By Eric Petermann
Doug Olds can tell you there are two ways to build a business.
As the Chief Operating Officer at Nuestro Queso, a new cheese company opening soon in Kent, Olds explained that the conventional way to grow a business is to “...make a bag of cheese, sell it, and use the profit to expand and make two bags of cheese.”
While America has plenty of success stories that follow that pattern, a more aggressive way to accelerate the growth of a business is to gather all the necessary human and financial resources together and ramp up production, distribution, and marketing, literally in a matter of months. That’s what Olds and a talented crew of business people have undertaken in Kent at a cheese-making facility that has been idle since it was operated by Dan Reed, an area resident who took over the operation after it was closed by Saputo Cheese USA in 1999.
Olds talked Wednesday about what’s happened at the Kent facility during the past few months.
“We’re essentially continuing a story that started about 90 years ago,” Olds said, during a brief break from the around-the-clock effort to ready the plant for production.
Cheese-making at the Kent facility started as Falbos Cheese, which was based in Chicago. It then became Avonmore, which was based in Ireland, and was later purchased by Saputo Cheese USA. Reed then re-built the plant and drew high praise from Olds for setting up the facility for modern cheese production.
“We looked at a lot of buildings and cheese-making facilities, and this was clearly the best of what we looked at,” Olds said. “The way it was designed fits our needs and the structure is well-suited for us to grow.”
Nuestro Queso will begin taking applications for up to 20 positions beginning Monday at the Kent office. The company has already organized distribution centers in Elm Grove, Hackensack, New Jersey, and Sacramento, California. In time, the local company plans to make seven varieties of Hispanic cheeses, several varieties of drinkable yogurt, as well as several cremas products (pourable sour and sweet creams). Unlike other cheese-makers, Olds said the Hispanic cheese market requires a company to be responsible for every step of its process, from manufacturing to packaging, to distribution, and marketing.
“A lot of companies are just making the cheese, or they only distribute it, or, they just do the marketing. That doesn’t work in the Hispanic market. We plan to be a leading manufacturer, distributor, and marketer of our products. We plan to be fully-integrated,” Olds said.
Nuestro Queso began working at the Kent plant in June and has invested in new equipment to prepare for its official start-up next month. Some of that investment includes state-of-the-art packaging equipment that assures all Nuestro Queso cheeses are fresh when they reach the customer.
Olds credited the Northwest Illinois Development Alliance (NIDA), and its director, Cheryl Kneubuehl, for providing invaluable assistance in the opening of the plant.
“NIDA has been a tremendous resource. Cheryl has made numerous introductions to financial institutions, engineers, and other key service providers. She even helped us with our employee relocation efforts and located temporary housing that we have been utilizing,” Olds said.
Nuestro Queso has hired Alberto Plumacher as the Vice President of Production. Plumacher has more than 30 years of experience in the cheese-making business and will direct recipe development as well as production at the Kent plant. He previously worked for a leading East Coast cheese-maker, where he successfully developed a line of Hispanic cheeses.
“We’re very happy to be here in the middle of cheese country,” Olds said. “In fact, another reason we felt confident locating here was the experience of people in this area in making cheese. We believe we will have little problem filling our plant with highly-motivated people with excellent cheese and dairy processing experience.”
Olds said Nuestro Queso has used local contractors and local fabricators in setting up the plant, and will begin full production next week. On Wednesday, the company was in the final stages of testing its equipment and testing its products.
Source: The Journal-Standard