Organic is non GMO and More! The magic is in the ‘MORE’ What does it mean to be truly organic? Sure, science and chemistry are very much at play. There are certain ways of raising animals and creating products that make them organic by label. But to us, it goes beyond that. Being organic means letting our lives unfold organically too. Organic means working with our natural seasons and rhythms. There is a time for working extremely hard from sun up to sun down, racing from farm to markets and back again to do the evening milking. Then, there is time for a more relaxed pace, with plenty of reflection on the immense amount of gratitude we have for our lives, for the opportunity to grow a home-based farm business, and for the wonderful people who have made our story a successful one thus far. Although nothing in nature is in bloom all the time, there is a world of activity happening in the roots that can’t always be seen. As we settle into the winter flow at Alpine Made, we are caring for our pregnant goats, stocking up our inventory shelves, preparing for new products and planning for the busier seasons just around the corner. Additionally, we are focusing on ourselves and our families. We are nurturing those relationships that give our lives value. This is the inspiration that drives our passion. As you grow with us, please know that the products you purchase from Alpine Made are made with one ingredient that is impossible to list. You guessed it; Love! As a child, I heard someone say that age old Confucius saying “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” That never made sense until now. Truly living that way is a very different concept than understanding it intellectually. We’re not perfect at it, but everyday we practice. Everyday we see how our lives and our business are not two separate things. We see how we show up to our barn, our markets and our lives with the same purpose. We are in it with passion. We are ready to share, learn, love, fall down, have good days, have bad days, forgive, celebrate and grow. Thank you for being a part of our story, we hope you stick around forever! -Amy
Thank you for being here with me today, and listening to my story. My name is Kerry Beiter; I’m an organic farmer and small business owner. I own & operate Beiter & Son’s Farm, a certified organic goat farm in Wales, NY. I also own and operate a soap & skincare business I branded as Alpine Made. What I essentially do is pay our farm for the organic milk we produce and then use this as a raw material to create our luxurious soaps and skincare products.
Before I continue with the details on how I make money, I’d like to back track to a few years ago. In the beginning in 2008, I bought my first few goats and had to finish building a 300 square foot barn just to house them. I had no idea that farming for a living was in my near future, I only imagined raising a couple of goats as pets and milking them to make cheese and feed milk to my family. I soon loved the goat farming lifestyle so much that I began thinking of making cheese to sell and growing my herd to accommodate the milk requirements. I had been accustomed to raising my few goats organically, without the use of synthetic dewormers and medicines to keep them healthy. Which soon led me to the realization that becoming certified organic would give me a marketing edge in selling my cheese. At that time the US Dept of Ag was offering grant money to farms transitioning over to organic certification. I jumped on this opportunity and applied and low and behold received a grant to improve our farm by adding permanent pasture, adding watering systems, & solar panels to operate water pumps and electric fencing. I applied for certification in 2009 and became organic in 2010. Certification was indeed worth the effort. I soon found out we were one of 37 certified organic goat dairy farms in the country.
I thought that producing organic goat milk to make cheese and yogurt was going to enter me into a niche market that no one in NYS had attempted before. So over the course of a year, through research, I realized that to build a state approved creamery operation was out of my reach. I had watched the progress of a nearby goat dairy farm doing exactly what I had intended, with two men partnering dedicating their entire days to their farm & creamery’s success. With two very small children at home and a husband who worked full-time outside of the farm, I knew it would be very difficult for me to make cheese and sell it. I still underwent organic certification anyway. However the certification part was easy, even with yearly paperwork and inspections. The hard part was in figuring out how to raise the enormous capital needed to build a creamery, costing easily over $75K initially.
At that point, I literally had no idea how to make a living at farming, but was unwilling to give up after how far I had already come. I turned to the numerous business-mentoring organizations seeking help. I became a client with the Small Business Development Center at Buffalo State College. I also sought a mentorship opportunity with SCORE, a national organization of retired executives that volunteer their time to mentor start up businesses. I joined the 8-week Straight Talk Series in 2011 and attended all the workshops before settling into my mentor/mentee relationships with SCORE & SBDC. My Mentors helped me with my business plan, which changed direction so many times in these early years. It was a very intensive process but very important at that point. I can’t recall how many modifications I made to my business plan, but it was a lot. I became frustrated for sure, but I never gave up! I knew I wanted to farm, and I knew I’d have to figure out how to support the farm. I needed to sell either a raw resource I produced, like milk, or create a value added product to sell at markets, promoting it non-stop until the product spoke for itself. It had to be a product line people loved and wanted to consume regularly.
