Posts Categorized: Sum of Your Business

Sum of Your Business: Al Peake – Peake Orchards

apples at Peake Orchards

There are few things that feel more “fall” than heading to an apple orchard to get a bite of a fresh, ripe apple, right where its grown.

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It was a visit to an apple orchard that convinced Al Peake to start an orchard of his own, and it was 40 years ago that he planted his first set of apple trees on his farm in rural Waukon, Iowa. Since then, Peake Orchards has seen banner seasons and bummer seasons, but it’s the love of the orchard, working in the fields, and the connection to family that keeps Al excited and inspired to tend the sweet crop year after year.

These days, Peake Orchards has 13 different apple varieties planted, and – once harvested – folks can find them in Decorah at Oneota Community Food Co-op, Fareway, and the Decorah Farmers Market. Or throw on a cozy sweater for a fall outing – you can head out to Peake Orchards to grab some yourself! They open to the public weekends starting September 21, from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and 12 to 5 pm on Sundays. Catch a hayride on Sundays, from 2 to 4 pm, and mark your calendars for their annual “Fall Festival Sundays” October 6 and October 13 – there’s lots of family fun on the docket.

Read on to learn more about Al’s four decades of apple picking in this issue’s Sum of Your Business Q&A.


Name: Al Peake, Peake Orchards
Age: 62
Years in Business: Planted first trees 1979
Orchard address: 323 Northline Dr. Waukon, Iowa
Visit Peake Orchards on Facebook

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I visited a pick your own orchard in the late 70s up in Minnesota and really thought having an orchard could be something I could really enjoy! So I started planting trees on our family farm. The first planting was 50 trees and then a couple years later 375 trees. That was the point where we were really committed to getting serious about growing apples. Since then we have expanded to well over 1,000 trees.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

The best thing about being my own boss is the flexibility to try growing methods and varieties that appeal to us and our mission. I also really enjoy working out in the orchard most of the time.

3. How about the worst?

The worst thing about being my own boss is that apple season is a short intense time of year. When early September comes it is, go like crazy, try to get things harvested, washed and sorted and try to keep up with sales. Before you know it the snow is falling and you wonder where the fall went.

The Peake family crew

The Peake family crew, from left: Molly (front), Jeremy, Jodi & Baby Byron, Jo Ann, Cathy, Lea (in front) and Al / All photos courtesy of Peake Orchards

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

The biggest hurdle for me was losing my original apple partner (my wife Sandy) to a brain tumor in 2010. I still had other family to help but Sandy and I had started planning the orchard from the beginning and it was devastating for me to lose her. But, God is good and since then, I met and married my current wife, Cathy, who has been a wonderful partner in the orchard and a wonderful partner as my wife!

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

I would say my biggest mentors have been other apple growers I have met. I have attended many a field day and have learned a ton of things from visiting other growers’ orchards. There have been many great speakers and specialists from universities throughout the country who have presented at these field days and I always leave with some new knowledge and things to try in our orchard. I am also grateful that my parents supported us and helped with the orchard from the very start.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

The only thing I can say is that there is always so much more to learn than you think, when growing apples and marketing of the crop. I planted the first tree 40 years ago (I can’t even believe it’s been that long) and if I said I pretend to know it all, I would not be telling the truth. I think that the day you say you know it all and have done it all, you are setting yourself up for a serious fall. Continuing to learn has kept me young.

Locations where you can find Peake Orchards apples

You can find Peake Orchards apples at the Orchard near Waukon, or in Decorah at Oneota Co-op, Fareway, and the Decorah Farmers Market.

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

It is very difficult to balance work in the orchard and the rest of my life and many times I have done it very poorly. I always say there is enough work in the orchard to keep me busy 24-7. I am still learning to try to prioritize what’s most important in my life and walk away from the orchard and say that is all I can do for now. With wanting to spend time with family and friends and working at Friest and Assoc. Realtors, as well as the orchard, the balance is difficult.

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

I think the thing that keeps an old guy like me inspired is exciting new apple varieties like Honeycrisp (and some other new ones we are growing that nobody has heard about yet), strolling through the orchard and seeing a great crop hanging on the trees, and working together with family and friends (special thanks to Mark and Barbara for all their sorting help) to make the harvest happen. I also look forward to passing on the orchard to my son Jeremy and his wife, Jodi (they could run it on their own at this point, if I wasn’t around). I feel blessed to be able to spend many hours on beautiful fall days, picking a great crop of apples that God has provided!

