Blue Crate Founders Discuss Sustainability, Instagram Serendipity, and the Future of Milk

For most people, Instagram is a fun, somewhat mindless escape, where you can stare enviously at delicious-looking food, epic adventures, and, of course, your friend’s perfectly curated life. But for Blue Crate Co-Founders, Kristy Halderman and Amanda Claypool, Instagram was much more: the start of a business partnership.

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After crossing virtual paths via their hashtags around sustainability and living in Washington, DC., Kristy and Amanda decided to grab coffee. They were both on personal journeys to live in a more sustainable way and create lasting environmental change in their communities.

A thirty minute coffee date turned into several hours of intense back-of-the-napkin brainstorming. The idea started small enough: sell oat milk at a farmers market in reusable jars. But it kept growing. Kristy and Amanda realized they had a huge opportunity to make it easy for consumers to engage with a plant-based, environmentally-friendly product.

Check out our conversation with Blue Crate about how the adventure began:

Why did you start your business?

We both try to live our lives ‘waste-free,’ which means that we try to consume products that produce little to no trash on the downstream. However, we couldn’t find any companies that offered a sustainably packaged, plant-based milk alternative. We wanted to create a company that made it convenient for other consumers looking for plant-based milk alternatives to consume sustainably.

 Blue Crate Oat Milk’s three flavors:  Cold Brew, Chocolate Protein, and Charcoal Detox.

Blue Crate Oat Milk’s three flavors: Cold Brew, Chocolate Protein, and Charcoal Detox.

Why did you pick oat milk?

First of all, oat milk is delicious! We have both been using it for years as a plant-based alternative because the consistency mimics that of dairy and is rich in fiber and many other nutrients. Oats also require significantly less water to grow than dairy milk or nuts. And since the majority of nut-milks come from California, making something local helps cut back on carbon emissions from transportation.

What do you like about food?

What is there not to like about food?! Being able to make something that brings joy to someone else is one of life’s great pleasures.

What is your biggest business accomplishment to date?

Actually making our idea a reality! Lots of people have great ideas but most of those ideas remain just that — thoughts. We’re really excited to see where this journey takes us.

 Founders Kristy Halderman & Amanda Claypool at Union Kitchen’s Meet the Makers (photo credit: Reema Desai)

Founders Kristy Halderman & Amanda Claypool at Union Kitchen’s Meet the Makers (photo credit: Reema Desai)

What does success look like?

Nothing makes us happier than people saying our company made them make a more eco-friendly switch. Success to us would be not only making a difference in the community, but also introducing a more sustainable way of doing business with a product that people actually enjoy.

How did you get into your first store?

We pitched local buyers at Union Kitchen’s Meet the Makers and they liked our product and story.

What was it like pitching your first buyer? Any tips/advice?

Nerve-wracking and, at the same time, exhilarating! You want them to like you and your product enough to buy it. Thing is, they might not, but we needed to be open to suggestions. If they would buy your product with one tweak, you should absolutely consider it. Know your story in and out, why you started a business, and maintain your composure and confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself or your product, why is anyone else going to?

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Where do you want your business to be in three to five years?

First and foremost, we hope that our business will have had a positive influence on our community. This includes, but is not limited to: reducing waste and climate pollution, leading and organizing neighborhood cleanups, donating to causes related to conservation and education, and making low-waste living accessible to all.

In the next five years we aspire to increase our capacity so that we can deliver to all DC neighborhoods, increase our brand presence to most local grocery stores, and develop a barista version for local cafes so that Blue Crate becomes the preferred plant-based alternative milk for coffee shops.

Blue Crate Oat Milk will be launching at the 9th street location of Union Kitchen Grocery on April 28th — with a launch party from 10am -12pm! Come sample one of three flavors: Charcoal Detox, Chocolate Protein, and Cold Brew. Be one of the first to experience the future of milk alternatives.

 What’s more fun than saving the environment — one bottle of oat milk at a time?

What’s more fun than saving the environment — one bottle of oat milk at a time?

To ring in Spring, we are featuring a different plant-based entrepreneur every week! Check back in next week to hear from another Union Kitchen maker (or two!) about their philosophies, struggles, and successes.