Name: Claire M. Marin
Business/Location: Catskill Provisions Inc./Long Eddy, NY
Specialty: Artisanal foods, particularly honey and craft spirits, such as NY Honey Rye whiskey
What problem does your business solve?: There is a lack of consistency in gourmet food ingredients. We have been bringing local and delicious artisanal ingredients and spirits to chefs, restaurants and cocktail bars at affordable prices consistently for 7 years.
What makes your business unique?: Well the fact that we are 100% woman owned for starters. There are 1,700 craft distilleries in the US, and only 5 are owned by women! I'm going to be the 6th! I also started from scratch in 2010 as a beekeeper and now supply some of the best restaurants in the NY area. We don't use anything artificial or fillers in anything we make and always give back to causes that help our environment. We are particularly passionate about bees, of course, but also give to animal sanctuaries.
What’s your story?: I started beekeeping on weekends in upstate New York in 2003. By 2010, my hobby became a passion, and I walked away from a successful 15-year career in publishing to officially create Catskill Provisions, an Artisanal Food & Craft Spirits company.
In New York State, the farm distillery movement was just beginning to take shape at that time. Joining the movement was a way of creating a business with integrity, using sustainable practices supporting the local economy that I had grown to love. The Western Catskill Mountain region was really not known for much, even though our honeys, maple, apples, and rye are all amazing!
I began by creating a line of ingredients I sold to chefs and mixologists. I literally harvested the honey placed it in a jar and brought it to the city to sell! I did this with honeys, maple syrup, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, organic flour, and chocolate honey truffles only sweetened with a tiny amount of honey. I also used the honey I produced to create a distinct blend of Rye whiskey that has since earned a Gold medal at the 2017 SIPS International Spirits Competition, a 94-point score and Chairman’s trophy at the prestigious Ultimate Spirits Challenge chaired by Paul Pacult.
Our honeys are all raw and our apple cider vinegar is infused with a wonderful blend of herbs made specially for us by Lior at La Boîte. I am in the process of building out my own distillery in Long Eddy, NY. And I will be growing my own rye wheat and pollinator-friendly botanicals for a gin called NY Pollinator Gin. In my quest to support and promote bee health and wellness I will be donating 3% of all proceeds of this gin to Friends of the Earth for bee causes. The distillery is scheduled to open by September 1. It will be located on my land in my existing barn in Long Eddy, and we will also have a tasting room in Callicoon, NY.
One piece of advice you have for other food entrepreneurs: My advice is to make sure you are ready for the biggest challenge of your life! Have at least 2 years of funds in the bank unless you'll have another means of earning a salary while you get started. Also, I recommend you do extensive research on other brands and what is out there in the market already. You should start out small unless you have investors. Start in your own house or garage first! Remember that’s how Apple and Microsoft began!
What do you wish you had known before you started your business?: I wish I knew that profitability and integrity are tough to have together. I believe that if you have integrity and serve/use only the best, you will not be as profitable. You have to be ok with that, as I am. There are moments that I wish I was more profitable because I work so hard and don't earn as much as I should but I will not give up my integrity and commitment to sustainability for money.
What’s your greatest challenge in your business and how are you overcoming it?: My biggest challenge is getting extensive visibility which is so needed to continue growth. That is a huge struggle as it’s very difficult to be heard by editors in the field etc. I constantly canvas the marketplace for connections with good people and support others in any way I can.
What are you most proud of about your business?: The fact that we are consistently told how much our customers love our products. I also love that we have longevity with our team and treat all employees super well.
What do you love most about being a food entrepreneur?: I adore the industry, and I love good food and knowing where food comes from. Supporting other producers like me is just something that brings me tons of pleasure. As a food entrepreneur, I also feel more connected to the planet and my community.
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