Brian Nicholson, the president, CEO, and owner of Red Jacket Orchards, joins Maureen Ballatori to share his entrepreneurial challenges and thrilling successes running the family-owned fresh food and beverage business. Red Jacket Orchards, founded in 1958, has experienced significant growth under Brian’s leadership, expanding eightfold over the last 20 years and now producing 2.5 million gallons of juice annually.
Red Jacket Orchards grew from humble beginnings as a small roadside stand with a hundred acres of land. Despite their lack of knowledge in fruit growing, the Nicholson family took on the challenge and eventually turned the business into a wholesale operation under Brian’s father’s leadership. They focused on growing unique fruits and producing interesting juices, all housed in their iconic red building in Geneva.
Over the years, Red Jacket Orchards diversified its operations, expanding into orchard farming, farm market retail, distribution, and selling directly to consumers in New York City’s farmer markets. At its peak, the company had 250 employees and faced challenges in managing multiple businesses. To streamline operations and adapt to customer demands, they made strategic decisions, such as selling off their distribution business and focusing on value-added production.
In 2008, Brian spearheaded the construction of a juice facility, marking a significant shift toward the beverage business. They invested in natural and cold-pressed juices, catering to the growing demand for fresh and healthy products. While facing challenges and uncertainties, Brian’s dedication to quality and customer relationships helped build the Red Jacket Orchards brand. They formed partnerships with renowned chefs and focused on delivering an exceptional product experience.
Brian’s role within the company has evolved from being the integrator, working alongside his visionary father, to now taking on the role of the visionary himself. He emphasizes the importance of understanding one’s lane, staying true to the brand’s values, and constantly striving for product excellence. Brian also acknowledges the support he receives from his family, YPO forum group, coaches, and employees in navigating the challenges of scaling a food and beverage brand.
When asked for advice on growing and scaling a food or beverage brand, Brian highlights the significance of a unique product offering, relentless focus on quality, and building relationships through hands-on engagement and customer trials. He encourages entrepreneurs to listen to market demands, remain resilient, and create their own realities in pursuit of their vision.
This transcript has been edited from its original form to support readability.
Maureen Ballatori: I’m Maureen Ballatori and this is Spilled Salt, a podcast on the thrills and spills from the food, beverage, and agriculture industries. Today’s guest is Brian Nicholson. He’s the president, CEO, and owner of Red Jacket Orchards.
They are a family-owned, fresh food and beverage business founded in 1958. Brian came back to the business in 2000 to join his dad and was working with his brother.
They’ve made a lot of positive changes to the business over the years, which has resulted in eight times growth and now the production of 2.5 million gallons of juice per year. This story is about Brian and his background and his contribution to the changes in Red Jacket Orchards over the years. I hope you enjoy the conversation.
Brian Nicholson: Hi Maureen.
Maureen: Great to see you.
Brian: Great seeing you, thanks for having me on.
Maureen: Thanks for taking the time for the podcast. I’m going to jump right into some of the questions that I have after I share a couple of stats you were recently quoted in a Finger Lakes Times article about some of the changes that are going on over at Red Jacket. And there were two pretty impressive statistics that Red Jacket Orchards has grown eight times over the last 20 years. And you’re now producing 2.5 million gallons of juice per year.
So, what I want to have you talk about is, and the big reason why I wanted to bring you on to the podcast is you’ve made a lot of pivots in Red Jacket Orchards and what you do there to get to those great stats that you have now. Talk a little bit about the journey of, you know, your time at Red Jacket Orchards over the last 23 years.
Brian: Sure. Well, that’s a great question because it kind of leads into like, why do we look the way we look today? Who are we today? Where did we come from?
And I guess that’s just part of this generational story, really. When I came into the business in 2000, my dad had been running it for about 20 years. And, you know, of course, his parents bought it in 1958.
So, what really started as, literally, a roadside stand business, I’m five and 20 here, which back then, there was no state New York state thruway. So it was, you know, 20 goes to San Francisco, right? So it was the route.
So they had a really very small stand and they had about a hundred acres. And the funniest part of it, I found it funny or ironic, or maybe this is part of the story of the Nicholson family is They bought in fruit farm and they knew nothing about fruit growing.