Another major change to my business plan was that I did not want to place my family in debt for life, through the construction of an expensive creamery operation. At the time I was a stay at home Mom, having quit a full time position with the USDA, and supported by my husband. We had school loans and a mortgage to pay, and no bank would lend to us at that point. We eventually got a personal line of credit that I used to grow the farm. I used it to build farm infrastructure, including buying a much needed tractor. We started building solid credit, although it was personal credit, it was important. I also took a part time job at a local horse farm. I learned how to run a farm. And I was providing extra income to offset our farm expenses. Soon I developed an idea to use my organic goat milk to produce a value added product other than cheese. I had experimented with soap making in the past, I had two Biology college degrees, why not use some of my chemistry knowledge to make traditional soap with our milk?
As an aside, I knew my organic goat milk was unique in that other companies producing goat milk soaps and skincare did not have access to this raw resource. I soon got the attention of a well-known name in the industry; who’s CEO contacted me to produce a line of organic goat milk soaps under their brand name. At the time it seemed like a great idea until the wholesale price they offered me was half of my cost to produce the organic soap itself. I would’ve quickly gone under even with the consistent cash flow coming in from their substantial orders. They wanted over 24K soaps produced per year. I politely declined and pushed through. I had the confidence and perseverance to get through the lean years, knowing I had entered a niche market, could produce a product no one else had, and that was in demand! After all, this famous company had already demonstrated this through their online sales of goat milk soap and cheese. I knew I could create a profitable business over time.
So, I began soap production to meet quantities that would support multiple retail markets. I had applied to a handful of farmer’s markets that accepted me because of my organic status. No one had organic soap and organic certification was not something many farms had, even just a few years ago. Today you will find more and more local farms certified organic or at least transitioning into organic status. So, I had my organic milk I used as a marketing strategy, but I also had something else. I created a goat milk soap recipe that contained 38% milk, using no water in the recipe whatsoever. This is how I made MY product stand out above the rest. By claiming my soap contained 4 times the amount of milk by industry standards I showed how my soap could work therapeutically on the skin. I also talked about the benefits of goat’s milk for the skin. But the very high concentration of milk in each bar I produced was what sold and resold my product. That became my number one marketing tool. After handing out thousands of samples at my markets initially, getting people to try the soap, I was able to build my customer base. People used my soap, saw that it worked to sooth their skin and heal it, and eventually became repeat, regular customers. People noticed the benefits of my soap over other handcrafted soap. They noticed their skin feeling and looking better, and then wanted more.
My attention then turned to sales strategies, again modifying my business plan. I asked myself what number of Farmer’s Markets could I physically cover on a weekly basis, and what other sales strategies were available to me. Do I try to sell my soap wholesale? Or should I spend my time developing a state of the art website that was user friendly and well advertised on a national scale. I ended up doing both. I hired a website designer and manager who also took all of my product pictures. My website looked fabulous and very professional, and was well worth the investment. Initially, I tried creating my own website using a popular website building site. This worked for a while, but I wanted a polished appearance for where I was heading with my sales. I turned to my business mentors with SBDC and SCORE for advice. My approach ended up being a mix of all the above; local retail markets, online web sales that grew over time, as well as wholesale. My goal was to get the word out about my soap, even on a national scale. My web sales constituted almost a quarter of all monthly sales, while my wholesale accounts made up approximately 15%. I wanted to increase wholesale to around 30% of my total sales; which is our goal for 2016. Since 2012, I had doubled my gross sales each year and as sales increased over time, I was able to secure more personal financing to build a heated workshop where I could produce all of my products and store raw materials and inventory. I installed a full kitchen with stainless steel sinks and equipment. It was expensive but very important to expand, especially once I began hiring.
