Ground Up Turns Seven!

Ground Up Turns Seven!

We can't believe it's been SEVEN years since we started this little nut butter company. We started out making nut butter in small food processors in our kitchen (collecting payment via Venmo and hand-delivering)—driven by our conviction that some day this biz could be the vehicle for job training to womxn overcoming adversity (...but to be frank, a bit unclear on how and when that might happen.)


Seven years later, we have a team of 20+ womxn from all different backgrounds and walks of life working together to produce the *best* (yes, we said it!) nut butter. We've employed over 70 womxn through our training program in the last 7 years, transitioned through 3 different kitchen spaces, grew to over 600 stores, had moments of almost calling it quits on the business, and found joy in moments of celebration when one of our womxn graduated or got housing. It has been a ROLLER COASTER to say the least, but we're still here. Somehow thriving in spite of all that the last few years have thrown at us. (Thanks to all of our incredible customers and their continued support!)


In honor of our 7th birthday, we're reflecting on the milestones that got us to where we are today. We're also celebrating with a SALE for you (more on that here) and other fun birthday surprises!

A Look Back...



March 16, 2016: We signed our business agreement and got our biz officially formed as an LLC! We celebrated with champagne in an empty church basement... at the time, we hadn't thought of the name Ground Up so we were working with "Caro's Nut Butters." Julie's mom gifted us with a nicer (but still small) food processor, and we started cranking out nut butter.



March 23, 2016: We officially "launched" Ground Up with a tasting at our friend's food cart. (Shout out to Grace Shimer for the name inspiration!) Over 50 people came (which blew us away) and we used feedback from blind taste tests to determine which flavors would be permanently in our lineup.



July 2016: We secured our first commissary kitchen space! Our hours were 8 pm - 2 am on Sunday nights, and we had to pack everything in and out... BUT we weren't making nut butter in small batches in our homes any more!! (Although, we were still tediously hand-jarring and hand-writing the flavor name on each jar!) We would pay friends in nut butter to come work with us on Sunday nights, helping us hand jar. We never could have made it if we didn’t have the support of our incredible community!



August 2016: We started selling at our first farmer's market (South Waterfront) and also through pop-ups at local businesses. We also got into our first store—Made Here PDX! Julie quit her job to pursue GU full-time, and we soon brought on our first intern through Outside In.



December 2016: Our nut butters received THE WARMEST WELCOME at Portland Night Market and Crafty Wonderland. We had so much fun getting to know the community (who solidified our belief that this could really become something)!! We also started to get more online orders (which we packed in the back of Julie's car outside of the office where Caro was employed at the time.)






April 2017: Caro left her job in marketing to do Ground Up full-time. (Scary to have two of us on "payroll" when we hardly were making it, but it was the only way for the biz to grow!)


May 2017: We moved our kitchen production into a new home at the Redd—an incredible food hub for small food businesses. (We still had to pack in and pack out though, so Ground Up HQ was still officially in Julie’s garage!)



July 2017: We got into Market of Choice, New Seasons, and Whole Foods in Oregon! This was a huge boost of confidence—and great for local customers to now be able to buy us at the grocery store (instead of picking up orders at our homes or at events). These accounts may have initially told us "no," but Julie was persistent and didn't give up!


November 2017: We scrambled to fill a flood of online orders after The Oregonian featured us in their gift guide... all from Julie’s cold garage.




July 2018: Our first full pallet order shipped out of the Redd, on its way to Whole Foods in Washington—our first big out-of-state order! Meanwhile, our local orders were being delivered by tricycle through B-Line, a bike-powered delivery company that also operates out of the Redd.




August 2018: We landed our first cookbook deal! And didn’t leave the kitchen for the next 6 months while frantically recipe testing, writing and photographing.


September 2018: We hired our first Production Manager, Adrienne...which meant we were one step closer to getting out of the kitchen so that we could focus on other areas of the business.