Maureen: Oh goodness, talk about learning as you go.
Brian: Exactly. So, that really is the heart of the story. I think of why we are the way we are today. We, you know, I come from a long line of, uh, contrarians who are kind of not, and risk takers.
My grandparents, when they had, it was a mostly retail business. And then when my dad took over, he really turned it from a retail business into a wholesale business. And some of the big things that he was doing was growing very unique fruits that nobody was growing.
And he was also making these interesting juices, you know, and all of this was being done in one building, that red building in Geneva that everyone associates with Red Jacket.
And I always loved being there when customers would every once in a while get between the two-fold and those two folding doors, we were like, what’s behind the doors? And then if you ever brought them out there. They would look up and, and, ah, they’re like, oh my gosh, you guys have a packing facility, you have a juice facility, you have coolers.
This is like a whole like Willy Wonka’s factory going on back here. Um, so, so we, you know, we’ve been, we’ve been orchardists. We’ve been, we’ve been farm market purveyors. We’ve been distributors in New York City. Right. So, you know, at the peak of our business, we had about 250 employees. We have people in the orchards.
Maureen: Really? I didn’t realize that! That is wild.
Brian: Yeah. Oh yeah. I remember that time very clearly. We peak season, we cut 250 payroll checks that week. And I was like, wow. But you know, when you have a hundred people in the orchard and you have 40 people on a pack line and you have 25 people in New York City running 50 farmer markets every week and you have a warehouse.
Maureen: Because you were at all of the Green Markets in New York City, right?
Brian: Yes. And then we had a warehouse in Brooklyn and we were doing distribution. So that, look, that’s, we amalgamated businesses upon businesses. We were certainly really good at being a jack of all trades, master of none.
And that was the business ethos. That’s how we really, really became who we are today.
And through that, through that kind of, that’s the, really the… mid-90s to the mid-2000s, a really cool thing happened. We created a brand.
And so we were no longer just a family farm in Geneva. We were a family farm in Geneva that connected with a bit of the globe, you know when you’re selling to New York City directly and the consumers.
Anyways, you know, so we did that for a very long time, and my twin brother and my dad and myself, nice little places on the train where we were conducting our little spaces.
And we grew quite a bit of a business there. But as anything happens, you have to continue to evolve and listen to your customer base.
Along the way, as we were really, we increased our orchard size to about 600 acres. And because now we had a bit of an imprint in the New York City marketplace and a brand.
At one point we were, we had to ask ourselves, what would the market miss if we were no longer doing it? And that was a very pivotal question that was given to me by someone in the business that I was asking for advice.
I said, when do we know like we’ve gone too far? How do we run all these businesses and do them profitably and do them well? And we were struggling with that. They all had grown and we had started to struggle with that.
So, the first thing we did was get rid of our distribution business. And I’m telling you this story because it gets back to your question, which is really like, well, how can we at this point in 2023 decide to kind of exit a retail portion of it?
Maureen: Well, not only that but all of the decisions that led to the eight times growth you’ve experienced over the last 20 years, right?
It’s a culmination of all of these little decisions that you’re talking about that turned out to be big decisions because they all made a contributing impact. So yes, definitely keep going down this path.
So you killed distribution, and then what happened?
Brian: So, yeah, so we sold off distribution. And look, I mean, it’s always about win-win, right? You’re trying to find value add. And the company became the way it looked because in a big way, we were, it was an ad, we were, I don’t know what to say, New York State was advocating and the agriculture industry was advocating for the benefit of value add, of vertical integration. And we were that.
Maureen: And so you’re talking about value-added production in your facility and kind of taking that from the sale of fresh product that goes all the way through to true value-added production of an item, right?
So, let me give you an example, right? So we grow strawberries, right? Well, we grow strawberries and they’re not always that good. So like, instead of, what do you do? You’re going to compost them or gee, you know, they’re really juicy. They can make this really delicious juice. Why don’t we try to make a strawberry apple juice, right? And so people always ask me, what R&D do you deploy to your different flavors? And I say, well, it really started in the orchard. It really did.
