the retail side of the business is a priority. “We’re more cooking school with a retail shop. A lot of people have no idea that we have retail products in the store,” she says. “So [we are] educating people that we’re both, and that one doesn’t diminish the other.” Kunz-Bayens also wants to build up the digital storefront, saying that the Cooking At The Cottage website and is due for an overhaul. “I think there might be three or four little videos of products that people have tried and recommend – we need to amp up the social media presence,” she says. “When you’re working with a small staff, it’s a matter of finding someone to do it.”

Building Better Business All In A Faraday’s Work

by Micah Cheek

Faradays1Amid the constant growth and cultural shift of Austin, Texas, Tony and Melissa Curtis-Wellings haven’t hesitated to make big changes to Faraday’s Kitchen Store. Established in 2015, Faraday’s has become Austin’s largest kitchenware store by being able to rapidly adjust their approach to business.

“We pretty much do four categories: cookware, bakeware, knives and kitchen gadgets. We do also sell some high-end espresso makers, and we’re getting into the coffee market,” says Tony Curtis-Wellings, Co-Owner. “We also have a cooking school for home cooks.” The vast majority of the budget for advertising deals and classes used to go to more traditional media, but when Curtis-Wellings noticed diminishing returns on marketing, a change was in order. In the last year, Faraday’s took on a dynamic shift in advertising the store. “Last year was the first year that we flip-flopped our marketing budget. We spent 10 percent through traditional channels and 90 percent online,” says Curtis-Wellings. “Pretty much after last July, our marketing direction completely changed. I think we were about a year behind on doing it.” But before they were able to make the switch, the company had to build the infrastructure that would make the digital magic happen. “We invested heavily in technology during 2016. We updated everything to be mobile-ready. “We had to make sure the technology behind the scenes was ready to manage it,” says Curtis-Wellings. That meant upgrading their website, forming a robust social media program, and refining the online point of sale options. Along with targeted ads, Faraday’s puts out media through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. Facebook and Twitter posts are put more focus on events, while the Instagram posts intersperse events with highlighted individual products in stock. Faraday’s posts most of its deals with identical text and images on all platforms to make sure the message reaches as many groups as possible. While it’s early in the life of Faraday’s digital marketing, it seems to already be paying off. “I think it allows us to stay in front of our customers better,” Curtis-Wellings adds.

Much of the online advertising is taking the form of carefully crafted lifestyle images of many products and ingredients in use. Everything revolves around the experience rather than the product by itself. A pot or slow cooker now always has an image with a person in the picture using it to cook, for example. “As soon as you offer lifestyle imagery online, people making chili, we’ve now become lifestyle merchandisers,” says Curtis-Wellings. “Instead of putting out imagery of products, there’s imagery of people using the products. That’s been a huge change that’s changed how we buy,” he adds. Curtis-Wellings has also taken great pains to make sure the lifestyle that is advertised online is reflected again when customers come into the store.

Faraday’s products are organized by task, rather than product category. A fan of fish will find everything they need bundled into one place. “We created a fish endcap with our partner, Zwilling. We’ve got [an image of] a chef fileting a fish above it, then we’ve got three shelves below this image. Our customers can now find a smoker, a smoking book and the wood chips to smoke with. On the next level, we’ve got a frying pan, fish rub and a fish spatula. If you’re going to bake fish, there’s everything you need for baking,” says Curtis-Wellings. “We’re creating the Blue Apron concept, everything you would need if you want to cook fish…. If we’re going to produce these great lifestyle images online, we can’t have a disconnect with in-store merchanting when they come inside.” And this system is starting to extend throughout the whole store. The bundling concept changed the layout significantly. “We tore down areas where we had all cookbooks together and all food together. The pancake mix is now with the pancake maker, to help the consumer know what they need to pick up,” says Curtis-Wellings. “We’ll have the Dutch oven, the cookbook, chili mix and the ladle there, and then imagery of it in use.”

Curtis-Wellings is also making a change with the companies he does business with. “The biggest challenge is that we’re downsizing our relationship with [some] manufacturers, because if manufacturers are putting everything online, they don’t need us. So we’re working with manufacturers that aren’t putting everything online.” Faraday’s is making a shift to stocking companies that consciously reach out to brick-and-mortar retailers that offer store-only products and benefits, as well as companies that advertise with the same visual language that the store promotes. And Curtis-Wellings hopes that more retailers pivot in this direction as well. “The biggest change I think we’re going to see is [asking], ‘What is their channel strategy? Do they have one?’ And then moving forward with manufacturers who have a marketing and channel strategy that works with us,” he adds.

Even though Austin is a foodie city, the weather presents a challenge to brick-and-mortar retailers. “We have two seasons; Hot, and Cooler. We do most of our business probably from October to April,” says Curtis-Wellings. To offset the loss of walking traffic from hundred-degree heat, Faradays offers summer cooking classes for kids. “We teach 30 kids a day for 12 weeks. Faraday’s camp does 15 kids in the morning and 15 in the afternoon. Ages range from seven to 10 in the morning, and then we do 11 to 15 in the afternoon,” says Curtis-Wellings. “Each week is a different theme, so each kid signs up for the week.”

“We have about 24 different chefs we contract with to do cooking classes every day. We do public classes, private classes, and team building. That’s about 20 percent of our business,” says Curtis-Wellings. But Faraday’s takes a step back when it comes to the classroom. “We completely outsource the cooking school. We contract them out to local chefs. The nice thing is, they pretty much come in and turn-key it with the help of a couple assistants,” says Curtis-Wellings. “Our role is the sales aspect of it. Our role is to go out and promote it and get the classes filled, and work with chefs to build a curriculum.” That leaves more Faraday’s staff available to take care of day to day operations. Curtis-Wellings also notes that their choice in chefs usually leans towards private chefs, because they have developed some communication skills that some cooks in the restaurant sector haven’t developed. “Once they get to the executive chef level, they can handle that,” he adds. While Faraday’s used to advertise to bring chefs in, they now operate mostly on referrals from chefs they already work with.

Faraday’s took on all these big changes to make sure they’re ready for this new market that Curtis-Wellings sees changing in the near future. “In the next 2 or 3 years, we’re going to really understand where we fit and the value we bring to our customers. It’s a really interesting time. It’s like the rise of Walmart years ago,” he says. “It’s time for everybody to step up their game and for Faraday’s to show our business partners what we’re capable of doing. We’re in an changing time and I think there’s a part for online, but there will always be a part for brick-and-mortar and that customer experience.”

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