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How to run a nut butter business, feat. Julie of Ground Up

We have a big brand crush on Ground Up. It’s a two-in-one business: a job training program for women overcoming adversities, and a line of absolutely stellar nut butters. We love them so much we want you to try them. First 100 orders will receive a Cinnamon Snickerdoodle Almond & Cashew Butter squeeze pack, starting May 17! To celebrate, we sat down with co-founder Julie to learn more about her routines and rituals, favorite meals, and how she stays inspired. Also check out their mouthwatering recipe for Caramel Apple Crisp Parfait, featuring our Paleo Orange! 


What’s your favorite way to eat nut butter? Do you have it every day?
Surprisingly 6 years in, I still eat it every day without faith! Banana + nut butter for breakfast, apple + nut butter for a pre-workout snack.


Any morning rituals? On a leisurely day, what’s your ideal breakfast?
My husband and I take a morning walk in our neighborhood with coffee in hand. We often share about what we’re looking forward to in our day and what we’re grateful for. My on the go weekday breakfast: coconut yogurt with fresh fruit + Nana Joes Granola + nut butter. On the weekends, I love chocolate chip + banana pancakes with my homemade jam + nut butter. 


How did you take that first leap toward Ground Up? Was there a final straw that pushed you to just go for it?
I naturally have an entrepreneurial, ambitious spirit. I had a vision to start a job training program for women overcoming adversity, but I needed a product as an avenue to drive sales and teach job skills. When I met my co-founder Carolyn and tried the delicious nut butters she’d been making at home it was a match made in heaven. Finding a co-founder with aligned values and similar passion / drive led me forward.

Additionally, through my meetings with various non-profits in Portland, it was clear there was a need for the type of job training program I was exploring starting, so this validation of the need pushed me forward.


Can you tell me about one moment where you felt like, okay, I got this, we’re going to make it.
We had been selling at farmers markets and any events we could get into, while trying to get the attention of grocery store buyers. When we received our first opportunity to launch into a regional chain grocery store, New Seasons Market, I was like “okay, someone believes in the product and our mission and is willing to give us a chance.” This opportunity and the customer response gave me the confidence to continue to pursue more stores.


What about a moment that really challenged you? What helped you get through it?
There have been many challenging moments, working long hours when we did not have a full team in place for the work that needed to get done. What always gets me through the tough moments is our all-team weekly meeting and the reminder of the impact the women overcoming adversity in our training program are experiencing. 


Have you enjoyed being a business owner? What does it feel like to know something you started is in people’s pantries, shops, tummies? 
Yes! I love that no day looks the same and there are daily opportunities to grow and learn and step outside my comfort zone.


What is something few people know about Ground Up that you wish more people knew? 
A lot of people become our customers because they love our healthy nut butters, but not as many people are familiar with the work that we're doing. We're a not-just-for-profit with a job skills training program for womxn overcoming adversity in the Portland area. Essentially, this has meant we started two businesses in one—a training program and a food company!


Who / what inspires you? Any words you live by?
Brene Brown is a huge inspiration to me in growing as an individual and a leader. A couple key inspirations are what she speaks about leading courageously by stepping into the “arena” and handling tough conversations, learning to rise amidst set-backs or mistakes and expressing vulnerability.

“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect – and vulnerable.”

“Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”

“If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to rehumanize work.”


What’s your favorite flavor you’ve ever done? 
Oh this is such a hard question! I would say either Nutty Banana Bread or Espresso Stout.


What are you excited about?
I will be participating this summer in the REDF Accelerator. It’s a unique program designed for leaders of social enterprises. I’m so excited to build my network of support with like-minded peers and continue to learn ways to make our workforce development program sustainable. I’ve been trying to get in for a couple years, so I’m very excited!

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