You know, everything… For the most part, most of that product came from trying to create more value out of a waste stream product.
Anyways, so we got really good at doing that. What we got really good at doing, I think, was saying yes to customer demand.
We were running farmer markets and we had customers say, hey, my chefs, they rolled down from Gramercy Tavern, which is a cool restaurant. But hey, we’re kind of busy guys here chopping stuff up. Can you, is it possible for you to deliver?
And that’s how the distribution business started, right? The juice business was something we’ve been doing forever. I used to make cider with my grandfather in the back of a bar, you know? And then my dad, again, Fuji apples were the honey crisp of the day, and they were like the most expensive apples. So he’s like, I’m not putting that in cider. I want to put it in something different marketed as something special and unique and superior. And so that’s how our Fuji apple juice started.
I would say that you reach a critical point on each one of those businesses, and we did realize at a certain point, we’re not able to manage them all the way we want to. And so that’s when we started kind of going on this path. And that’s when we decided to sell off the distribution.
About five years later, we said, look, our brand is really well established. Managing farmer markets in New York City is not easy. We do not have a warehouse anymore. We gave that up and we didn’t have the infrastructure. And then you’re handling a lot of cash on the streets of New York. So, you know, there’s those practical management aspects of it.
We said, like, it’s just time. It’s time to move on. Um, because people can shop pretty much for a product anywhere they were shopping for it directly from us. And so we made that.
In 2008, we decided to build a juice facility. And that was really the beginning of actually getting into the beverage business. It was no longer just cider at the back of a packhouse. We were going to make this very large, uh, multi-million dollar investment into a facility because we realized that we could no longer make it in the back of a packhouse if it was going to be sustainable.
And then we did that in 2008 and opened the building in 2010. When I say we’ve grown eightfold. I say we grow eightfold from 2000 when I came back into the business to where we are today. That doesn’t take into account all of the businesses we’ve replaced a lot of distribution and retail and all that.
So I’m excited to have that growth. And now we’re almost 100% beverage. And that’s a really big transition. And that took me personally and the family quite a bit of conversation to understand where are we heading. We have orchards and we have family members that run orchards and we’re doing that, but the bulk of the business now is in the beverage.
Maureen: And so tell me more about that 2008 shift where you said, or someone said, you all decided, right? We’re gonna invest a significant amount into creating this packing line and start to go in this beverage direction. What kind of cues were you getting or what was making you feel like we should take this from a back-of-the-house little sidecar operation into this is a real focus?
Brian: I love that question, I think it’s a great question. It was, I think a number of factors. One was that we were seeing significant growth, right?
Maureen: Significant growth on the juice you were already doing.
And you gotta remember, like, so this is only an eight-year span. I came back in 2000, we were selling products with preserves, printing out Avery Mail labels on the printer, and putting them on the boxes.
Right, so within an eight-year span, we actually took that business and we grew that business. about eightfold, that part of the beverage was eightfold there, just to be able to get to a point where like, okay, let’s go build this building. But what else was coming at us was the market, right? So we realized that the marketplace was very, our specialty was fresh, our specialty was cold pressed, and our specialty was becoming natural.
And that’s because we were working with customers like Whole Foods. And at that point, we were not even selling them the product because we had preservatives in it.
And they’re like, hey, look, if you get that preservative out, we can sell your product. Like, okay, there’s an incentive.
We worked with Cornell right here in Geneva at the Ag Tech facility at the Food Venture Center to figure out how to do that, and what kind of technologies were out there.
And then we really developed our own sort of proprietary process to do that. That changed the business. when we were able to offer a natural product when Whole Foods was able to put it on their shelf, when other customers like Hay Day Markets, like in Greenwich, were able to put it on their shelves. That was a game-changer. We also had customers saying, hey, we want you to make some stuff for us, but we won’t buy anything from you in the back of a packhouse.
Maureen: Right. Right, it had to be. So you saw the opportunity, right, of where if I make this investment, I am pretty confident that it’s going to pay off because I’ve got this kind of carrots that are dangling that I can see.
