By Angela Rose | May 02, 2016
For Ross and Jarrett Eggers, producing natural, organic foods is a family affair. In 2013, the cousins got together to purchase Fiona's Natural Foods -- a small Boulder maker of granola, oatmeal, and trail mix -- from its founder. They quickly realized that they needed something other than the shared kitchen production space the company had been using, so they began searching for other options.
"That's when we got the idea for Skyway Foods," Jarrett explains. "We came upon our current building, which was an old production sorting facility for the post office, and knew we only needed a portion of the space. There were a lot of other companies looking for the same things we were, so we decided to buy it and build out additional suites so they could join us."
They started renovations on the nearly 50,000-square-foot facility in Jan. 2015, creating six separate manufacturing suites, warehouse space, and refrigerator and freezer storage space along with shared break rooms, locker rooms, and conference rooms. Half of the location was rented before the buildout was complete.
It's now home to Keen One Quinoa, Pie in the Sky Bakery, Simply Dara, Bhakti Chai, and Naked Edge Snacks in addition to the cousins' own food companies, Fiona's Natural Foods and BellaVia Gluten Free. And it's much more than a building. Skyway Foods is a natural, organic food community that offers its tenants many benefits in addition to secure and affordable space.
"Our tenants have the benefit of everybody else's experience who is working in the building," Jarrett says. "Some of the companies are just starting out while others are farther down the road growth wise. They can share knowledge with each other, and that is beneficial to everybody."
Tenants can also utilize forklifts, scissor lifts and some packaging equipment owned by the cousins' companies. "These are expensive items, and smaller companies and startups often have better places to put their money," Jarrett adds.
Demand is growing rapidly, and Skyway Foods is continuously fielding calls from other manufacturers interested in leasing space. "We purchased the lot next door with the intention of continuing to build this food community," says Ross. "There are a lot of natural, organic food producers who have similar mindsets and can help each other out by being under the same roof."
They're planning to add 20,000 to 30,000 square feet sometime this year. "We're working with the county right now to figure out how much of the lot needs to be dedicated to parking and green space and how much can be building," Ross says. "So we're basically laying it all out right now."
Challenges: "We're currently out of space, with the exception of a small portion of our freezer," says Ross, "but we have potential tenants lined up who want to join us. Space is definitely our biggest challenge." While the cousins are eager to break ground on their next building, they aren't rushing the process. "We learned a lot on the build out of this location. We made a few mistakes and won't be making those the next time around," Ross continues. "We're taking the necessary time to get everything organized the way we want it so the next one will be even better."
Opportunities: "We're a family of entrepreneurs and always have been," Jarrett explains. "We've owned many businesses and are now in a position where we can help others do the same. We'd like our new space to make it possible to help them move through the startup phase all the way through the scale-to-win timing of their company. If we can be a part of that from the beginning to the end with our tenants, I think it will be beneficial for all of us."
Ross agrees. "In my heart, there's this idea of being able to help out the startup, the small guy who has a great idea but maybe not the means to make it work. I'd like to be able to get those people into a situation where they can make a good idea succeed," he says.
Needs: "We need more buildings and we need them fast," Jarrett says. "But at the heart of it all is time. Everything happens on its own schedule, but we'll just keep plugging away. Ross and I are fortunate enough to be working with our families, and we have a great support team around us including CPAs and lawyers who have worked with us for years. Our team can really get stuff done, so that's our plan."