March 2019: Got a deal with Burgerville to start using our nut butter in their milkshakes! We were initially included in their Almond Butter Milkshake, which was seasonal, but later in 2019 they decided to include our Hazelnut Butter in their Chocolate Hazelnut Shake. This was a GAME CHANGER for us and gave our business the boost we needed to stay afloat. We added 2 additional production days each month for Burgerville alone.

April 2019: We partnered with Lyft on a limited-edition Cashew Chai flavor. They donated a ride to someone in need for every jar sold.


September 2019: We launched our cookbook Nut Butter !! What a labor of love... the two of us handled all of the recipe development and photography, with taste testing help from our team, friends and family. We celebrated with a launch party at Freeland Spirits.



October 2019: Erewhon Market picked us up—our first California account! And Fred Meyer took us on!


December 2019: The Today Show crew came to film Ground Up HQ! The segment went live in January and our team couldn't have been prouder.





January 2020: We won the Whole Foods Supplier of the Year Award and were invited to Austin for a ceremony.



March 2020: THE PANDEMIC HIT. We introduced face masks + new safety protocol to our operations, but somehow went without having to skip a single production day! We had a few supplier issues, one of which involved the two of us having to pick up 2 pallets worth of 12-oz jars on our own. But fortunately, nut butter sales actually increased when covid-19 first hit (shelf-stable baby) and we felt quite lucky to still be in business.



October 2020: We FINALLY got our own production space! When we started GU, we dreamed of having our own space—one that could provide a safer space for womxn and feel like a second home. After over a year of looking (and with the help of our amazing broker Theresa), we found our dream space (hilariously only a block away from our old one) with a commercial kitchen, warehouse and office space. It was a dream come true. And we got forklift certified!



October 2020: We launched Squeeze Packs! This had been a dream of Julie's for a long time—to fuel our customers on their active adventures and not have to haul the glass jars on-the-go!


December 2020: We packed a RECORD number of orders, with online sales quadrupling from the previous year. We also had our new branded (and eco-friendly) packaging that made packing orders much easier.


March 2021: We hired an Employee Support Manager! It was a dream when we started GU to be able to afford a full-time resource that could support our team of womxn overcoming adversity. Rachel is helping with hiring, managing our non-profit partnerships, job support, career growth, and more. It feels incredible to finally have this in-house support to our team (which is now up to 18 womxn!).




April 2021: We got Non-GMO Verified! Learn more about that in our blog post.


July 2021: We placed SECOND in the UPS Small Business Challenge! This landed us a feature in Inc. Magazine as well as a $20,000 grant, and a video that they filmed at GU!



August 2021: We launched into our second region with Whole Foods Market: Northern California! This was huge for us; not only was it years in the making, but it allows us to reach consumers in a new region, increase accessibility for our product, and increase production hours for our job training program.


September 2021: We were named one of the fastest-growing companies by the Portland Business Journal! (#9, in fact)


Fall 2021: We painted Ground Up HQ! Kudos to Kes who applied her artistic skills to this project. We're obsessed!



October 2021: We brought squeeze pack production in-house! (We worked with a co-packer to initially launch squeeze packs in 2020, since we wanted to see how they would sell before purchasing the machinery.) It turns out buying the machine was the easy part; figuring out how to successfuly run it was a whole different challenge! Our ops team spent countless hours tinkering until finally they got it—and we are so proud to say we're now whipping out Snickerdoodle packets like it's no big deal! For a small team like ours, this was a HUGE feat!



November 2021: We launched a flavor collaboration with the one and only Molly Yeh! Our Marzipan with Sprinkles flavor was our most popular to date... and stay tuned, it just might come back again soon!



December 2021: We launched the Flavor of the Month Club, a monthly subscription that allows customers to get first dibs on our monthly seasonal flavors! We had been wanting to do this for a long time... but figuring out how to logistically make it happen took some effort!


January 2022: We launched our first private label product—a Sunflower Seed Butter for New Seasons' Partner Brand! You can find it in all New Seasons stores.





April 2022: We made the Portland Business Journal's list of fastest-growing businesses (and came in at #20)!


