Goodness In A Bottle: Big Business For Two Bay Area Women

While the bay area is full of go getters, entrepreneurs and start-ups a plenty it’s always a welcome thought of another thriving up and  coming business.  This one by two young women entrepreneurs who’ve got their hands full in the most splendid of ways.  Their little startup is off and running, flourishing and nourishing with an awesome product, the Living Apothecary.FK1A2626FK1A2635I was familiar with the Living Apothecary brand through my dining jaunts in and around the Gourmet Ghetto, Oakland and SF.  As I’ve been out and about dining over the past couple of years I’ve seen the brand popping up more and more. While I love the product, the almond milk in particular, I knew nothing of its background.  Who thought of this?  How did they come up with this?  How clever?  It’s working.So for the answers I went directly to the source, one of the founders of the Living Apothecary brand, Shari Stein Curry.SB:  “Shari I love your stuff, tell me how and why you came up with this?”Shari: “It was around three years ago.  My now business partner had approached me.  We were working in a restaurant together and I was managing a table/cocktail program and she had been serving there.  We used to talk about opening up a side business after hours at the restaurant.  And one evening she approached me more seriously and we started talking about the gap in cold pressed juice and healthy beverages in Oakland and it kind of started from there.  Our roots really did start with cold pressed juice a few years ago.  And I believe we were one of the first companies in Oakland to do cold pressed juice.  Now it’s all over the place.  We’ve since dropped the line cause it wasn’t making sense financially and it kind of grew organically from there.  My business partner Tracy loved my cocktails and thought I had a great palette and Tracy has a lot of knowledge in nutrition and health.  She’s vegan and she was really passionate at the time about cold pressed juice.  It kind of just blossomed from there.”DSC00479SB:  “And when you say we dropped the line what do you mean by that?”Shari: “We originally started with cold pressed juice.  We also started to work with kifr water and we also started to work with almond milk.  And cold pressed juice was really difficult to work with and also very expensive to make, but the kifr water had much more potential and so did almond milk and our almond milk really kind of took off.  The customers just really gravitated towards that so we initially started to grow the almond milk line from our classic and our chocolate rose to all of the other flavors you see now, slowly.  And what we did with kifr water we originally use to mix cold pressed fruits and herbs and that’s the fruit kifr line.  We had flavors like strawberry mint and watermelon basil, honeydew pineapple.”SB:  “Now tell me Shari is this stuff all bottled in Oakland?”Shari “It used to be.  My business partner and I both live in Oakland and our first commercial kitchen was located in Uptown Oakland, an incubator kitchen that’s now quite popular called Kitchener.  We were one of the first small businesses to join kitchener back in 2012.  (“I’ll be at Kitchner in the coming weeks to feature the upcoming Kitchener Snack Bar – Opening soon.  Be sure to look out for my post.”)  A year after that we moved to a commercial spot in Berkeley, but just a few weeks ago we finished the build out of our own commercial kitchen in Richmond.  So yes, it’s bottled locally in the east bay.”SB: “So how are things going?  It seems to be growing and going well?”Shari: “Yeah we’ve grown steadily over three years without any outside funding.  We’re completely self funded and we’re very grass roots.  We never bit off more than we could chew and we grew very organically over the past three years.  I think we’ve doubled every year so far.  It’s kind of a mixture of us slowly growing the business through sales, development and marketing, but also people coming to us.  We’ve been fortunate enough to have stores calling and email us saying we want to carry your product and customers being super loyal.  We have amazing customers.  It’s been a lot of word of mouth and a lot of active work on our part as well.”SB:  “So tell me now, it’s just the two of you guys?  You and Tracy?  I think it’s so remarkable as young women.  Did you have a lot of outside advice as far as the business end of things or was this really just the two of you brainstorming and crunching numbers and figuring it out? “Shari: ” We have a really great bookkeeper.  We didn’t source a lot of outside advice.  We definitely did our research on what was kind of currently available in the bay area in terms of healthy beverages and the direction we were looking to go back in 2012.  We just said let’s start a small business with cold pressed juice.  I’m really good at creating different mixtures and recipes.  We live in Northern California.   We have an abundance of amazing great ingredients.  Let’s just go for it.  We started by mixing things together in the kitchen with the Norwalk juicer and it took on a life of it’s known.   We kind of knew our mission.  We wanted to be vegan.  We wanted to be definitely available to people with a lot of different allergies and food restrictions and we wanted to be organic and healthy and offer those types of things up.  And as we grew, the business dictated itself. We started with one farmer’s market and then two and then one small retail account.   And then it just took off from there.  We’d just have meetings and say how is this going?  What do our sales look?  What are our best sellers?  What do our customers want? And kind of piece mealed it from there.  We both had good schooling and good noggins to start, but did I go to business school?  No.  Did we read a million books about how to start a food company?  No.  We just kind of winged it and got lucky.  And we also made smart decisions along the way.Tracy and I have very different skill sets and I think that’s one of things when you decide to go into business and have a partner that’s one of the most important things.  We have our own territories and we trust each other intrinsically and it’s worked out well for.  Sometimes we look at each other and we’re like what did we get ourselves into?   This has become a really legit business and now we’re competing with companies that have outside funding.  We are the epitome of starting with nothing and slowly building something together and not giving up.  It’s definitely that kind of story for us and to see where we are now and what our sales numbers are looking like at the end of 2015.  Sometimes you just have to step back and be like ‘oh my god I can’t believe we did this.’  It’s so crazy.”Check out there site here.I’d like to add I love this story because I’m all about women entrepreneurs.While I haven’t talked to Tracy and I’d imagine she’d be similar, Shari was absolutely remarkable and so humble about her success and she and Tracy are living proof that dreams really do come true!DSC0048411224914_850465655044855_1725432596106935875_o

Posted by

Sue Dhillon is an Indian American writer, journalist, and trainer.

Leave a Reply