Ground Up Turns Five!

Ground Up Turns Five!

We can't believe it's been FIVE 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.)

 

Five years later, we have a team of 18 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 40 womxn through our training program in the last 5 years, transitioned through 3 different kitchen spaces, grew to over 350 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 year has thrown at us. (Thanks to all of our incredible customers and their continued support!)

 

In honor of our 5th 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...

YEAR ONE:

 

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.)

 

 

 

YEAR TWO:

 

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.

 

YEAR THREE:

 

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.

 

YEAR FOUR:

 

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.

 

 

YEAR FIVE / 2020:

 

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 2020: We hired Rachel, our 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!).

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Comments

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!