She's Empowered Spotlight: Lia Heifetz, Co-Founder of Barnacle Foods
"Doing good in our community is really what motivates us. We like to think of our business as a positive tool for change -- whether it's through hiring and empowering people who have faced adversity, or feeding hungry people nutritious foods, or using ingredients with net positive impacts on the environment -- we're building a model that values and prioritizes people and our environment just as much as our bottom line."
We’re excited to continue our She’s Empowered series and introduce you to Lia Heifetz, co-founder of Barnacle Foods. The business is based in Alaska, but they are growing a strong presence in Portland (you can find their products in New Seasons!!). They use Alaskan kelp to make delicious and unique products, such as kelp salsa, kelp hot sauce and kelp seasoning. They also make jams, which pair perfectly with our nut butters!
Tell us a little about you!
Hi, I'm Lia! I was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska where I make my home today. I am the co-founder of Barnacle Foods -- we use Alaskan kelp and other unique ingredients to make delicious and nutritious foods that are good for you and the planet! I love spending my time out on the ocean or in the woods harvesting food and preserving the seasonal bounty to share and eat year-round. I think business is a powerful tool to make positive change, and our business has sought out to do just that!
What do you do for work? Tell us about your professional journey.
I am the co-founder of Barnacle Foods -- a business founded out of passion for sharing Alaska's unique foods. Before starting our business I spent about six years working with rural villages along Alaska's coast to support local initiatives to promote local food harvesting, production, consumption, and small business development. This was a great outlet to put my energy and passion for food into action.
Today, at Barnacle Foods we use Alaska's unique ingredients like bull kelp, and turn it into foods to be eaten and shared. We started organically -- we would be out on the ocean fishing and rather than come home empty-handed if the fish weren't biting, we'd pull our little boat up to a kelp bed and bring a 5-gallon bucket of bull kelp back home. A kelp salsa party would ensue, and we would be surrounded by friends in the kitchen until the wee hours of the morning jarring kelp salsa! Our batches grew over the years, and we decided that this was something to be shared beyond our friends and family. Today, we have lots more help and our business produces salsa, pickles, seasonings and hot sauce out of kelp, plus jams and jellies from other unique ingredients like Sitka Spruce Tips.
How do you stay motivated?
Running a small business always keep you on your toes! We've managed to build out an amazing team. We help motivate each other and by the fact that we can use this business a tool to make all sorts of positive change.
Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting a business?
Talk about it and plan. Our business started to become a reality when we started to share our idea. For awhile we kept our ideas a secret, as soon as we started sharing our ideas we were encouraged by the people around us.
What are your favorite ways to #spreadgood in your community?
Doing good in our community is really what motivates us. We like to think of our business as a positive tool for change -- whether it's through hiring and empowering people who have faced adversity, or feeding hungry people nutritious foods, or using ingredients with net positive impacts on the environment -- we're building a model that values and prioritizes people and our environment just as much as our bottom line.
How do you work to stay centered and practice self-care in your busy day-to-day reality?
Balance is something I'm constantly striving for -- and so challenging. Getting outside, exercising, and making time to completely unplug are things I try my best to prioritize.
What do you like to do for fun, when you aren't working?
Exploring the expansive coastline of Alaska is one of the best ways to recreate around Juneau, my hometown. One of my favorite ways to experience this place is to harvest the wild food that's available and preserve it. When I'm not out harvesting kelp for our business you can find me fishing our hunting, picking berries, mushrooms, or whatever else is in season.
What are some of your favorite recipes with Ground Up?
My favorite way to eat Ground Up is straight out of the jar with a spoon!