Soon my customers were asking for more soap and a line of organic milk infused, natural skincare. When will you develop a cream and a lotion I had been asked many times. 2014 came and went and with the advice of my mentors I hired my first full time employee in February of 2015. In 2015 my employee Amy and I doubled gross sales again. This was crucial! An important piece of advice given to me that I’ll never forget is that when hiring your first employee, their contributions absolutely need to generate enough revenue to pay for themselves. So, once the initial training period is over for your employee, you as a business owner should not have to borrow money to meet payroll. Also, another question I had before I hired was, “when would I know was the absolute right time to hire?” I found this tricky, I knew I couldn’t physically work any harder than I was to increase my sales, but could I afford to hire? The answer became simple, if I didn’t hire someone then Alpine Made wouldn’t grow! There was a point where I knew I couldn’t generate any more revenue myself. To grow your business, you need two basic things, to produce more goods and sell them, and to increase your yields (increase pricing to adequately cover costs and contribute to profits). I had increased my retail pricing for the first time in four years, at the end of 2015. I now had to increase production and sell more product.
Back to my story. Once I understood my business plan goals (selling soap infused with my organic milk), I started thinking how nice it’d be to partner with someone. To ensure a quicker start and quicker gains through the efforts of two people who’d share the labor and costs 50/50 between us. My goal was to delay the need to hire an employee; a luxury I felt at the time would’ve strained the fiscal health of my business. Thus, I had hoped that my partner and I would forgo a salary and place all profit back into growing infrastructure. However, it became impossible to find that partner. I was able to forgo a salary because I had a spouse working full time and supporting my family and I. It was a luxury for sure. The reality is, most people who start their own businesses need to keep their day jobs until they get to a point of affording to either hire or pay themselves to work more. Mentors have told me the longer starts ups can delay paying themselves the longer they can take profit and place it back into their business to grow it. I never have paid myself nor plan to to pay myself for another few years so that I can continue to hire more full time staff, which will translate to increased sales leading to year-end profit. If Alpine Made suddenly shows strong year-end profit, I will then opt for an owner’s draw, and will immediately place it towards paying down principle on my business loans.
So, back to searching for a partner. I never found a person to partner with. I did in fact find a fulltime employee who shared my vision, shared many of the same principles I started my company with. Amy was also looking for change in her life having quit her teaching job to work in the farming sector. She never looked back. She interned at a farm near us for a year producing vegetables, meats and eggs and selling them locally at markets and to restaurants. Amy, after pursuing years of college education, working in a school for 7 years, realized her creativity and passion for work lay elsewhere. Amy’s passion is in having total creative power, and I realized this so I put her to work on R&D of new products at Alpine Made. I had no time to create new products. I was tasked with the care of my farm, producing substantial inventory for 35 soaps while marketing it all by myself. I was at full capacity. Amy came on and was on fire, and loving her Research & Development of new skincare in our soap lab. After only a few months she created a fascinating and therapeutic line of milk infused skincare products for Alpine Made. Amy also can see becoming an equity owner at some point in the future. This opportunity, which I’m open to providing my employees who share my vision and passion, will keep our business family strong. It’s a way to not just provide someone with just a paycheck, especially someone who’s willing to strategically grow Alpine Made. It’s a great opportunity to give people to build something creative and new, and be a fully invested party in that process.
Thanks to many strong decisions and mistakes made along the way, Alpine Made is a company worth noting. We (currently just two women) have now doubled Alpine Made’s product line to around 60 products. We’ve doubled our sales in 2015. We are in 16 different stores mostly within WNY but a few in the NYC area as well. We have more then 500 nationwide online customers that continue to place orders regularly. We received our very first business loan in 2015 from the USDA to build a bigger barn and a new state of the art milk house. And we won’t stop there. In 2016, we’re open to any new opportunities. The sky is the limit. Last week we began the process of applying to Whole Foods under a specialized process through their New Vendor Department. We spent most of 2015 getting our product labels store ready so that when a larger store called on us, we would be able to accommodate orders immediately. We even plan to construct more work-space at our workshop, hire and train new employees all while keeping the current business flow going at our markets and events. I have no doubt this growth will happen, it’s best to have an action plan in place for when the larger opportunities present themselves. But, don’t keep asking when it will happen, take a deep breath, and don’t question the time line. It will happen when it’s ready to happen is my motto. I also truly believe that if you LOVE what you do, success will follow! And never ever chase the money, it will eventually come with a job well done. -Kerry
Mercy me, do I love a good beard! I mean, like really love one! The single greatest thing a man can do is grow a beard. If you have a beard, show it off proudly and enjoy the satisfaction and envy of those around you who do not have beards. If you don’t have a beard, grow one.
For me, a whiskered fellow conjures up nostalgic feeling of a fierce gentlemen. A beard tells me you are noble, kind and sensitive. I see a fine beard lending a man confidence and stride.
