Q&A with Erika Welsh of Wild Friends Foods
I think Erika Welsh is cheating. There's no way she only has 24 hours in a day - she gets too much done (and makes it look easy). As co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Wild Friends, Erika is a force to be reckoned with. I'm thrilled to share a sneak peek behind-the-scenes.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi there, I'm Erika! I live in Portland, Oregon and am the co-founder of Wild Friends!! I'm also a #dogmom and a self-proclaimed health and wellness junkie!
What was the inspiration behind Wild Friends?
Wild Friends was born from the love of home cooked food made with real, simple, delicious ingredients. Right before I began college at the University of Oregon, I discovered the reason I had dealt with stomach and skin issues my whole life. Helloooo gluten and dairy. Cutting those out of my diet was the hardest but best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to completely change how I ate, to learn to cook for myself and how food was affecting my body.
My BFF, college roomie and Wild Friends co-founder Keeley, was along for the dairy/gluten-free ride and in the process we started cooking delicious, gluten/dairy-free meals together and hosting dinner parties for our friends! At 18 & 19 years old this felt like a pretty novel thing to do!
We were constantly reading food blogs and cookbooks and soaking up new ingredients and recipes we've never heard of! We came across one article called how to make your own peanut butter and as 2 peanut butter-obsessed college kids, that article was music to our ears. We immediately started experimenting and put our own spin on the recipe by adding different ingredients to the food processor. Before we knew it, we had a peanut butter company and 7 years later we're still hustling everyday to grow our business!
What do you love most about yourself?
I am an optimist through and through and always see the glass half full. In every situation I try to contribute in an upbeat, positive way because that to me is the most fulfilling, rewarding and beneficial. Being positive is so important to my overall wellness and allows me to be my best self for everyone around me.
Take us through a day in the life of Erika. We want all the deets!
If I'm in town and not traveling for work, my alarm goes off at the wonderful time of 5:30 am and I get a workout in before heading to the office! The rest of the day is spent at the WF HQ with our team working on different projects! Everyday I have a variety of meetings, phone calls and time carved out to work on my own to-dos. There is so much to be done that I usually look at the clock around 6pm and realize I haven't left the building since 8am! To some people that might sound awful, but we're in such a fun and demanding stage of growth so it feels super rewarding. Once I get home, I hang out with my dog (Bear!) and my boyfriend, make dinner, and then check in on email and prepare for the following day. I try to end screen time at least 30 minutes before I go to bed and read a few pages of whatever book I'm enjoying at the moment.
What advice do you have for others who are considering launching their own brand/business?
Don't wait! I've heard from too many aspiring entrepreneurs who are waiting for the "perfect time" to launch their idea. There will never be a perfect time, so don't wait to take action - but be smart about it. One of the best things we did at Wild Friends was to start small. To us, this meant spending money on 1 nice food processor + the ingredients we needed to make a few hundred jars. Our test market in the early days were our friends, family and customers at the farmers markets. This allowed us to act on our idea in a way that was financially manageable for two poor college kids, while still collecting valuable information and specific feedback about flavors, ingredients, etc.
What's on the horizon for Wild Friends in 2018?
So many good things! Most people only see the external successes of Wild Friends, like launching new products and getting into new stores, but a huge portion of our time is spent on the behind-the-scenes of running our business. Growing our team, setting up systems to run more efficiently, sourcing better ingredients, working with our non-profit partner Girls Inc, attending buyer meetings and trade shows, etc. We're excited to continue working on all of those things in 2018 and of course the fun external stuff like launching new products!
And lastly, what makes you feel like a kween?
SELF-CARE. Yes, it might be the trendiest of trends right now, but I'm embracing it! I have a social side but I also have a big part of me that loves spending time alone, taking time for myself and doing things that make me feel grounded, vibrant and taken care of: getting lots of sleep (my 2018 focus!), grocery shopping and cooking healthy meals, exercising, walking my dog, yoga, reading, watching a favorite show, or getting the occasional massage (aka my favorite thing in the entire world).