Brian: Well, like I said, when my grandparents came back and they bought a fruit farm and they knew nothing about it, sometimes history has its way of repeating itself and the generations have a way of putting their stamp on it.
My dad is such a prolific grower. He’s so talented. He’s like passionate about things that make things taste awesome, right? That’s like his DNA. So he, as a family, we got down this path. And then it was really kind of for me and Mark to really understand, well, where are we going to take it?
And I can remember we had footings in the ground. We had done the deal. We did November 2008. We did a finance deal and we literally leveraged the whole business. Right. So once again, big risk-taking with confidence, with some sort of understanding of a path. And we, uh, we made a big bet.
I remember our lawyer was like, you guys literally are betting the farm. That’s what you’re doing right now. You’re betting the farm. There’s a saying and you’re literally betting the farm.
I said, look, as a family, it’s November 2008. People are running scared and we’re literally doing this high-leverage deal. I guess we are really doubling down on the contrarian part of our DNA. I remember that very succinctly, that just setting. We’re like, yep, let’s go do it.
Maureen: Right. Because especially in that time, what just clicked for me when you were talking about sitting with the banker is that there was a huge economic downturn at the time.
So it was more than just the risk and seeing where the market was going. But there was also this other factor of the changing landscape of what the economy was doing at that time, too, that certainly played a role in the risk. Probably multiplying it, honestly.
Brian: It did, yeah. We’re, like, hey, people are going to keep buying like natural juice at the rate they are. Is the local food movement going to survive this moment? Right?
It was huge. And I think that speaks a lot to relationships and community relationships. And a shout out to my friends at Lion National Bank. They came in, they took the risk and we’ve been with them ever since.
And they had a different… You know, that global thing wasn’t affecting the local banking industry as it was in other places. So we were able to really utilize that.
Then we were able to build a building during the recession where we were able to buy things cheap, you know, and get great talent.
So we built a building. And I’ll remember there were literally footings in the ground and we didn’t even know where we were going to put an office. None of this was a thought. It was just like, OK, we just need a bigger space and we’re going to move our stuff into it.
I literally at that point was like, I think we’re in a different industry. We’re like, this has to stand alone, this business. So it was a sobering moment.
And since we built the building, when we opened it in 2010, we’ve basically quadrupled the juice business from that point. And we’re growing like basically 10, still 10, 15% a year.
Maureen: That is fantastic.
I want to go back to something that you said earlier in the conversation about making something different, unique, and special. And you spent time in advertising and have really always been focused on building a brand.
You want to build a national brand. You want to be a contributing member of the community. You’ve always been a big community guy too. But talk a little bit about that in terms of kind of how your past as an advertising guy has contributed to your work at Red Jacket or turns on the growth of the company and how it will continue to contribute to that.
Brian: So there’s, I’m learning this new business philosophy or whatever, it’s not new, but it’s new to me. It’s called the Entrepreneurial Operating System, EOS.
Maureen: Oh yeah, I’m a big EOS fan. [Got the] Traction book.
Brian: Yeah, I got my Rocket Fuel.
Maureen: I’m a big EOS fan.
Brian: Those guys are going to owe us a plug. But to answer your question, I’m beginning to put the words on my journey in kind of having new words to use.
I came into the business out of advertising in New York City. So I had learned my job was to make the boss successful, right? And so I basically said that to my dad. I said, look, I’m here to support you. I’m not an owner, you’re the owner.
And I spent a lot of time getting to know the people, getting to know our people, getting to know the business. I did every job. I ran the pack house, all that stuff. But what I realized now is my dad was the visionary, right?
So his passion, his insane passion, like it’s just an insane passion for doing something. like apricots was a 30-year sort of R&D process that’s still going on in the orchard, right? But apricots that we grow got us into Gourmet Magazine, got us national exposure, right?
The plums that my dad grows, New York Times, stuff like, so I came back, I didn’t have an agenda really. I really was just like, hey, I’m just here to fill in the gap.
So I became really the integrator to my dad.
And I really was the guy putting pieces together and I always tell my dad, like, dad, today, I said, you can’t drive this thing like a Maserati, okay? It’s not a Maserati anymore.