I know, I know not everyone out there agrees with me. In fact, rocking a beard does not truly mean you possess any of these qualities, but it should!
Last week at a market of ours, I had such a gentlemen come up to the booth and comment that his Beard Oil had a scent much like our Gentlemen’s Bar. I asked him to elaborate on this Beard Oil and he explained the benefits of grooming his beard were for the look, texture and its healthy growth.
Because I am such an avid fan, I mixed up a nourishing beard lovin’ product for all you fancy facial haired guys out there. Our Manly Man Beard Oil provides a luster and a cleanliness to the beard. Working it through ensures no food or dirt particles are stuck in there and all the skin underneath the beard gets moisturized. Your skin, hair and roots will all be vibrant! Because you must also smell like a man, our Manly Man Beard Oil is lightly scented using only the best quality essential oils in cedarwood, wild orange and tea tree.
So be sure to stop by our markets every Saturday and pick up a vial of our newest product, Manly Man Beard Oil (or order one online). Your imperial five o’ clock shadow and your lady friends will be thanking you! -Amy
Welcome back. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures in building Alpine Made from the ground up. This past winter we realized we needed plenty more space to work in. Quantity demands for our goat milk soap now approach 800 bars per month. So in early 2013 we set out to construct a workshop utilizing space in our tractor and hay storage building. Stealing space from one building’s function and re-prioritizing it for another function is what we’re forced to do for now until Banks are willing to extend us the business credit we need for construction projects.
So in January of 2013 we began digging a trench to lay water pipe from our barn to our future workshop where we would eventually install a water heater and furnace to work out of year round. Luckily we dug during a warm spell in January, thawing the ground enough to dig down four feet. And tada, we now have a lovely 600 square foot shop to work! -Kerry
Hello, for all of you who haven’t met me yet, I’m Kerry. I live in a small rural town just 30 minutes southeast of Buffalo, NY (Home of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabers). My husband Eric and I met almost 14 years ago in the Biology Department at Binghamton University. We received our Masters degrees, got married and moved to Buffalo, NY by January of 2001. Teaching kept Eric busy while I worked as an agriculture inspector at a New York/Canadian boarder crossing in the area. Lots of overtime spent on the job influenced me to take a few years off once my first son was born 4 years later. We had found a beautiful 4 acre property resting right on the Buffalo Creek in dairy country, set down roots and decided to raise Alpine Dairy goats shortly after. Years later, and much blood sweat and tears spent building our farm to the 8 acre, permanently fenced property it is today, allowed me to pursue another path, that of a small business owner.
Eric and I, having had extensive training in biology and the environmental sciences decided to pursue organic certification for our farm, which we named Beiter and Sons’ Farm in 2009. NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC oversees our organic operation. Our farm is small, housing a herd of 20 Alpine Dairy Goats with a few Boer/Alpine half breeds in the mix. We have fallen in love with the Alpine Goat, a breed known for its very good milking ability. Originating in the French Alps, these are hardy, adaptable animals that thrive in any climate while maintaining good health and excellent production. We describe our doelings as being petite, a characteristic I truly enjoy. They are multi-colored and have no set markings, and they have erect ears, horns and a straight face. My blog picture of our goat Milly says it all, our impressive “Cou Noir” beauty!
After learning to milk, improving on our barn and milk house, and producing more milk than we could physically consume, we decided to use our organic milk to create skincare products packing a rich, creamy, moisturizing punch. I wanted to start small, as we did with the farm, so I began tweaking soap recipes to accommodate as much milk as was possible, paying careful attention to use it whole, raw, and never diluting it with water. The end product resulted in a soap containing 38% milk by weight with the other 62% compromised of my base oils (olive, palm, coconut and sunflower). Initially I was amazed at how effective goats’ milk in soap was in moisturizing skin, then I did some research and began understanding why. I’m now grateful to put our organic, goat milk to beneficial use by creating enriching and healing skincare products for our customers. My skin has never felt healthier, and I rarely apply over-the-counter products to it. I make my own salves using my array of dried herbs, extracts, essential oils I have on hand from soaping to heal my family’s skin irritations. So with that said, I’m looking forward to writing more about our adventures in creating and growing our raw, organic goat milk soap company. Visit us at alpinemade.com or on our facebook page, Alpine Made.