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The Rippling DNA of an Inclusive Business

Say hello to Elisabeth Burrow, the mastermind and Chief Nut Roaster behind Jewels Under the Kilt, an agri-distribution business. They grow and roast nuts on a farm outside Fergus, Ontario, and distribute their product across Canada. It all started in 2010 when she and her partner bought a 95-acre farm in Fergus. And within a few years, they started to roast nuts, grow more nuts, and package it up and put it on your table.

How does one begin a journey of cultivating nuts?

In 2010, Elisabeth, originally a US citizen who had moved to Canada, and her partner were in the process of relocating and had been looking at properties. They found one in Fergus - a farm that they both fell in love with.

“My partner said, ‘you don't have to work anymore. Just be home for our daughter (we have a daughter with Down’s Syndrome) and I basically said, I think I can do that! I can't guarantee it though. So I'm going to give you two years.’ And in those two years, I created Jewels Under the Kilt really. This began because I was always given a bunch of syrup by my father-in-law. They had a family Maple Farm. I don't actually use syrup, we don't make pancakes because of my daughter. Some of those foods, you just can’t have because they (children with Down’s Syndrome) have a larger tongue. But I eat a lot of nuts. And I was going to the grocery store and buying nuts that tasted horrible. This is because they have a coating on them that is not desirable.”

Elisabeth then worked on the syrup and realized it has preservative properties. The process used for the making of maple syrup was similar to the process for nuts. She uses maple as a preservative, a process that she has since patented.

In the first year, she decided she was going to plant 5 nut trees. A number that her partner challenged her on. “‘Why five? Why not? 30 or 40?’ So I did. I put in 150 the first year. And we had some on our farm already.”

Focusing local; distributing nationally!

Jewels Under the Kilt is now available all across Canada. They do it via three distributors: one for the west coast, and two in Ontario. Their distributors help them keep supplying the smaller stores.

They offer a wide range of products using premium ingredients. And while they do use premium imported ingredients, like Ceylon cinnamon that comes from Sri Lanka, they focus on using local ingredients from farmers they visit as much as possible.

Building an inclusive company

Elisabeth talks passionately about how inclusion is front and center at their company. “One of my goals is to have people with disabilities here. So we have a few working inside the kitchen, some that work with me out in the field in the orchard. My daughter who is the ‘Nutcracker’ is the tour guide. She is our boss! She will tell you who's working and who can have a day off. We have over 50 people working in my kitchen.”

Fun Frank advice from Elisabeth Burrow

I think everybody needs to be true to themselves. I think that even if you're trying to catch that dream in a big store, that you really still need to be who you are. Don't be so eager that this person wants you. Maybe you do get into some stores but it's not always you that pulls you off the shelf. It's not always you, it's not what you did. Maybe you have fantastic sales but they just decided we're putting something else in here. Don't feel bad about yourself. Just be true.”

If you’d like to listen to the full episode with Elisabeth, on my podcast, you can find it here:

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