photo cred Max Owens Media
Happy New Year, TrailForkers!
A LOT went on last year. Looking back, 2018 feels like it was two or three years long. A recap:
-Back in February, we launched the TrailFork Tour! After running a small Indiegogo campaign, Cristyn, Kira and I used the funds to sample TrailFork food throughout Oregon and California even before we had official packaging. Title Nine hosted us in their regional stores.
-Our new website went live! We had previously been hosted through Squarespace and while that worked for a time, we needed better functionality for processing orders. Cristyn designed a beautiful new site which launched last summer.
-We went from having one brick-and-mortar retail account (he-yo, Neptune Mountaineering!) in February to ten, in addition to debuting in 10 REI locations across the country in September.
-We stayed up really late making and packaging some thousands of pouches of food by hand in order to meet shipment deadlines...and we met every. Single. Deadline. We got our turnaround time on custom meal kits down to less than a week on average, and to about two days for small weekend supplies.
-We secured a loan from the Small Business Administration, thus indicating that the government believes in us enough to loan us money, and giving us the ability to meet demand and grow sustainably in 2019. This also means that we won’t be taking on outside investment next year, thus ensuring that we have full control over how we’re meeting the standards set out in our mission statement.
-We partnered with a manufacturer to make about half of our retail recipes. (This is so much more of a logistical feat than I can even express!) This will, again, allow us to meet demand effectively and will save our Fulfillment Manager, Ross, from having to spend overnight shifts in the kitchen. :)
-We appeared at our very first Outdoor Retailer event in Denver. This was a HUGE undertaking and left me more physically exhausted than I’ve been in years, and required the support of all TrailFork employees, friends, and significant others. Overall, a smashing success.
Considering how much happened last year, and how beyond-my-expectations the whole 12 months was (full disclosure: my dream with TrailFork was to run a small made-to-order business out of my own kitchen, and my biggest hope was to get 30 orders per month), I’m bracing myself for something of a wild ride in 2019. Here’s what we’re planning for:
-We’ve hired our very first full-time employees: Ross McComb will be running Fulfillment, and Adri Diminico will be running Operations. Ross and Adri have both been with us for awhile, but now they’re salaried Trail Forkers with health insurance and retirement accounts. I can’t even express how awesome it feels to offer health insurance to the folks who make this happen! (This time last year I was working part-time at this store in Boulder while trying to get TF off the ground on my days off, and now we have employees. Holy cannoli.)
-REI has expanded our store presence from 10 to nearly 40. Huzzah!
-Website 3.0! Cristyn and our web developer, Danny, are currently working on updates to our site for 2019 for an even fancier mytrailfork.com experience.
-WE FOUND OUR OWN SPACE! To now, we’ve been a very, erm, dispersed organization. We have a desk at a coworking space in downtown Boulder, we have some production space in a shared kitchen and shift time from 5 pm - midnight (oof), and a storage unit way out northwest of Denver. But! This month we’ll be moving into a combined office/storage/kitchen space just south of Boulder. There’s going to be a TrailFork sign out front and a big table made from Boulder County wood by my fiancé (hey, that’s news, too!), and I also have plans for a big mural. Pictures to come.
-We’re transitioning to a fully plant-based product. WOW. I know. More on this in a future post because it’s probably more of a BFD than I’m even thinking it is. But for now I’ll say that in an effort to our live up to our mission statement of Environmental Stewardship, we’re phasing out animal products in all of our meals. This has immediate implications for our retail meals, which for example will now include soy rather than cow’s milk, and will also have an impact on our custom meal kit offerings (which are down for now while we revise our production process). Right now we’re still using dairy cheese while we look for a suitable alternative, but all in all I feel really good about lessening our environmental impact in this way. More soon.
-We will most likely be hiring a Director of Wholesale Sales this year. TrailFork Custom Meal Kits and TrailFork retail/wholesale have their own set of demands in terms of production and sales, and we need someone to represent our product to retail store managers and buyers. To now I’ve been doing this work, which makes complete sense as we’ve gotten our feet under us as a brand. But as we grow this year we’re looking at bringing on some more expertise in this area (know anyone?).
In my fantasy world by December 2019 we have an entire sales and marketing team—hey, stranger things have happened (see all of the above, for example).
That’s all I can think of for now. Very excited to look back on this list in January 2020 and see these expectations get blown out of the water. Thank you, friends, for making this dream-we-didn’t-know-we-had come true, for reading this blog, for eating our food, and for being generally really wonderful. We wouldn’t be here without your support.