He just would love to attack and like, next year I’m going to put five acres of this in or blah, blah, blah. And so I’ve had to like, I’ve been along for a bit of the ride there and I love it because I also learned what an entrepreneur is through him.
I never considered myself an entrepreneur. And then I realized… just in living this life, you know, what it takes to kind of be creative and take risks.
Anyways, the brand, he gave me so many great opportunities because he had these little projects laying all around. And one of them was the juices.
And, you know, I didn’t come in to be, like I’m gonna make Red Jacket a big brand. That was not my goal. My goal was, first of all, survival, right?
The food business is difficult. The farm business is difficult. Every year is a different year. And sometimes you put a lot of money out and it doesn’t come back.
So I spent a lot of time holding onto this beast and making sure that it was hopefully heading in the right direction, being fiscally responsible, trying, you know, allowing for this creativity.
And that was a big role that I played. So I was probably more of an operations finance role than a brand role, any stretch of the imagination.
With that said, back in 2000, when I came back, my wife was still working with her firm in New York City. So she’d have to be in New York City every two weeks. She still works for that firm. We called it telecommuting back then. Now everyone calls it remote, right?
I was down in New York City every two weeks with my team, building stuff out, and touching the customer sampling product. That really is where I learned. That was, that was my MBA, right? Standing in a Whole Foods pouring juice that might not have actually been great juice. I poured more bad juice in the early days than good juice. You know, there were days where you’d walk up to the shelf and feel like, I better taste this stuff before I’m done.
We were in uncharted territory. We were doing things that didn’t, you know, I mean, the shelf life didn’t last as long as it was supposed to. You know, we were making it in a packhouse versus a beautiful, pristine facility to make it in today.
It was a much different thing. So I learned, I listened, and I got beat up by distributors. We did our own distribution to control our destiny. We made those investments. We made great long-term relationships. We have those core relationships at the core of our business today. The Dan Barbers, the Dan Blodds, the Daniel Humes, the famous chefs in New York City.
You know, those long-term relationships, those people who advocated and then celebrated us on their menus and on their boards, that’s how we built a brand.
And because of that, we were handing products directly to thousands of customers every day in New York City. So that’s how we built the brand.
I like to think that my job, my job is yes. We are so focused as fruit people on having the best ingredient, right? The best ingredient makes the best product. And then we’ve got to make sure that we’re connected with the consumer.
Everything else in between is the business of that, right? Like the distributors, the production, and everything else. So I tend to try to want to focus on those two ends and make sure those things are, you know, are we making an awesome product that delivers a completely wow experience, right?
And that’s why I love demo-ing juice. You just see people light up. And that’s what we, so that’s my dad’s piece of it, right?
If we’re selling juice and people aren’t like, wow, that’s the best juice I’ve had, I’m not interested in doing it. That’s how we built the brand in the inside of the bottle.
We stayed very true to what we were doing there. That’s part of a brand, right? We didn’t deviate, we stayed in our lane. We didn’t kind of like try and be something we’re not. My favorite thing to tell people is like, we’re fruit people first and beverage people second.
Maureen: That’s a great way to think about it. And it does directly connect to that awesome product. Wow. Experience all goes into exactly what is put into the bottle.
You mentioned that your dad was the visionary and you were the integrator. And so anybody who’s familiar with the EOS system, those are specific terms from those books that are kind of the right and left brain, if you will, of kind of a business, the big idea person and they get shit done. person. So you’re now is your dad still involved in the business?
Brian: Yeah, so my dad’s still involved in the beverage business. He’s a minority shareholder, but I run the business. So he doesn’t spend too much time on it. He’s always got an opinion, which is, I don’t wanna use the word welcome, but it’s certainly appreciated.
Cause he’s always got something that he’s gotta share, which is good. But yeah, so now I run all of the operations.
Maureen: So have you then changed your role from integrator to visionary or where, how do you get that itch scratched? Because you’re certainly doing the visionary work.
I mean, honing the business in the way that you’ve done, especially since 2008, where you doubled down on beverage.
How has your role changed since you made some of those adjustments?
