Down Home Traditions Thinks Outside of the Box
Natural Products line uses creative strategies to expand its Watertown-based operation
It’s not uncommon for cottage industry businesses to experience significant challenges when trying to expand or take on wholesale orders. But Meredith Free-Phillipps, owner and founder of Down Home Traditions, has proven that with persistence and “out of the box” thinking, these stumbling blocks can be overcome—in style.
Free-Phillipps began handcrafting traditional recipes for her Down Home Traditions line in 2010. At first she just offered pick- les and jellies, made from locally sourced produce and without chemical additives. As customer demand grew, she added home- made soaps and a variety of gluten-free bakery goods.
But, as her business expanded, Free-Phillipps ran into several limitations. Under Minnesota’s Cottage Foods Law, she was restrict- ed to selling her products at public venues and couldn’t exceed more than $18,000 in annual revenue—hardly enough to support her growing family. Although restaurants and other businesses approached Free-Philipps with partnership opportunities, she was forced to turn them away. It seemed that her only alternative was to obtain a state license and make her products in a commercial kitchen.
Finding Affordable Space
Free-Phillipps consulted with Open to Business to explore the options available to her. She began working with Business Advisor Lee Hall to evaluate commercial kitchen spaces near her home in Watertown, MN. The two considered options such as a combined retail and kitchen space, and even a food truck. But the start-up costs were too much.
Undeterred, Free-Phillipps and Hall began to consider other possibilities. Free-Phillipps realized the garage attached to her split-level home was underutilized. After she and Hall examined the space, they determined it could be converted to a fully licensed kitchen—at a fraction of the cost of purchasing or renting space. Open to Business provided the capital needed to purchase high quality commercial appliances and to build out the kitchen space.
“Open to Business worked with me to get the new location off the ground. They helped me explore all my options and we found something that worked for me personally as well as for the business,” Free-Phillipps said.
Accessing New Markets
By the end of 2018, the new and improved Down Home Tradi- tions will be a fully licensed food manufacturer with the ability to sell its unique products across multiple markets.
The new setup is ideal for Free-Phillipps’ canning and pickling products, but her small-scale model still presents challenges for her bakery goods. Since she relies mostly on custom orders, as walk-up business generates too much waste, it is difficult to achieve economy of scale with her gluten-free products. Not con- tent to let that part of Down Home Traditions go, Free-Phillipps pivoted her business model yet again.
Customers can now subscribe to a CSA bakery box from her new label, Free’s Bakery. Subscribers pick up their boxes of baked goods, such as breads, pies, and muffins on their designated pick-up day.
Baking in bulk means no waste for the business, and wholesome, locally produced, gluten-free goodies for Down Home Traditions’ happy customers.
Free-Phillipps is excited to make quality gluten-free and natu- ral food options available to consumers who didn’t have access before. She has a personal reason for making sure delicious gluten-free goods are available. Her husband has Celiac disease, and she said they tried almost every bread on the market before developing their own secret recipes of five different flour blends. “I want my family to have the same celebration foods I grew up eating,” she said. “Pizza, birthday cakes, you name it. We can make it gluten-free.”
Visit Down Home Traditions at www.downhometraditions.com to order