My friend was having lunch with Anya and I got an email from her saying that we had to meet each other. Anya is an incredible entrepreneur making bold moves like building a 10,000 acre ranch in Northern California to produce a sustainable meat company at the same time building a sustainable ranch and resort in Uruguay and Belize. Why make life easy?
Anya was born in Germany and lived there the first three years of her life being raised on a raw milk. Both her parents were from Germany and academics, a neurobiologist and developmental psychologist. She moved to Eugene Oregon at 3 years old staying until she was 8 and then moved to Denver for a year, off to London for two years and then back to Eugene for junior high school until moving to Palo Alto where the family settled down for her high school years. Anya learned to blend in and never get phased. It has served her well.
After graduating from high school Anya made her way out east to go to Wesleyan University. She majored in social studies. Half way thru her sophomore year she was itching to become a baker. The school couldn't have been more accommodating in her desires to create her own path. Anya went back home and then to Bozeman Montana to work on a dude ranch where she learned the art of making bread. She got really into teas and breads during this venture eventually writing a thesis on the history of buttermilk and bread making. Anya had made enough money during her education as a baker to go to Greece and Italy and learn more about making specific breads. Even while she was at Wesleyan Anya made cheese curds in her dorm room hanging curds in the closet.
Her post college life she not so different as Anya wanted explore other food-related careers. She was awarded a Watson Fellowship from the Smithsonian Magazine in 1998. She had done a senior project with a local museum which is how she found out about this. She will tell you that she was never an academic but had a love for learning. The fellowship sent her to Southern Europe and Africa visiting and working on over 100 dairies. It was there that she fell in love with the old school ways of food that she did not even think were even possible.
She returned to NYC taking a job at Saveur magazine where she stayed for four months. She realized that writing about food was not for her but being involved in food was. She had met some people in Sicily that were working on a project and decided to return to Italy and work for them. She wrote a business plan for Sicilian cheese makers and worked on getting their cheese imported to the US. She was essentially doing biz development. She did it for two years and personally she felt ethically compromised and decided it was time for something else.
Anya got involved with the people who were starting the Slow Food Movement. She worked taking this idea to 30 countries by giving farmers microloans that would enable their group to meet plum pickers in Bosnia and such. She would manage the investment and help them become part of the Slow Food Movement. She had always been interested in the business side of good food so this was a nice fit. How to make things work and thrive. Anya stayed 5 years and in year six she hit the wall. The small organization that she had joined had become big. There were 40 people when she began and now there were 350. It was too bureaucratic. She was married at this point and both her and her Italian husband decided to give it a go back in the US.
Anya wanted to do something that bridged the gap between businesses and value driven works in the food industry. She put together a small company that began to distribute farm products to larger companies. This was under a non-profit umbrella. She did it for two years before Alice Waters approached her about running Slow Food Nation. She took the job and built it into a successful company. With that under her belt Anya was able to built a small consulting company of her own helping small companies grow. She had robust backers that were happy to see Anya create a business program around this. It was small with about 5 employees working with companies doing around $20/50m in business. They helped them with their brands including how to figure out the supply chain. One of her customers approached her about a bunch of land that they owned in different countries and wanted to figure out how to make it profitable. She began to develop concepts for it. She developed the concept for Belcampo in 2011 co-founding the company and left the world of consulting.
Belcampo has two focuses. One is a 20,000 acre ranch in Northern California that she manages. This farm is the first in 40 years that has been authorized by the FDA to slaughter what they grow. They opened their first store with the products, poultry and meat. Now that they have all those kinks worked out they will open more. Everything is heritage free, organic and humane certified. The place is called the Butcher Shop and it will begin to roll out through west coast. Great name. Not only will it sell meat they will also have a restaurant component attached to the butcher. A total vertical operation. Super smart.
The other part of the business is in Belize where they have another 200 acre farm that makes chocolate and rum. It was a pre-existing fishermans lodge on the premises. The rum and chocolate part of the businesss is profitable. They are now making it into an eco-resort where they will focus on the food. Experts from Blue Bottle Coffee, Vosges Chocolate and Destilería Serrallés run classes for guests. She also has a biodynamic ranch in Uruguay that produces beef, wine and olive oil that will also become an eco-resort.
Anya has built something that is not only interesting enough for investors who want to make a difference in the world. On the side, Anya started a non-profit called The Food Craft Institute that puts on an event called the Eat World Festival where 100,000 people come to Oakland every year to see 100 vendors that are starting their businesses. Over 40 companies have launched out of this organization that also provides classes and helps small and medium sized businesses learn entrepreneurial skills to hone their businesses.
You can't help but ask what is next on Anya's list? Perhaps developing a fund to invest in companies that are changing the world through food. She is an incredibly impressive woman. A powerhouse who has touched so many interesting businesses that have made impacts across the globe. Businesses that provide social good but are profitable. My kind of business. I am looking forward to having a meal at the Butcher Shop when I am out west again. They are opening in Santa Monica next year. Oh and did I mention that I just bought a whole cow from Anya this past week?