Brian: Well, I think my role has changed significantly and it goes back to a little bit, first of all, family management, right? So we have a family business.
The first and foremost role is how is the business of the family business being managed, right? So I spent a lot of time on that and that takes a lot of work. And I would say I spent a lot of time on that maybe four or five years ago.
Recently, my brother left the company. I bought him out and stuff like that. He still does some advisement and all that. So that was a big transition in 2015, 2016, well, 2-17, 2018.
Maureen: I’m sure it was.
Brian: It was really big. We did a lot of restructuring of our organization. And then I got a great team. So I have evolved, and I’ve been very clear with my team as things have gone in a good direction and the business is in a good place.
I’m like, hey, I’m not that integrator anymore. I’m not able to do it. I’m now in the visionary seat.
I’m really enjoying that role transition. It’s a little daunting at times to be honest, because I think I’m somewhere in that, they say there are rare people who are in the middle, but I’m not quite sure I’m in the middle, I’m not that rare, but I do enjoy the detail, getting the operation done. And I do enjoy taking the company where I think it should go, right? Or where we’re, it’s not where I think it should go. It’s where people, where our customers are driving us to go.
My job is to really listen to that, to understand where it’s going and where those opportunities are.
So yeah, that role has changed significantly and it was not easy for me, I can tell you. It was not easy at all. In fact, I’m very fortunate that I have great people around me.
I’m a member of the Young Presidents Organization, YPO. So I have a forum group and they’re like a personal board of advisors. I’ve had coaches that I work with. I got my own family supporting me and it’s taken all of those pieces for me to be good at what I do. I wouldn’t say I could do it on my own.
So I’ve had that support, which has been really great because there’s been some tough decisions to make along the business line.
But I think we’re doing what’s in the best interest of the brand and in the best interest of our community and in the best interest of our people.
And so my job now is really focused on culture. You know, it’s focused on that relationship, uh, development with our core customers and, and making sure that we’re continuing to do what they’re, you know, valuing that we do.
Maureen: As a visionary, you’re kind of an assessor too, right? And I think it’s important to have some of the resources that you mentioned, not only your family, which is a unique situation when you’re in a generational business but also to have external folks like coaches, like a group of trusted peers that you can run ideas by to kind of help gut check you on some things, you know, before you continue to move forward. I’m a, I’m a big, fan of that philosophy as well.
What kind of advice would you give someone looking to grow and scale a food or beverage brand?
Brian: That is a really tough question. In fact, I was just having that conversation… what advice would I give them?
I think part of what I recognize, I can’t give anyone advice, right? Because I just, I mean, I only have my journey and my journey has been very particular to Red Jacket Orchards and the family business. And my journey is I’ve taken basically the generational piece below me. And we basically hatched a startup out of like a 50-year-old company, you know?
Maureen: Is before you, you mean. The generational stuff has happened before you and you’re trying to build a new foundation.
Brian: Well, yeah, they had the pieces there, right? And so, for instance, you know, we were selling juice in the farmer’s market. Could we have sustained growing a juice business, launching it in the stores, failing, losing product, on our own, not without deep pockets, so that the main business, the fruit business, really carried that for a very long time through a lot of… tough times to be honest.
I mean, there were times when I’m like, why are we doing this beverage thing? You know, it was, it wasn’t like, oh, everyone loves it. And it’s like, yeah, everyone loves the juice, but then trying to figure out how to sell into the chains and fight, you know, like, how do you, you’re sitting on it. Oh, great.
We launched into like, I don’t know, a 200 chain store in, you know, in the mid-Atlantic [region], but nobody knows us and there’s no way to get it off the shelf and it expired and nobody’s going to buy it again.
You need deep pockets. You need deep pockets or you really need to understand your lane.
I think if you understand your lane, and this is the other thing, there’s just a lot. There’s a lot of money out there that can get immediate quick hits, but it’s the experience, they say, is as important as the money. And I believe that.
I was literally on trucks in New York City selling my stuff, right? I was going directly to the gourmet stores and talking to Louis Balducci at Agata and talking, you know, again, to these, these owners.
