Alum of Fundraising – Peak Yogurt
Thank goodness for second careers. Not so long ago, Evan Sims was working as a fermentation engineer in biotech. However thanks to a growing interest in food and nutrition he started dabbling in home fermentation, specifically yogurt. That dabbling has now blossomed into a fully fledged yogurt business, Peak Yogurt. And this is no ordinary yogurt. Evan created the concept of “Triple Cream Yogurt”, a yogurt to celebrate the nourishing and delicious goodness of real cream from pastured cows. After sampling homemade Triple Cream Yogurt to locals and a successful crowdfunding campaign, Peak Yogurt was born. The company launches in grocery stores around the Bay Area this summer.
To support his early stage venture, Evan attended FCI’s Fundraising & Pitching Module in 2016.
Q: How did you become interested in starting a food business?
Both of my parents cooked our house meals and now I do all my own cooking – I love it. I’ve always thought food was important but around 2005 I was exposed to the Paleo principles which sparked a new interest. It made me realize that food has a major effect on how you feel and your wellbeing. This led to an involvement in nutrition and food policy, focused particularly on the evolving research disputing the negative health impacts from saturated fats and cholesterol. By the end 2014 I was looking to move out of my role as a fermentation engineer and by then I had been experimenting with making triple-cream yogurts. Once I started sharing my yogurt with others and getting a positive response I thought this may lead to something.
Q: What was the moment you decided to start Peak?
In the spring of 2015 when people started enjoying my home yogurt experiments. I then tried a few small tasting events at home and beyond and people loved it. Another factor was that by then, a lot more people were bought into the ‘fat is not bad’ movement.
Q: Tell me about Peak. What is your business all about?
Embracing healthy milk fat. We’re the first and only triple cream yogurt – we add additional cream. We also only use organic grass fed dairy and much less sugar than other yogurts.
Q: Who (or what) is your biggest food/business inspiration?
I love what Maxime at Petit Pot and Minh Tsai at Hodo Soy are doing. They are uncompromising in their pursuit of their vision. Spending time with Minh at FCI’s Business Operations course was inspiring and I really admire what he’s done. When he started he had such an uphill battle to get consumers onboard. Hodo Soy came before the whole plant-based craze and I admire the way he’s run the business and how they’ve grown the category. Minh has such a clear vision and takes the time to do it right without compromising on his principles for the product or the company.
Q: How did FCI’s Fundraising module help you towards launching your business?
It was helpful for nuts and bolts, fundraising instruments and explaining common pitfalls. Even though I’d done some first round fundraising it was still useful. I’d definitely recommend it to those who need to raise capital even if they’ve done some of that already. The course gave me a new perspective and helped validate some of my existing ideas. I’m planning to incorporate what I learned into the next round of fundraising for Peak. In addition, it’s useful to be in a room with other food startups at different stages of their business. You learn so much from each other.
Q: You also attended FCI’s Business Operations module. How was that?
It’s a great course, with an incredible mix of practical and actionable advice as well as psychological inspiration from someone who’s gone through the whole life cycle of a food business. For me, the biggest single topic that helped me at Peak was the advice on getting a distributor and a broker. This led me to get both within two months of the course.
Q: What were the most helpful aspects of the FCI courses you took?
- Being in a place to connect with other entrepreneurs
- Solid nuts & bolts info on how to start and run a food business
- Inspiration, motivation. Recharging you to keep going on the path.
Q: What do you envision the next year will bring for Peak? The next 5 years?
We plan to launch this summer and break $250k sales revenue in year one. By the five year mark I want to be a nationally distributed food brand. We want to break out of the ‘Natural’ category and into ‘Conventional’. We’re leading the charge for Healthy Milk Fat!
Q: What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered (before & after FCI)?
Biggest challenge was signing with a co-packer and getting the process worked out to manufacture at scale. What’s also hard is maintaining momentum when parts of the process stall. You need to have conviction that everything will come together. Being a sole founder can be a lonely slog.
Q: What advice do you have for new food entrepreneurs starting out?
Focus on one product and get it out the door for people to try. Get feedback early on, through sampling and get it in front of buyers. The advice you’ll get will help you determine whether you should proceed. I wish I’d had the courage to take my homemade plastic container and get it in front of buyers sooner.
Also, spend a lot of time talking to people who have done it – started a food business – and not just consultants. The ones who have gone through it are often eager and excited to share their experience. They know what it takes are often a goldmine of information. Don’t get discouraged by it but learn from it.
Look out for Peak Yogurt in leading grocery outlets from summer 2017.
If you’re interested in Fundraising & Pitching, you’re in luck! Our upcoming course is June 7 – 8. Check the website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.