There are lots of amazing apple orchards in the Driftless – check out some in our neck of the woods here!

Sum of Your Business: Night Dive

INTRO BY ARYN HENNING NICHOLS • PHOTOS – NIGHT DIVE SWIM

Night Dive Swim logo

It’s springtime – or getting there, anyway – and that means swimsuits are hitting retail racks all over. It’s an, “ugh” time of year for many – me included. But when social media posts from Night Dive Swim, an online swimwear shop based out of Oelwein, Iowa, started rolling in, I wasn’t, “ugh” at all; I was inspired! And that’s kind of a rare thing with swimwear.

It’s partially because of the amazing designs and sunny locales featured in Night Dive’s photos, but the biggest inspiration wasn’t even about the swimwear… it was the message behind the brand: Love yourself. Be comfortable in your body. Enjoy this life. Yes!

Night Dive Swim's founder Heather Caye Brown and 2 swimmies options made of REPREVE

At left – Night Dive Swim founder Heather Caye Brown. Above – Two options for Night Dive swimmies. All the printed swimmies are made of REPREVE, a fabric created by transforming recycled bottles into fiber.
Photos courtesy Night Dive Swim.

 

We caught up with founder Heather Caye Brown in between trips (and late-winter snowstorms) – you might find her networking/working in California or Miami; or home in Iowa, where she grew up; or across the world in Bali, where her eco-friendly swimwear collections and accessories are made. “It’s definitely a lot easier to be in Bali and work face-to-face with the amazing people that help make my designs and vision come to life,” Heather says.

Let’s back up to that eco-friendly bit: Their entire Spring 2019 bikini collection is made of recycled fabrics, and they ship every bikini in a cute, reusable pouch made of biodegradable material. Their solid-color “swimmies”, as they call them at Night Dive, are made with VITA, a sustainable techno-fabric made of Econyl recycled nylon – recycled ghost fishing nets from the ocean! According to the Night Dive website, it is soft, hyper-resistant, and a unique mix of compression and comfort, and, because of its innovative construction, it is twice as resistant to chlorine and sunscreen compared to other swim fabrics. All of the Night Dive printed swimmies are made of REPREVE, a fabric created by transforming recycled bottles into fiber. The process embeds properties like wicking, adaptive warming and cooling, water repellency, and more at a fiber level. Cool!

While you’ll find Night Dive Swim products primarily online (nightdiveswim.com), they do occasional pop-up shops as well – last summer, there was one in Des Moines and one in Long Beach, California, and this past winter folks could visit with Heather and shop Night Dive at the Aerie store in Miami. “Aerie is known for not retouching or Photoshopping photos – #aeriereal – so Night Dive and what we stand for was a perfect fit,” Heather writes, with what seems to be her trademark enthusiasm. Even via email, you can feel her excitement and passion for her business. (And we are big fans of anyone who uses multiple exclamation points in multiple sentences!) We know we usually feature folks who have been running their business for several years for Sum of Your Business, but we were so inspired by Heather, we just had to share. We can’t wait to see what she does over the coming years!!!!! (< oh, yes!)

Turn the page to read Heather’s super fun answers!

Name: Heather Caye Brown
Age: 37
Business: Night Dive Swim
Years in Business: 1
Website: nightdiveswim.com

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

I had been happily working in the fashion industry – designing, climbing the corporate ladder, and leading design teams for large companies the last 14 years, and I came to a point where I really wanted to do something different that I’m very passionate about – championing self-confidence and body positivity. I saw so many opportunities to be more inclusive, especially in swimwear, my favorite thing to design, and what I personally spend a lot of time in. There are swimwear companies that don’t even offer a size extra large, and most don’t show a lot of body types on their social media platforms. I wanted to show that no matter what size you are, a swimsuit is for everybody/ every BODY.

Spreading that message became more enticing to me than any promotion could be, along with the freedom and new challenges and learning experiences that running my own company would bring.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

The best thing about being my own boss is most definitely the freedom – both in flexibility of what hours I’m working to where I’m working from. Luckily enough, this past year of working on my collection and building my brand was able to be done from anywhere in the world – so I spent half of the year off/on in Bali – the factory producing my eco-friendly Spring collection is there – and I was able to focus on creating my website, visiting the factory and reviewing samples, and of course I made time for surfing, snorkeling, and all the amazing things Bali has to offer. The other part of the year I was able to work and spend time with family and friends in my hometown in Iowa, and that’s when I decided to have Iowa be the location for my headquarters and where I would keep inventory.

