This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That? We ask readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories.
Introducing Debbie Nightingale, co-founder of Haute Goat, a Cambellford, Ont.-based company that sells goat cheese chocolates, goat milk salted caramels, raw goat milk soap, balms and creams.
Haute Goat was launched in Dec. 2013 as a way for us to celebrate all things goat – and in particular to celebrate our goats.
We were ex-pats from Toronto who loved the country and animals (well I did, my husband had to learn to appreciate them). We acquired a few horses and then brought home some of most impossibly cute goats you’ve ever seen – Nigerian Dwarf Goats. As it turns out, they have the highest butterfat content of all of the goat breeds (6 per cent or higher) so cheese, yogurt and anything made with it is extra rich and sweet. Goat milk also happens to be a great natural moisturizer, and with that added butterfat, makes it even more so. So between the fact that their milk could be the basis of such wonderful products, and how enchanting these goats are, we decided to find a way to share what we’d discovered with the world. So these little goats, that steal your heart, became our inspiration for starting the business.
As we were getting started, we discovered that we didn’t meet government regulations to use our milk for the edibles. So we found artisan food-makers with the regulation kitchens to work with us and develop products with (licensed) goat milk as its source. Our line-up currently includes: salted goat milk caramels (naked and chocolate dipped), goat butter caramel corn, cajeta sauce (we’re about to introduce a Holy Smoke Church Key Beer infused version this week), and goat butter fudge. On the skin care side we use our own milk and have a hand, foot and cuticle cream, facial cleanser, lip balm, face cream and 15 different soaps.
2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?
I’ve always loved the challenge of startup. Its quite a thrill but it sure can be high risk. Maybe that explains the thrill. My whole life has been about creating and growing things. Some people feel better getting a weekly paycheque – I’ve never been that person. I’d rather be a little hungrier today in anticipation of the big feast.
3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
Our customers tend to be upwards of 30, more women than men. They tend to be knowledgeable foodies who are interested in premium quality products and are not afraid to spend a little more to get them. They love learning about the goats, the products and in general about our life at the farm. And we love talking about them. It seems there are lots of people who are keen to do what we did in moving to the country and truly following our dream. Our customers find us online at our website (www.hautegoat.com), on Facebook via the store there, at the Wychwood Barns Farmers Market and Sick Kids Markets, and at a few specialty retailers like Herma’s in Port Hope, The Candy Bar and The Mercantile in Toronto and one of Campbellford’s biggest draws, the Empire Cheese Co.
4. What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business? Do you have any employees?
I tend to do more of the product development (its fun and delicious!). My husband does more of the markets. We both do the long term strategizing. We have Farmer Dan who helps at the farm because we are often away for a day or so and he’s so good with the animals. We also have a social media company that helps keep us front and centre with our followers on Facebook, Twitter etc.
5. You’ve been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
Without a doubt our success is due to our passion for what we’re doing. Its lots of hard work, but its also fun. When someone steps up to the stand at a market, tries a sample and closes their eyes and murmurs ‘Oh, my, god!….’ It just encourages us to keep on doing it.
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