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In Edible-Alpha® podcast #118, Andy has a fascinating discussion with Belinda Kelly and Venise Cunningham, co-founders of Simple Goodness Sisters. The two started with a retail line of small-batch simple syrups and have since diversified with a subscription box club and the Simple Goodness Soda Shop in Wilkeson, Washington.
Growing up with a family business, Belinda and Venise knew they wanted to be entrepreneurs someday. Both worked in tech in Seattle, but after becoming moms, they craved careers more aligned with their passions and lifestyles. Venise loved working on Simple Goodness Farm, which she and her husband bought in 2010, while Belinda enjoyed cooking.
In 2016, Belinda quit her corporate job and launched a mobile bar business that became an instant hit. The secret to her success were her handcrafted simple syrups featuring herbs, fruits, and edible flowers from Venise’s farm and other locally sourced ingredients. Serving craft cocktails at events ginned up demand for the syrups, and Venise eventually convinced Belinda that they should launch a retail product.
So, they set to work on Simple Goodness Sisters, with Belinda developing recipes and Venise researching potential co-packers. They finally found a co-packer six hours away that would take their very small, self-financed run, capped at 1,000 bottles to test demand. Though that partnership was ultimately unsustainable, they learned a ton about producing at scale. Launching their first flavors in 2018, they received rave reviews and decided to ramp up production.
As their business grew, Belinda sold the mobile bar company and Venise expanded production on her farm. While still using a co-packer, they wanted to get certified to produce small batches themselves, which leads to their brick-and-mortar endeavor.
They’d purchased a historic building in touristy Wilkeson, envisioning it as a seasonal off-farm agritourism destination for sampling cocktails, sodas, and other items featuring their syrups. Also, having learned from an FFI boot camp that they needed a steadier cash flow, they began plotting a subscription box featuring special-release syrups that they’d produce onsite.
When the liquor board demanded that they also sell food, Belinda and Venise pivoted concepts to include a farm-to-table sandwich menu. The pandemic forced even more pivots, first delaying the Simple Goodness Soda Shop’s opening from May to October 2020 and then turning it into a to-go joint. Still, the shop gained a following in the 10 weeks it was open before closing for the season.
In early 2021, they launched Cocktail Farm Club, which has grown significantly, aided by the sisters’ active social media presence and key PR opportunities. They also reopened the Soda Shop in May and had a great first full season, followed by a bustling 2022 so far.
With their retail, wholesale, and e-commerce business growing as well, Simple Goodness Sisters has outgrown its co-packer. So now Belinda and Venise want to invest in their own production facility, which will require more financing. Having mostly self-financed and invested in real estate thus far, along with receiving a USDA marketing grant, this will be an exciting next phase for this inspiring business.