The headquarters for a swimwear company being located in Iowa sounds a little strange, but being near family again after 18 years of living out of state, along with having those extra hands and help during the busy swim season, was irresistible. On top of that, another thing I’m passionate about is trying to build a sustainable fashion brand, and be as eco-friendly as possible – so having a centrally located office in the US, we’re able to ship our product to our customers in the most efficient manner possible. I also love the idea of lifting up the community in any way possible – from speaking to high school students about a career in fashion and pursuing their dreams, to adding more business at the local post office.

3. How about the worst?

Despite the freedom, work ends up being on my mind 24/7 – yet I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Besides that, another challenge I encountered was the shift of working solo versus working with a team. One of my favorite things about the last 14 years in the industry was the people on my team and who I’ve worked with. That shift from constantly working with people, bouncing ideas off of each other, and basically having a work “family” was a huge change. Thankfully enough, I still have that fashion family and friends if I ever need anything.

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

Never!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve encountered plenty of setbacks and challenges…but I just adapt and shift. My mom taught me at a very early age to have a Plan A, B, and C.

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

This question is tough because there are a ton of people that have inspired me…but someone who really has embodied the type of leadership I look up to is Chad Kessler, a friend of mine, and the President of American Eagle. I met Chad in 2004 when I started my first job as an assistant designer at Hollister / Abercrombie & Fitch. He was always someone who stood up for what he believed in, had your back, and was smart, savvy, and supportive. He truly demonstrated being a successful and inspiring leader.

We’ve worked together in various ways since then – at Urban Outfitters, and even now, he’s as supportive as ever cheerleading on Night Dive Swim.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

I thought I already knew this, but it really doesn’t drive the point home until you’re living it –EVERYTHING is going to take ten times longer than expected and cost ten times more than planned.

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

Good question!! Since I enjoy every second of working on my company, I need to cut myself off from time to time from being so focused and engulfed in whatever I’m working on. There’s always something new I need to learn, or a new idea I want to design, so making sure to take time for a mental break or fun outside of the fashion world is something I’m constantly working on.

Night Dive Swim's message is love yourself

We love the message Night Dive Swim puts out there: Love your self! Photos courtesy Night Dive Swim.

 

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

The main thing that keeps me inspired is hearing from women that Night Dive Swim is already making a difference for them. The message I’m sending with social media and my website is body positivity and self-love, and I’ve received messages from women all over the world saying how much they appreciate seeing all body types and inclusivity on our Instagram/Social media, and how it gives them confidence. These messages seriously make everything I’m doing worth every second and every dollar I’ve invested in building this brand.

9. Where do you hope Night Dive will be in five years? 10?

Besides the financially successful goals for Night Dive, in five years I would love to be able to expand the size range to include even more plus sizes. We currently offer size small to extra large, and offering a broader range of sizes is actually quite expensive. My goal is to be in a place that taking on that expense is not an issue.   

In 10 years, my goal for Night Dive would be to be a part of (or create) a foundation for championing body positivity and self-love. There’re so many things I want to do to give back, and I can’t wait to be in a place where Night Dive can do even more.

Sum of Your Business: Empty Nest Winery

Empty Nest Winery was born out of  – you guessed it – an empty nest.

Once Pam and Dave Kruger’s kids flew the coop, the couple took a leap of faith into their next phase of life: Business ownership. They looked at shifting their milking operation away from cows and into wine, and never slowed down for a second – except to maybe enjoy a glass of wine!

When meeting Pam and Dave, it’s clear they are tireless and passionate about their work and products. From the first tasting room added on to their old farmhouse, to the thoughtfully decorated interior of the new tasting and event space that now houses Empty Nest Winery’s main operations, their century farm has been put to grand use.

That winery building, built on the Krueger’s property in 2015, has been busy pretty much the minute the doors opened to the public. Part of the success? Tireless hours poured into making sure that each event – small or huge – is a big success in the guests’ eyes. Making tasty products like distinct fruit wines and ever-changing house-made ciders is no small deal, but Empty Nest’s attention to every detail creates not only the foundation of the business, but a literal sparkle to this destination winery.

www.emptynestwinery.com

Name(s): Dave & Pam Kruger
Age(s): 50s!
Business: Empty Nest Winery
Years in Business: Started building in 2010, opened in 2011, built new winery building in 2015

1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?

