Consider your typical bottle of ketchup. It’s one of the most trustworthy condiments out there, but might not inspire much excitement with foodies. Enter Red Duck Foods, a B Corporation that started out as a graduate class assignment for Karen Bonner, Jess Hilbert, and Shannon Oliver. The trio decided it was time to spice up the sauce with organic ingredients. Pretty soon, their assignment had become a bonafide small business — one that never compromised on its values to consumers for variety and choice. Now that’s something to quack about! Read on to find out more about Karen, Jess, Shannon, and their Portland, OR-based B Corp.
What’s the mission statement for Red Duck Foods?
“Red Duck Foods believes that we can have an impact – big or small. We do this by bringing excitement and joy to the simplest of meals with condiments made of organic, thoughtful and trusted ingredients. Red Duck started as a class project to research, write, and present an idea for a business plan. We decided to use the opportunity to not only write the plan, but also to actually start the company and improve on the lackluster state of condiments. We were tired of being presented with thoughtful, amazingly prepared foods, but not having a condiment that could live up to the same quality and integrity standards to complete the meal.”
The joy of being a member of Team B Corp.
“The B Corp Community is so supportive, engaging and creative! It’s really great to have access to other like-minded companies so we can share ideas on how to use our businesses to create positive impact in the world. These businesses are also made up of genuinely great people, from the founders to the employees, who approach every day with a sense of purpose.”
We’ve gone nationwide!
“We have so many successes, but one is that our products are now available in all 50 states. From day one we have felt that everybody deserves to eat great tasting food without having to compromise on the quality or integrity of the ingredients. It’s great to be able to make our products available to people across the country.”
How we are able to “B The Change” in the everyday.
“We laugh and find joy in the everyday. It sounds trivial, but it’s a big part of who we are. It’s super important to us to take care of our workforce. Our team is our greatest asset and if our people aren’t feeling fulfilled, inspired, and happy it directly impacts our ability to make positive change beyond our own organization. ”
If you want to become a B Corp…
“Do it! Even if you don’t actually submit for certification, I highly recommend that all mission-driven entrepreneurs at least complete the assessment for their company. It’s a great way to identify both what the company is already doing well and also areas of opportunity. One thing we found was that, even though we were doing a lot in practice, we weren’t documenting it. The assessment was huge in helping us implement more formal tracking systems that will carry forward as we continue to grow.”
Where will B Corporations go next?
“I think we’re really starting to see some great momentum from the business standpoint. Tons of mission-driven companies are making the commitment to get certified, incorporate more transparency into their operations, and create a positive impact. The next big hurdle will be to improve the communication and education to the consumer and end-users. We’re starting to see this in select groups, basically the ‘early adopters’ of B Corporations, but it feels like the majority of consumers still aren’t very familiar with the movement. My hope is for the B Corp logo to be as widely recognized as the USDA Organic seal or other similar certifications in the next five years.”
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About Karen Bonner, Jess Hilbert, and Shannon Oliver, Founders, Red Duck Foods
Karen Bonner is a native of Eugene, Oregon, and attended Pomona College. Upon graduation, she worked in finance for Ernst & Young and Intel before realizing that she wanted to go back to graduate school. Her passion for entrepreneurship dates back to when she was five selling plants out of her parents’ front yard. Karen is also enthusiastic about food and loves to experiment with unique ingredients and techniques.
Upon entering University of Oregon’s MBA program, Karen realized she wanted to pursue learning about building a business. Her early work experience and love of analysis prepared her well for her role as Red Duck’s Director of Finance. In 2015, Karen moved to Bend, Oregon with her partner, Eric. Here, she is able to work remotely on a daily basis and make trips to Portland once a month. Karen is active in her community and sits on the board of the Central Oregon Food Cluster. This is a group aimed at supporting the growth of craft food and beverage companies in Central Oregon. She is also a Volunteer Trail Steward for the Deschutes Land Trust.
Jess Hilbert is a native of Wilmington, Delaware, and attended Stanford University. After a successful athletic career at The Farm, she accepted a position with the Hillstone Restaurant Group in Los Angeles. Jess was also accepted to the University of Oregon’s School of Law and the Lundquist College of Business. She pursued joint JD/MBA degrees. Though she concentrated in Sports Business, she maintained a secondary concentration in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
She currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Matt, and four-year-old daughter Kayla. She is a licensed attorney in the state of Oregon and is Red Duck’s Director of Marketing & Sales director. She’s passionate about having fun, and Red Duck has afforded her an incredibly rewarding pathway. Here, she has fun building a company and creating its own culture while sharing delicious sauces with the world.
Shannon Oliver is a native of Davis, California. She attended the University of California at San Diego where she double majored in Biology and Psychology. After graduation, she worked for a small food startup. The experience truly solidified the idea that she wanted to run her own business. When an opportunity to live in Yosemite came along, she moved to the mountains. She also saved up for a trip to Australia the following year. During her travels, she discovered her passion for sustainability. This ultimately brought her to the University of Oregon’s Sustainable MBA program. She fell into the role of Director of Operations at Red Duck and enjoys implementing systems to keep business running smoothly.
The move to Oregon also awoke a love for food, cooking, and experimentation. The quality, variety and attention given to the food produced in the Pacific Northwest made it easy to become a full-fledged “foodie.” Shannon traded in her rowing gear for a pair of running shoes. She now runs 100mi ultra marathons through the mountains. On evenings and weekends you can usually find her out on a trail with her dog Sydney exploring the natural wonders in the West.