So I think, I guess I feel inadequate to give anyone advice. I would say that the fundamentals of creating a unique product are paramount, a unique point of differentiation that people can understand and get behind.
And then it really is about generating that trial through handshakes and relationships and, you know, you’re, you’re walking up a pyramid. You know, you gotta start at the base and then walk your way up.
But I do think… One of the reasons why we have done well over time is because, and I’ll just give an example, we’re very focused on the flavor of the product.
Maureen: I was just gonna say it sounds like you’ve been relentless for quality.
Brian: Yeah, yeah. And again, some of these things I write take for granted just because it’s like who we are.
Every morning we have a production meeting and every morning the team tastes the juice. And so you have peer pressure and you have a panel and you have multi people tasting it. So we still taste every batch, you know, and it’s just part of, we know that that’s so important.
There were times when we got away from that. But if it’s in your face every day. And if you don’t have a good answer of like why that’s not awesome, you know, and it’s a natural product, there are ranges of really good, but if you’re like, hey, that was okay. But like, are we heading back into the awesome area or is that going to be around for a little while? Yeah.
And every, and we have a great team of blenders and you know, they know, they know their work product every day is going up to the office, you know?
So I think there’s, you know, we’ve developed some parts of our culture that. I really focused and dedicated to that. You know, we make fresh juice, but we’re also apple orchard growers.
So we’re very knowledgeable about our product. But back to a startup, you know, you got it. I’ll say this. I say to my dad, one thing you taught me about entrepreneurialism is…
As an entrepreneur, when people say to you, and this is my dad, when people say to you, dad, this is your reality. Like here’s your reality. And you typically don’t, A, listen to them, and B, you’re not satisfied with someone telling you what your reality is, so you go start your own reality.
Like I think that’s the entrepreneurial process, right? It’s like. Yeah, yeah, you guys don’t get it. I know what I got to do and I’m going to go do this. And you go do it. And that, anyone who wants to start a business, anyone that wants to start a product, I think there has to be some of that in their DNA because there’s a lot of dark days.
And those dark days are easily medicated through optimism.
You can have optimism as a realism optimism or you could have like just crazy wacky optimism and I think it takes a combination of both.
Maureen: I love it. That’s great advice. Tell me what’s next for Red Jacket Orchards.
Brian: So where we’re heading next is really continuing to do what we have gotten really good at, which is going deep. We’re going deep with our customers.
Maureen: Love that, yes.
Brian: We’re going deep with our market.
Funny enough, it was through this ownership transition in 2019. I believe in karma. I believe I’ve seen steps along the business. Timing is everything.
We had really gotten our business so focused on what we do well that when COVID hit. We were supplying every day and we were the top, best in the market for supply, and we weren’t perfect by any stretch.
But we said, look guys, we make food. We are feeding people and nurturing people and they need us like through COVID.
And I’m just so proud of our team. So we’re doing more of that, you know, and that’s our culture. Like our team comes here and they know it’s a craft. We’re practicing our craft. We’re honing our craft.
And hopefully what you’ll see from Red Jacket is you’ll see more of us in the places that you are from Maine to Miami. You know, we’re in Publix and Whole Foods and Wegmans under their label and Tops and Hannaford and then you go to Metro New York, and you kind of trip over us.
And we want to keep doing that. We want you to, we want to be more ubiquitous where we are and we don’t need to conquer the world. But we want to, you know, we want to take the company and grow to another 50%, you know, in the next five, six years. So that’s what we’re doing.
Maureen: Good for you. I have every confidence that you’ll do it, especially with that EOS method and the team that you have alongside and your family along with you too. Thanks so much for sharing your story today. Maybe in a year we can come back for an update and see what else is happening and what other kind of pivots or growth you’ve experienced in that time. But I want to thank you for sharing all of this. It’s been a fascinating story.
Brian: Well, Maureen, thanks for having me. Thanks for doing what you’re doing. Thanks for the contributions you’re making to the community. There’s so much excitement that I have for being in Geneva and being in the Finger Lakes. We got some great things going and it’s great to have a good culture here and food culture and we just keep rolling.