New business puts goat cheese on the menu
Molly Kroiz, a native of Maine, started making goat cheese in her kitchen just for fun, while living in the Northwest with her husband, Sam, a carpenter from Lovettsville.
Now, after winning the Loudoun County Small Business Development Center's Business Plan Awards in the local business category in November, the couple is well on their way to establishing Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese, a goat cheese business.
Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese will be the only goat cheese maker in Loudoun County, an area rich in wineries, farm-to-fork philosophy and farming.
While many Americans consume primarily cow cheese as part of their normal diet, goat cheese is the cheese of choice throughout the rest of the world.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, goat cheese is actually lower in fat and higher in protein than many other soft cheeses. It's also easier to digest than the more common bovine versions.
With their opening just a few months away, the Kroizs allowed the Loudoun Times-Mirror full access as they go through final preparations for opening.
Sam Kroiz grew up on Lovettsville's Georges Mill Farm, a property his family has owned for eight generations. After moving to Alaska about 10 years ago, Sam Kroiz returned with his wife to use the farm as their business facility.
Although Sam Kroiz's family hadn't been farming for a few generations, the couple knew the farm was here and ready for somebody to do something new with it.
In total, the farm is more than 150 acres, with Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese spanning 22 acres. Sam Kroiz's aunts inhabit the other acreage and operate the Georges Mill Bed and Breakfast. A horse rescue organization on the farm is currently being phased out of the property.
Since being named the grand prize winner at the Business Plan Awards, the couple has been renovating the old barn on the farm property into a facility suitable for their needs.
Renovation began in September and has consisted of new walls, flooring, sloping the floor to drain, running all the wiring and plumbing and now, tiling.
Molly Kroiz has been busy implementing their award-winning business plan by establishing what equipment and materials were going to be needed to equip their creamery.
“We started getting into the planning phases of the nuts and bolts of what we needed in that room, how we were going to get that to happen and what kind of other stuff we needed,” Molly Kroiz said. “I spent most of the summer researching building materials and equipment.”
Upon completion, the barn will have a milking parlor, creamery, milk and dry storage rooms and a goat storage area.
They have also gotten their website up and made appearances at local events like the recent Loudoun Grown Expo and Lovettsville's Beserkle on the Squirkle.
In addition to building their facility, a major contributor to the business has also been growing.
In November, the Kroizs had four goats. Now, their goat population stands at 14 – one male and 13 females.
More kids are due any day now. The first was scheduled to be born Feb. 23.
During her research, Molly Kroiz found a fellow cheesemaker from Spriggs Delight Farm in Sharpsburg, Md. willing to act as her mentor.
In addition to providing her with information, Molly Kroiz was able to purchase specific cheesemaking equipment essential to the process.
Molly Kroiz said, “Getting the equipment from her, like a cheese vat, was great because that can be a huge investment and anything used is really hard to find.”
From plan to farm
Molly Kroiz began writing her business plan in early 2012, with a targeted opening of spring 2013.
After about four months, the Kroizs had completed their plan and she presented her finished product at the annual Business Plan Competition in November.
Competing against other potential small business owners from all over Loudoun County, Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese won the grand prize in the local business category.
According to Molly Kroiz, the opportunity to compete and ultimately win the competition was an amazing experience.
“For me personally, I don't have a business background or degree. It was really affirming to be able to present this plan I wrote out of nothing and be able to give to entrepreneurs and business professors in the community and have them say this is a valid business was really affirming to me,” Molly Kroiz said. “The other part is just the exposure as a new business the competition provides,” Molly Kroiz said. “Word-of-mouth is so important, especially with food.”
A local brand
Moving back to Lovettsville was difficult because Sam Kroiz was having difficulty finding construction work. Molly simply wasn't enjoying her job either.
As a result, the couple began thinking and looking for alternatives.
Ultimately, the decision to move to Lovettsville from the Northwestern United States coincided with deciding to start their new business.
The decision to make goat cheese was inspired by their experiences in the great Northwest and Molly Kroiz's love for cheesemaking.
“Where we were living in Washington state, there was a lot of people doing what we are doing. There is a lot of small Artisan Cheese producers,” Molly Kroiz said. “That is true of California and New England as well. Kind of those areas the 'back to the land movement' started. That spurred more and more small scale cheese producers.”
The decision wasn't an easy one and Molly Kroiz thought long and hard about it.
“While we were still living out west, we looked into the market out here and it just made a lot of sense with the wineries and interest in local food out here,” Molly Kroiz said.
This is first of recurring coverage detailing the process of starting a small, rural business. Look for the second installment in late March.
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