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Pop Up Shop: Ground Up PDX

Ground Up PDX is a for-profit business that provides job training to disadvantaged women in the Portland area through sales of healthy and delicious nut butters. Come meet Julie the co-owner of Ground Up PDX at CLICK! on Sunday July 8th 10am-2pm to learn more about how they help empower women, and try some tasty nut butters. We’ve asked them a few questions to know a little more about Ground Up PDX.

How would you describe what you make?

We make small batch almond and cashew butters in SE Portland.  Each batch is free of peanuts, dairy, gluten and added sugars + oils, just sweetened with a touch of honey.  Each flavor is unique from other butters you find on the market: Lavender Honey, Coconut Cardamom with Chia Seeds and Cinnamon Snickerdoodle to name a few.  

Can you give a bit of info on yourselves and how Ground Up PDX came to be?

We launched Ground Up officially in March 2016, but didn’t really bring our product to market until June, starting with Farmer’s Markets and local events. I had returned from living in Uganda overseeing an employment training program and after witnessing the success of this model of empowerment, I saw the opportunity to implement a similar program in my home community of Portland.  I truly believe that business can be a powerful tool for social good, so I set out to find a product! Which is when I met Carolyn!

For us, nut butter is a delicious treat that also fuels our active lifestyles. Our blends are super versatile, and can complement everything from your morning oatmeal to your evening charcuterie platter. Nut butters also lend themselves to a highly creative process for us, because the healthy fats so beautifully adopt the flavors of the herbs and spices we add to them. It’s so fun to play around with new combinations!

While we’ve always used nut butters as a healthy fuel for our active lifestyles, Carolyn (business partner) really perfected the “art” of making them when she was diagnosed with SIBO 4 years ago. Her doctor-mandated diet prohibited refined sugars, added oils and peanuts, and she began making her own nut butters as a sweet treat that fit within the diet.

We love that Ground Up PDX is a women owned and women run business. Can you tell us more about your work empowering women and what inspired it all?

The inspiration for our employment training program came from my experience working for an ethical fashion brand in Northern Uganda that had an employment training program model. Ground Up was founded on the belief that if you give a woman an opportunity, it will have both a profound impact on the course of her life, but also on that of her family and her community.

The mission of Ground Up PDX is to remove employment barriers for women overcoming adversity by providing job training and mentorship through a social enterprise that produces and distributes a unique product line of healthy nut butters.  

A lot of the training with Ground Up comes through day-to-day activities of running the business.  Through working with us, they're learning soft skills such as workplace communication, teamwork, work ethic and responsibility. Confidence and discovering of one’s strengths are also a couple of the key takeaways our women have expressed through working with Ground Up PDX.

We find that working in the kitchen and at events are two of the greatest avenues for skill-building. Women who work with us learn everything from sales and marketing to working in a commercial kitchen space. When women join, they help us in the kitchen on the production line, doing everything from jarring to labeling. They also work in shipping and receiving, perform administrative tasks, and representing our brand at events and demos in the community. We do monthly reviews to check in and always want to make sure we are challenging and helping each woman grow and move towards the next best step for themselves. We like to point out strengths we see and be a resource where we can. We have found that some of the best learning comes from just the day to day interactions and jobs tasks. It is beautiful to see a community of support forming amongst our team, as we continue to create an encouraging, supportive community.

Can you describe your favorite part of the work you do?

I love that no day looks the same.  It keeps things interesting! But most importantly, I love our team of women!  They inspire me every single day. On challenging days, the women remind me that it’s worth it to keep working hard to sell more nut butter and grow the company, so we can provide more opportunities.  Really the biggest reward comes from seeing change and growth taking place. From the shift in confidence that takes place over their time working at Ground Up, to seeing the ways our team of women support, encourage and build one another up.  That truly gives me the fuel I need to keep going and stay motivated on the weeks that are challenging when the mountain feels steep.

Do you have a personal favorite flavor(s)?

Coconut Cardamom with Chia Seeds.  All day every day! Morning smoothies, snack with apple slices and in my homemade “peanut sauce” in the evening!

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