Cashing in on growing markets for boutique edibles and specialty drinks, these entrepreneurs have found plenty of happy customers for businesses that grew out of a desire to share a favorite food or drink on a small scale.
Wild Friends Nut Butter
is the brainchild of current students Keely Tollitson and Erika Welsh, who began selling flavored peanut butters in 2011 at a campus street fair. Popular from the start, their nut butters found even more success following an appearance on the reality show Shark Tank and plugs in O, the Oprah magazine. Now made in a factory rather than by hand, the nut butters are available in peanut, almond, and sunflower varieties, wherever fine butters are sold.
Red Duck Ketchup
Kurt Barajas, Karen Bonner ’13, Shannon Oliver ’13, and Jessica Zutz Hilbert met as MBA students at the Lundquist College of Business and are cofounders of Red Duck Ketchup. Offering three flavors, the ketchup is available at many stores in Oregon and Washington, via their website, and on restaurant tables in Eugene and beyond. Choose from classic, spicy, or curry flavors. You want fries with that?
Matt Choi ’11 started selling his homemade kimchi at Portland Farmers Market in 2011. Now his labor of love has grown into a burgeoning business, with four varieties of Choi’s Kimchi available at grocery stores in several Pacific Northwest cities. Kimchi, a traditional Korean fermented nosh made of vegetables and seasonings, is considered among the world’s healthiest foods. So many choices—napa, white napa, radish, white radish, cucumber, and baby bok choy.
Viking Braggot Company
Daniel McTavish ’12 and Addison Stern ’12 also met at the business school and are co-owners of Viking Braggot Company. Braggot is a beverage invented by Vikings that borrows elements of beer and mead (fermented honey). To date, Viking is the only braggot brewer in Eugene. Can we interest you in a Valhalla, Reverence, Valkyrie, or Battle Axe? Hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere.
Townshend’s Tea Company
grew out of a UO class project in 2002. The company now offers high-quality, loose-leaf tea in a “campus-style coffeehouse” environment in five locations in Oregon, Montana, and Washington. The chain is owned by Matt Thomas ’02, who also created Brew Dr. Kombucha, a fermented tea imbibed for medicinal purposes. His products are widely available in the region.
—By Jonathan Graham