Selling the Arts and Crafts of Good Cheese
Leah Kodner, Library Specialist from the James J. Hill Center, interviews entrepreneurs and 1 Million Cup presenter Alise Sjostrom. As seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on June 3, 2017.
Americans love cheese. Multiple surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that Americans’ cheese consumption continues to grow.
Yet though it’s a long-established staple of our diets, cheese also continues to be trendy.
The National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast” lists the top up-and-coming trends on restaurant menus for 2017, as predicted by professional chefs. In the survey, 59 percent of respondents list artisan cheese as a hot trend on restaurant menus. This refers to cheese handcrafted by skilled cheesemakers, as opposed to being mass-produced.
Artisan cheese is unique, with more variety in texture and flavor. Having grown up on a dairy farm, Alise Sjostrom already had an appreciation of good cheese. Armed with her dairy farm background and studies in dairy marketing, she decided to launch her business, Redhead Creamery. Redhead Creamery not only produces a selection of artisan cheeses but also offers customers a firsthand view into the dairy farm and cheesemaking facility, giving them an added understanding of the process that goes into creating their food.
Name: Alise Sjostrom
City you live in: Brooten, Minn.
City of birth: Sauk Centre, Minn.
High school attended: Sauk Centre High School
College attended: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Name of Company: Redhead Creamery, LLC
Business Start Date: 2014
Number of Employees: 3 full-time, 2 part-time, and 1 summer intern
Number of Customers: With a distributor and direct sales, we are in 100+ retail and restaurant locations. During summer time, we see hundreds of people a week at our farm in our cheese shop and on our farm tours.
Q. What led to this point?
A. Since I was 17, I have been known as “Cheese Alise,” as I took on a passion for cheesemaking early in life. Now I’m three years into my full-time life as an on-farm cheesemaker working hand in hand with family. I grew up on the farm where I now live in west central Minnesota. After visiting Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese as part of the National 4-H Dairy Conference Tour, I came home to tell my parents that I was going to make cheese on the farm someday. After getting some good advice to focus on marketing for the time being and learn cheesemaking later, I decided to focus on dairy marketing in college, and then joined national food broker Acosta for a year after graduation. I then followed my husband’s job to Vermont, the hotbed of artisan cheese, where I got a job at Grafton Village Cheese Co. and visited nearly two dozen farmstead plants in the northeast. We moved to Wisconsin after two years, where I worked at Crave’s. After a while we moved back to my hometown to join a goat cheese dairy and I began working on my own farm. Our family milks 200 cows and uses 8 percent of their milk for the cheese plant.
Q. What is your business?
A. My business is farmstead, artisan cheese production. We make artisan cheeses ranging from Ridiculously Good Cheddar Cheese Curds to a clothbound cheddar, Little Lucy Brie, and North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster. We have an on-farm cheese shop where you can view the cheesemaking facility, try some delicious cheeses, and purchase other locally made products that pair well with cheese. Our dairy farm tours are on Saturdays at 12:30 p.m.
Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. I often reach out to other cheesemakers around the country and to the suppliers of our cultures and other supplies when I need help. The cheese industry is full of knowledge and the willingness to share it.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I grew up on a dairy farm, and I decided when I was 10 years old that I would always find a way to come home to my farm. At the age of 17, cheesemaking became my way of coming back home. Through tours and experience at other cheese companies, we developed our business model, which continues to evolve….READ FULL ARTICLE
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit 1millioncups.com/stpaul.