Connoils Scales from One-Woman Op to One-Stop Shop
In Edible-Alpha® podcast #87, Tera is joined by Stacy Peterson, founder and CEO of Connoils, a manufacturer, distributor and wholesale supplier of oil and oil powder ingredients for food and beverages, dietary supplements, personal care and pet food. As a seasoned entrepreneur—and one who works on the ingredients side of food—she provides valuable insights for listeners. Kicking off the conversation, Stacy shared the history of the company she launched in 2007. It all started when her then-employer, Cargill, decided to discontinue its line of nutritional oils, eliminating her job along with it. Seeing an opportunity to keep serving those customers while ensuring her own employment, Stacy proposed forming an independent company to acquire the product line. Cargill agreed and sold her its remaining inventory at a discount. So, with an established product line and customer base, Stacy began her entrepreneurial journey. At first, she was a one-woman show. She worked out of her home, stored inventory at the food-grade storage facility where her husband worked and relied on contract manufacturers for oil encapsulation. As the business grew, Stacy began hiring help, and after a few years, moved the company to a 7,500-square-foot facility to bring more of the work in-house. Connoils eventually outgrew that space too, building a brand-new 25,000-square-foot facility in Big Bend, Wisconsin, last year, complete with solar panels on the roof. The new space better allows Connoils to be a one-stop shop for its customers, offering manufacturing, spray-drying, encapsulation, bottling, private-labeling, white-labeling, R&D consultation and shipping. The company’s portfolio now includes about 200 types of oils in multiple formats, including canola, avocado, sesame seed, evening primrose, CBD, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and fish oils, sourced primarily from the U.S. and Mexico. Like all businesses in the food space, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Connoils early on, with some customers delaying product launches and orders ramping up for ingredients used in sanitation products. Domestic sourcing has proved fortuitous, given the ongoing logistical problems with international supply chains. Looking forward, Stacy sees more growth ahead for Connoils, especially in MCTs, CBD, immune health products and pet nutrition. She is currently mapping out strategies to boost efficiencies and continue scaling smartly. To wrap up the interview, Stacy offered her best advice for food entrepreneurs just starting out, including the importance of mentorship, collaboration and joining business groups such as Vistage. Tune into the full podcast!