News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Entrepreneur finds sweet opportunity in Sisters

It’s hard to think of a better example of the kind of business Sisters has set itself to attract than Holy Kakow. The Portland-based craft food maker of chocolate syrup, coffee syrups and cacao powder is relocating here in a few weeks.

They will take up 5,000 square feet in the nearly completed structure at 260 E. Sun Ranch Dr., a quarter-mile from the airport. The mostly steel-sided building, developed by Art Blumenkron, features 17,000 sq. ft. of light industrial on the ground floor and three apartments on a second level. The 1687 Foundation occupies the bulk of the building.

Kakow will start with seven employees: Wyatt Woods, the founder and owner, and six others, two from Portland and the rest new hires. That bodes well for the Sisters job market. The business is not highly automated, most products are made by hand in 25-gallon batches. However, it’s a lot of batches. Woods’ firm sells in all 50 states and parts of Canada.

Locally, Kakow’s syrups are used at Sisters Coffee Co., Suttle Tea, Sisters Bakery, and Oliver Lemon’s. They are certified organic both at the source — Peru — and at the point of blending, soon to be Sisters. The operation, begun in 2009 with just Woods, now works one shift, 5 days a week and expects to see continued growth with more employees in second or third shifts.

Woods, age 40, is the quintessential Sisters entrepreneur. Not only does he run a small, green-efficient business providing needed local employment, but he and his wife, Rachael, have a young family with children in the school district — one at Sisters High School, one in kindergarten and a one-year-old at home. He brings talent, energy and commitment to the community.

Woods is immediately recognizable by his Tennessee accent. His quest began with work on organic farms. Hoping to make a positive impact on the world, he began roasting his own coffee. He took off for Guatemala in search of the perfect green coffee he could import. And, like thousands of small business owners before him, along the way he got an inspiration. In this case at a cacao farm. Within a few months, Holy Kakow was born.

The Nugget asked him if he thought there was any synergy between his business and Laird Superfoods (NYSE – LSG) which became publicly traded in October and whose 2020 plant-based product sales are in the vicinity of $25 million annually. You could almost hear a sly smile on the other end of the line as he pondered aloud if Sisters was an emerging mini hub for natural, organic, and functional food and beverages?

“Wouldn’t that be sweet?” he mused.

When Sisters Coffee Co. begins roasting in a to-be-constructed 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot operation a few hundred feet from Kakow, that would make Sun Ranch Business Park a mecca for coffee-centric businesses. Laird, Kakow, Fika Sisters Coffeehouse and Sisters Coffee Co.’s roasting facility would all be within a short distance of each other.

That might produce some enticing aromas, although if Kakow is typical, emissions, even the sweet-smelling variety, are captured. Woods says the most expensive part of his new operation is the highly sophisticated HVAC system to control even harmless cacao powder and kettle steam from entering the atmosphere.

Flavored syrups are a $12-billion industry and are expected to double by 2027, according to Data Bridge Market Research, of which the coffee segment is approximately 25 percent. The market is dominated by mega multinationals like Hershey but companies such as Ah!Laska, with similar stories as Holy Kakow, have legendary customer loyalty and brand awareness.

 

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