Alum of Business: Three Trees Nutmilk
Since her start as a seven-year-old selling “imported” Kool-Aid at a premium to neighbors in Taipei, Jenny Eu has had a knack for food business. Although her beverage preferences have evolved from punch to plant-based, Jenny’s passion for food has been relentless as her skills and experience have evolved. These days she prefers a healthier indulgence, creating pure, delicious Three Trees Nutmilk using only almonds and simple, quality ingredients that you’d find in your own kitchen pantry. It was Jenny’s desire to produce “a true nutmilk” that has garnered an ever-increasing fan base including the likes of Blue Bottle Coffee, who offer Three Trees’ almond milk in their cafes after it beat out a crowd of other non-dairy alternatives in a blind taste test.
We first met Jenny when she enrolled in FCI’s Business Intensive, the precursor to our yearlong Quarterly Business Modules. At the time, Three Trees Nutmilk was just one year old, with a small production team working from a commercial kitchen, but Ms. Eu already had her eyes on the prize. She wanted to scale. One year later, with Blue Bottle, Bi-Rite, and Berkeley Bowl accounts under her belt – just to name a few – she already has other start-ups asking her to share her notes. We caught up with Jenny to learn how good old fashioned almond milk was her secret for sweet success…
What is Three Trees Nutmilk all about?
Three Trees is about the best almondmilk! Our mission is to help people eat more plant-based foods. We’re committed to making a pure, delicious almondmilk using only almonds. Unlike a lot of almondmilks that get their thickness and body from additives, ours simply comes from adding more almonds. That’s why we call ours “a true almondmilk.”
How did the Food Craft Institute’s Business Intensive help you grow your business?
FCI’s Business Intensive covers the major areas of starting a food business: Planning, Financing, Marketing. It provides frameworks for thinking through each topic, helping you think through high-level, strategic decisions as well as the tactical ones. For instance, outsourcing vs. building, branding and positioning, financing options, as well as the nitty-gritty like labeling requirements and financial metrics. There’s also the opportunity to meet with an instructor for one-on-one time to delve deeper into your particular challenges and needs. Through the course I met great folks in the industry; the networking value is not to be underestimated!
Which FCI instructors did you find most helpful or inspiring?
Every instructor I’ve had at FCI has been wonderful. They’re very knowledgeable, engaging, and interested in helping you. It’s about who you connect with. For me, Minh Tsai has just been tremendous. Having himself gone through building a company, his instruction is not only insightful, it’s very practical and inspirational.
What do you envision the next year will bring for Three Trees Nutmilk?
We’re really focused on executing right now. Continuing to make an excellent product, and building the team and organizational capabilities. We want to make sure we can continue to serve our customers well here in our local market (the Bay Area). This next year is about laying down the foundation for solid long-term growth. Over the next 5 years, we hope to take the learnings and successes in this market and expand into other markets.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered?
You’ve probably heard it before, and it’s absolutely true. People, as in your team, will determine the success of your business. Your company is only as good as the people in it, so spend time hiring and retaining the right people.
What advice do you have for new food entrepreneurs starting out?
Plan. But be prepared for everything to take twice as long. And be twice as hard. You have to persevere.
A food business is not like an internet startup. Unless you have or can go out and raise a ton of money, it will take time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The food community is full of great people, and everyone goes through some similar challenges. It’s extremely helpful to connect with others who have done it or are also doing it. And of course, pay it forward and give help when you have the opportunity.