Rising StarRedefining the Perfect Snack: Member Chat with Pacific Northwest Kale Chips

Ugyen Shola  and Sarah Pool, co-founders of Pacific Northwest Kale Chips
Ugyen Shola (left) and Sarah Pool (right), co-founders of Pacific Northwest Kale Chips, pose in front of their favorite leafy green.

Ten years ago, if you had asked someone about the Next Big Thing in the snacking industry, it’s doubtful that kale would have come to mind. After all, it’s a vegetable, and it’s good for you.

Granted, raw kale isn’t a particularly convenient food. It needs to be washed, chopped, and (unless you have a high tolerance for bitterness) either cooked or soaked in dressing. Kale chips, on the other hand…  that’s a different story.

Yet as many of us have learned, not all kale chips are created equal. With tantalizing flavors and local, organic ingredients, Pacific Northwest Kale Chips has nailed the perfect combination of flavor, nutrition, and crunch. Here, we sit down with Co-Founder Sarah Pool to get more insight into her company and her own entrepreneurial journey:

What was the spark that inspired you to start Pacific Northwest Kale Chips?

I was running marathons and had dialed in the nutrition aspect of performance like never before. I became pretty fanatical about eating raw, leafy greens because they are so nutrient-packed, but found it difficult to take a bag of spinach or kale on the road without it wilting. When I discovered kale chips, I thought I’d found the holy grail of food. Quickly thereafter, Co-Founder Ugyen Shola and I challenged ourselves to create kale chips that were even more nutritious than the other chips on the market, with a focus on local, organic ingredients. We dove right in and haven’t looked back since!

What problem does your business solve?

It’s hard to find truly healthy, organic snack food that fuses nutrition with deliciousness. There’s usually something missing: either the food is nutritious, but tastes horrible. Or it tastes amazing, but it’s lacking in nutrition. Our chips are both amazing tasting and amazingly nutritious. We don’t use oils, artificial ingredients, or preservatives. We don’t bake, fry, or overly process the chips. It’s 100% real food, that’s naturally organic, vegan, raw, and gluten free.

As co-founder of a new company, what keeps you up at night?

Growth strategies. How we can best serve customers. How to create opportunities for our employees that exercise their creativity and experience, as well as help them grow personally and professionally. Making sure the bills are paid.

What is the best entrepreneurial advice you have received (and from whom)?

From my Dad: “Business is pretty simple: make sure the amount you have coming in is more than the amount going out.”

What song best describes your work ethic?

Our team’s song is the Ninja Turtle theme song “Heroes in a Half Shell.” We’re green (kale) and are fighting to keep the world safe from GMOs, pesticides, etc. Ha!

Can you describe your typical day?

I’m up at 4:30 a.m., throw on clothes, get to the kitchen, help prep ingredients for the day’s sauces, get coffee, high five our crew, review orders that need to go out that day, get the scoop from the sales team, answer emails, plan week’s production and delivery schedule, order produce and other ingredients, make deliveries, post to social media, pay bills, update website, count inventory, create next day’s packing schedule, eat kale chips, go to post office, go to bank, answer more emails.

The Pacific Northwest Kale Chips Team
Sarah says her amazing staff is one of the things she’s most grateful for.

As you think about the growth of your company to date, what are you most thankful for?

Customers that have stuck with us through our growing pains, and our amazing staff.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A professional athlete or a monk.

Do you have any favorite local businesses?

How can I choose? There are so many inspiring local businesses — how about a Top 10 for today list? Hopworks, Wildfang, Pacific Foods, The Cheese Plate, Heidi Ho’s Veganics, Bob’s Red Mill, Zenger Farm, Denison Farms, People’s Co-op, Nike, Equal Exchange. Okay, that’s 11!

Any other fun facts to share?

Our Co-Founder, Ugyen Shola, was carried across the Himalaya Mountains on foot at 1 year of age, when his family was exiled from Tibet.

Anything fun on your company’s horizon?

One fun goal our team has is to create a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Calendar for kale, which we’ve aptly named the “Kalender,” featuring poses of our team with kale.

Imagine your company becomes wildly successful. What does that look like?

Our goal is to become a Portland and Pacific Northwest staple that never wavers in delighting our customers with the highest quality, organic kale chips around; that gives back to our local community through jobs, service and support; and that stays true to our commitment to benefit the planet by being conscientious in all aspects of our supply chain and utilizing zero animal ingredients.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

The opportunity to create something bigger and better than yourself, which for us, means creating a company that benefits people’s health, our local community, and planet. Also, facing new challenges every day that force you to be better than you thought you could be. And lastly, building a team of amazingly talented and dedicated individuals who constantly surprise us.

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