How it all began...
In 2015, we began writing a business plan to expand and modernize the (3rd generation) family farm. (Originally a pig farm set on just under 200 acres in Oxford County, Ont, Greg began into milking goats in 2007 after a series of unfortunate events – crash in the pig industry and a barn fire).
As the business plan unfolded for the expansion, a larger vision emerged about how the farm could be more than a primary production of raw ingredients and could give more back to the community and the industry. Since Greg had always wanted to have a product from the farm, and Cheryl loved to cook discussions began – lots of people were venturing into cheese-making with the popularity of goat cheeses, and of course there were the soaps – however, I really wanted to bring something different, fun and something very few people were doing – Goat Milk Ice Cream.
The long term vision being to build our own (Ben and Jerry’s inspired) manufacturing plant that invites consumers into the process to learn about ice cream and goats with the intent on education and fun… and of course ice cream tastings. The idea was added into the plan as part of the long term strategy, but at that point neither of us knew how that would be possible or what the timing might be.
Then over the Christmas break of 2016, empty nest syndrome hit me as my two boys had left home, and Greg’s two boys were with their Mom. So I ordered a home ice cream machine, a cream separator, a whole lot of books on ice cream (all of which were geared to cow dairy) and I began experimenting with making ice cream. Much to my surprise the ice cream was fantastic, (and didn’t taste like licking a goat at all - which was my biggest fear…) so I began playing with recipes, ingredients and inviting others for tastings. My initial guinea pigs (I mean friends and family) loved it, and friends who had severe lactose intolerances (who couldn’t have cow ice cream without running to the washroom in pain) not only loved the flavour but had no stomach issues at all!
So, in the midst of a full travel schedule for work (I am the VP of Design and Delivery with Juice Inc. delivering training and leadership development to companies across North America), supporting with a farm expansion and staff, parenting responsibilities and a myriad of other things going on, a company was born – and since it was ridiculous to be even thinking about starting a company…. We took it one step further and called it Udderly Ridiculous.
Realizing that I was limited in my actual food science knowledge, I dragged Greg with me to attend the University of Guelph Ice Cream Course and we became part of the CBase Entrepreneur program. Our goal was gathering as much insight, knowledge and networking as possible. Everyone we spoke to were excited to get onboard whether it was tastings for feedback, helping with marketing, networking or giving input into the branding… these champions became our inspiration and cheerleaders when we felt at times like we wanted to quit, or were crazy. We actually prayed a number of times for God to close the doors on this whole ridiculous idea, but to our surprise more continued to open instead, and so we faithfully stepped through each one, taking both the encouragement and the challenges as they came.
I took the summer of 2018 off my day job at Juice Inc. to finish scaling up and testing the formulations for manufacturing – moving from a kitchen recipe to a manufacturing recipe proved to be much more challenging that I had originally thought but we had some great mentors with Dr Goff’s team at the University of Guelph and the R&D team at Gay Lea (who we are members of through our goat dairy).
Oh… you might be thinking why am I “scaling” up for manufacturing, why am I not just opening my own scoop shop ….. well funny story, I found out we weren’t allowed to make our own ice cream unless we built a manufacturing plant – one of the many regulatory challenges around dairy products- and so my initial business plan of having a commercially licenced ice cream truck where I made all my own ice cream had to be re-thought as we wanted to be within the legal boundaries.
So I also spent time locating a co-packer who could meet my standards to maintain an artisan style product and who understood our insistence on process and quality. I met with suppliers, finalized branding, invested in a qualified lab for nutritional tables and packaging requirements and began the process of pre-launching the product to be ready for the Spring of 2019.
We have had, and continue to have some of the most amazing mentors, supporters, cheerleaders and partners and we wouldn’t be where we are without them.
The dream is still ridiculous, but we are as committed as ever. I am currently in conversations with retailers, who are as excited as we are, and gearing up for the formal launch at the Toronto One of a Kind Show held March 27-31, 2019.
More on that in my next post…