April/May 2022: We changed our staffing model to allow select graduates of our training program to stay on as Production Associates in permanent roles at Ground Up—which helps to balance out the constant transition of our 6-9 month program, and gives greater opportunity for mentorship and leadership training.


May 2022: We bought a second mixing machine (thanks to the help of New Seasons' Partner Fund Loan Program) & increased our daily capacity by 50%.


June 2022: We ran our first Customer Flavor Contest and were blown away by the incredible submissions! We selected 3 winning flavors—2 of which already launched (Strawberry Cheesecake & Sweet Cinnamon Churro) and one more launching next month (Dark Cocoa Cookie)!


Summer 2022: We switched to a 4 day workweek!!! This has been HUGE for our team's self-care and work/life balance, as well as their productivity in the office. We now work a Mon-Thurs schedule.


July 2022: Julie participated in the REDF accelerator program, which was a great opportunity to connect, collaborate and gain resources through a network of other Employment Social Enterprises from across the country!


September 2022: We hired a new Operations Director & Manager (Wendy & Carly) who (alongside our amazing Assistant Operations Manager Dakota) keep everything behind-the-scenes at Ground Up running smoothly!


Fall 2022: We landed a big retail account (which we'll be launching at in May)! These opportunities have a long lead time and take a lot of energy from our Ops and Sales team to make them happen...we're proud of everyone for hustling to make this happen. Stay tuned!


December 2022: We were featured on the Today Show—and got a huge spike in sales!



February 2023: We were thrilled to launch our Liz Moody collaboration! We've been fans of hers for years (in fact she wrote our first feature article on our mission-driven business for mindbodygreen when we were just getting started!) and are obsessed with the Strawberry Black Pepper nut butter she dreamed up.

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Janet Depew April 19 2022

My introduction to Ground Up PDX was from my sister-in-law in Oregon with the Lavender flavor. I just loved it from that moment on and have been purchasing from San Diego now for the last 5 years. They were my go to gifts for Christmas to all of my friends as I hoped they, too, would love it as much as I do. I love some of your limited flavors so much that I hope they might become regulars. Thank you and wishing all of you the best — forward!

Joanne Susi April 19 2022

A big congratulations to you for not only having a vision but allowing it to come to fruition while allowing the expansion. I mostly love you did not let not knowing the “how” to stop you from going forward. Clarity on your strong desire is the perfect start, he divine inspirastions on how then follows. Sending you much love and light!!!

Deanne Gillock April 9 2021

It’s wonderful seeing the amazing product & business you’ve built over the past 5 years, but I’m especially excited to have witnessed firsthand the lives forever changed through your employment training program! Thanks for sticking with your vision!!

Maggie Hohle April 9 2021

I can’t remember where or how I discovered you but I work with a small nonprofit whose mission is to provide Petaluma River access to all —through people-powered boat rentals—and your success inspires me to keep going, believing that a product with a mission can thrive! Plus, your nut butters are amazing!!! Love to you all from Petaluma, California.

Gaye Roth April 9 2021

I remember you from the farmers’ market start. Incredible women, incredible product and an incredible mission! Kudos for following such an amazing path!

Ali V. April 6 2021

I loved reading about your journey and I hope you know how lucky we all are to have Ground Up in our lives and tummies. My favorite part is when you finally get your own space. What you do for womxn overcoming adversity is a truly honorable and notable work, and I’m so glad that you’ll finally be able to create that safe space you’ve been envisioning all this time for them and you! Congrats!

Marsha Serling Goldberg April 5 2021

Mazel Tov! Wow! What a Terrific Walk down Memory Lane!” Fantastic product, the best mission and wonderful work environment. It doesn’t get better than that! So excited to order favorites during this special time.

Sally Sullivan April 5 2021

What a wonderful “walk down Memory Lane”! Such vision, Perseverance, Creativity and true grit ave gotten you to where you are today. Incredible products, a fantastic warehouse and an Environment that welcomes everyone. So excited to see how the next 5 years unfold!