Emmy's Organics started when co-founders Samantha Abrams and Ian Gaffney cooked up a batch of irritant-free macaroons in Ian’s mother’s Ithaca, NY, kitchen in 2009. Before long, their raw, gluten-free, vegan and non-GMO treats were being sold in thousands of retail locations nationwide. New Hope caught up with Abrams to talk about the challenges and triumphs of growth in this industry.
How has your role as co-founder evolved since you started?
Samantha Abrams: When we started the company, Ian and I did absolutely everything. We used to make all the product, package, sell, ship, clean. As we’ve grown, our roles have become more professional--we’re not making macaroons anymore! We’ve also been lucky that we each gravitate to a different area, and that helps us divide our responsibilities. Ian is more of a number cruncher than I am, so he’s helping plan promotional schedules, as well as pricing and sales. He’s also a graphic designer, so he does all our design. I’ve shifted more towards marketing, social media, customer service, managing our website and corporate responsibility.
How did the Whole Foods Local Producer Loan shape your business?
SA: We had already been selling at Whole Foods at that time. We were growing and had taken one bank loan. We had also done a crowdfunding campaign to redo our branding. So, we thought this loan would be a good opportunity to get funding, but also to help solidify our relationship with Whole Foods.
We originally received the loan to launch our line of sprouted buckwheat Super Cereals. Since that launch two years ago, we’ve been able to continue growing our business with them and, in turn, launched a new raspberry macaroon flavor this month, exclusively with the northeast region of Whole Foods.
Why undergo B Corp certification amidst all this growth?
SA: I wanted Emmy’s to become a B Corp because there was so much that we were doing behind the scenes: charity donations, community service hours, giving high quality jobs to our employees, getting energy audits on our manufacturing facility so we could reduce our carbon footprint, etc. After learning about B Corps, I realized that that “B” on your website and packaging represents all of that stuff that consumers don’t get to see. Now, when I go to the store and I’m choosing between two brands, and one is a B Corp, I almost always go with the B Corp because I want to support a company that is giving back in more ways than one. I know that as the B Corp movement grows, other consumers will feel that way too, and that's why I wanted to get certified.
Emmy’s has been a Certified B Corp since December 2013. It was one of the most intense assessments I have ever done. In order to become a B Corp, you need to report on literally every aspect of your business: environmental, social, government, community and more. When we finally finished and we got the 80 points (the minimum you need to get in order to become certified), I was so proud. Becoming a B Corp is no joke, but it's worth it and has been such a valuable experience for us.
Do you think it was more challenging for you as a smaller business?
SA: Yes and no. It was very challenging because I did our certification single-handedly, with some help. It took me about a year to do the whole thing, including the assessment and proving the assessment. But, since we are a smaller company, it means we’re more flexible in a lot of ways. For example, I was able to make changes to our handbook--to reflect a lot of the things we were already doing--and explain it to everyone in a meeting, whereas with a larger company there may be more hoops to jump through.
There have been a lot of positive changes to your company--how have things stayed the same?
SA: Emmy’s has stayed the same in the quality of our products. When I bite into one of our macaroons today, it's the same, amazing recipe that we wanted to share with the world. Our ingredient quality has also stayed the same. I also think that the “world" of Emmy’s continues to represent a friendly and approachable vibe--for both our customers and our employees. We have a very family-oriented approach to business, which we’ve had from day one.
What's next for Emmy's Organics?
SA: We have a lot to look forward to in 2016, including our USDA Organic Certification, a new employee to help us with sales, a new product line that has not been fully developed yet and some potential retail opportunities. Stay tuned!