Pickled Planet was started back in 2002 because I (Courtlandt Jennings, the founder of Pickled Planet) realized how important it was to have fermented foods available to the masses of people who would eventually want them, that we needed more ethical businesses in the economy, and because I couldn’t find a good organic, fermented, cucumber pickle for any price. I knew I was ahead of the curve; friends and store buyers would just look puzzled as I explained the benefits of raw sauerkraut. “Why sauerkraut?” Was the question I heard most. I didn’t care, I knew how good it was for the body to eat it and how many people would eventually want it. I also knew that people didn’t have a right relationship with microbiology in general, didn’t realize they were covered inside and out with creatures they couldn’t see and that “fighting” them was best replaced with “inviting” them.
I was keenly aware of how a business that produced healthy products and paid decent wages was activism, especially if the long-term strategy is to be a worker-owned co-op. I knew starting this business was one of the best things I could do to help fix underlying problems in the world that kept people from living healthy, happy, productive and authentic lives. I was a massage therapist since 1994 and engaged in lifestyle and political activism since high school. Pickled Planet was my way to bridge that gap, and help bring the world of fermented foods out of the basement and into the light.
It’s been boot-strap the whole way so far. I had a free commercial kitchen offered the first year, and used my savings to buy the first pallet of jars. Until three years ago I was working full time in addition to running PP, and not even taking a paycheck. I took a small loan from family in 2008 and sold some equity in 2010. I’ve always had people help me, and that graduated into employees. We now have six part time, who would love to work full time. We launched a line of seasonal “Herbal Krauts” in 2009, a collaboration with a clinical herbalist who practices here in Ashland. Just this year we created our first one for wide distribution, the immune enhancing, I-Boost, which is working its way into our retail territories.
We’ve been needing a substantial investment for several years and have been in the trap of not looking good enough on paper to get a loan, but not able to look better without one. I’ve been in this holding pattern for years now, watching new ferment companies start and surpass Pickled Planet because they have capital.
At this point, the demand for our products is growing beyond our means to produce, even without much market making, so much of the capital we seek is flagged for working capital. We are currently grossing around $250,000 per year but could be much larger by 2015 with proper funding. Our building has a solid lease, the owners love us, and we have recently entered into another large distributor, Natures Best.
Any and all in-kind help is appreciated beyond finance, whether it’s legal, marketing, web site work, sales advocacy, or advisory positions. I know that our category is one of the most important for human health in this decade. I have a responsibility to maintain and grow our position in the market to ensure quality, organic ferments are available as more and more people want them, and equally important is giving new and existing organic farmers a guaranteed place to sell their crop.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can help or invest with Pickled Planet, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.