Being raised by a single mom during my early childhood, I spent a lot of time in St. Paul, MN watching my German grandmother roll dough for noodles, pies and strudel. When I was ten we moved to the Western Slope of Colorado, where my new neighbors–farmers and ranchers–taught me where vegetables, meat and milk actually came from. During my 20s, in Fort Collins, CO, I worked in a cheese shop to help pay for college and graduate school. There were less than 20 commercial producers of US artisan cheeses then.
I always had a drive to serve my community, so after school I ended up working for 3 Denver City Council members, where I found myself drawn to food-related issues: permitting the use of aquaculture in a greenhouse in one of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods where people lacked access to healthy food, for example. I also got to work with business owners who cared deeply about our community. With help from these mentors, former employers, family, friends and cheese professionals I met along the way, I began studying the business of American craft cheeses (today we have over 800 producers!).
I spent 3 years planning, learning and catering before opening New World Cheese (NWC): a cheese shop and bistro. Our motto is: “taste America’s cheese Renaissance.” We are part of a culturally-themed redevelopment project in the same neighborhood I bought my condo 11 years earlier. We’re next to Denver’s best independent music shop, biggest independent book store, our film society, a public high school and a farmer’s market.
Whether its high school students, neighbors, employees from adjacent businesses or tour groups, we love providing a space for people to get into the habit of cheese as they learn about this several millennia-old culinary tradition.
New World Cheese (NWC) is a cheese shop and bistro that specializes in artisan cheeses from the Americas. We opened in July 2015 in the Cultureplex, an urban redevelopment project along Denver’s East Colfax corridor.
During the 2015 holiday season (our fist) we created a “locavore bag” filled with locally made, non-perishable treats (honey, onion jam, fruit jams, crackers, chocolates, pickles, etc.) and cheese gift certificates. We were able to support other small, mostly start-up craft food businesses by purchasing and spreading the word about their products.
We’d like to use funding from Kiva Zip to partner with some of these local, small producers. We are putting in place the pieces (licensing, insurance, equipment upgrades) for them to do some of their small-batch production in our bistro kitchen. We also will teach classes with them and create a cheese-of-the-month club to co-market their products.
To start NWC we raised funds via small investments, edible shares (purchase cheese for a year and earn a cheese bonus) and loans. While our revenue is growing quickly (an average of 25% month-over-month growth in our first 6 months), we’ve had very little wiggle room to grow our inventory beyond cheese for retail and menu items for the bistro. I need to hire an additional person so I can spend more time building our partnerships, teaching classes and growing the business. (Most of our fantastic staff are part-time, building on other life interests: one is launching his own handmade/homemade market, another is growing her all-organic herbal skin care line, and another is a freshman at the local Johnson & Wales University culinary campus.)
Helping grow the capacity of our local specialty-food-producer partners and hiring another person will give NWC the opportunity to build on our early success and demonstrate the economic potential of this collaborative approach.
Helping to grow the capacity of our local specialty-food-producer partners and hiring another cheese expert will give New World Cheese the opportunity to build on our early success and demonstrate the economic potential of this collaborative approach.
Of the $5000 loan:
-$500 for our commercial kitchen (mostly for increase in insurance, and minimal remodeling)
-$2000 on inventory from our local, small batch producer products.
-$2500 for a slightly higher wage for our new hire over the next six months
As the Denver food retail market continues to value craft and locally produced products that also contribute to their community, we have a wonderful opportunity to grow our customer bases together. Freeing up some time with having another staff person on board will help me to focus on the great ideas we have for growing our customer base. So far, when we’ve had time to offer events and classes, they’ve been very popular and capture repeat customers.