Both Dave and I grew up on dairy farms – this is Dave’s home farm that his family has owned and where they lived for about 100 years. When we were married, I moved here to the farm and together we milked Registered Brown Swiss cows and farmed for years. We have both also worked off the farm during those years, but for us the “leap” was starting a new winery business from scratch after all our kids graduated and moved out. Hence the “Empty Nest” name for the winery. A lot of people say that at that age of the “Empty Nest”, parents are starting to slow down and not work so hard, but that thought never crossed our minds.

Another huge “leap” was in February 2015, when we held our annual “Blind Wine Tasting” which is always the weekend after the Super Bowl. We had over 500 people come to our small tasting room and vote on their favorite wines. Even though we were both over 50 years old, we knew we had to build a bigger winery. With the help of our son, two neighbors and a local crane operator, we carefully took down our 100 year old barn, reclaimed all the beams, boards, corrugated steel and pretty much anything we could use in the new winery building. We designed the building using new technology like geothermal heating and cooling and spray foam insulation, while also incorporating those reclaimed materials. We made sure the building with a spacious tasting room, larger event room and warehouse/production area for wine. We found a general contractor who would run with those plans (working out the details) and broke ground in May of 2015 for a new building.

We moved in and held our Grand Opening Thanksgiving weekend 2015 with over 3,500 people coming to see and celebrate the new winery building. Since November 2015, we have hosted over 450 private parties and events either in our front Tasting Room or our spacious Event Room. There is something going on every weekend from Murder Mystery Dinner Theaters, to weddings, reunions, bachelorette parties, birthday and anniversary celebrations, graduation parties, wine and painting parties, baby and bridal showers, Christmas parties, vendor shows like our ‘Wining with the Arts’… we have pretty much hosted any kind of party here. People love the new building with its outside patio and relaxed fun atmosphere. Our latest addition is a stunning new gazebo a short walk from the winery, where you can sit and relax in a more private setting.

2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

Probably setting your own hours

3. How about the worst?

Probably setting your own hours… lol. We are both “workaholics” and have a goal to make every person’s event here the best it can possibly be, even if this means working through the night to achieve that.

4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?

Probably our first wedding here. There is so much that goes into a wedding at the winery that you have to get it perfect, that is why we only host six weddings a year. We host the whole wedding day from decorating the event room, to the perfect wedding picture backgrounds, then onto making the outside ceremony flawless, back inside catering the reception dinner and hearing those tear jerking speeches, seamlessly tearing down and flipping the room into the best wedding dance ever, all while everyone is enjoying a drink at the bar and having a great time. How did we overcome it?? We had some help from our kids, help from some great friends, we worked our tail off, and just trusted and believed we could do it!

5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?

It might sound crazy but our role models are each other. We both love working with each other, we make great partners in business each doing what we are good at. And make great partners in life. Our sum is much larger than each part.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?

All the behind the scenes work there is to both the making quality wine/winery business and the catering / venue business. Trying to keep everything inside and outside perfectly clean and beautiful for Empty Nest Winery to be a destination for many people to come, relax and enjoy!

7. How do you manage your life/work balance?

That is a constant struggle for us. Being “Empty Nesters” we don’t have kids at home to set mealtime or bedtime hours, or attending all those sporting and fine art events at school as in younger years. Those family hours of younger years are now more working hours. So our scales are too tipped on the working hours and not enough family hours right now. We are working towards more balance in our lives, so we can enjoy our four children and their growing families more.

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?

What keeps us inspired is two-fold.

First our kids keep us inspired. They are all successful in their own chosen professions and balance that with their family lives. We are so proud of each and every one of our children! When they come home, they are amazed at how the business has grown and jump right in and help. Every event we host also inspires us. For example, it is so inspiring to have a bride and groom find us at the end of their wedding day and say that it was the perfect wedding they had always dreamed of. Or the excitement of a mother-to-be at a baby shower. Or pulling off a surprise birthday party that really was a perfect surprise. Or having a winery guests that drove hundreds of miles to come here, write reviews on Facebook that they loved the homey relaxed atmosphere here… and the wine!

We have several quotes:

• Do whatever it takes
• I will… until
• If it was easy, everyone would do it
• If you build it, they will come or If you pour it they will come
• Make every day count
• Treat people the way you want to be treated