Five Questions With Stephanie Zydenbos of Micro Mama’s
I was first introduced to Micro Mama’s products via the Hot Bar at the Concord CO-OP. My younger daughter and I would go weekly and fill our plates with her various delicacies. We especially loved the beets and my then 4 year old would specifically ask for them. Last month, Stephanie and I both commented during an NHPR program about buying locally. I reached out to Stephanie after hearing her like-minded point of view and this conversation was born. I really enjoy connecting with local businesses via GreenLifeNH. Enjoy her responses. I loved reading them!- Rachel
1) Please tell us a little about Micro Mama’s. What made you want to start it? What is your favorite aspect of owning this business? Micro Mama’s: *Produces Certified organic locally grown & made living Probiotic & Prebiotic fermented vegetables that are nutrient dense. *Artisan & Medicinal graded production. (Vegan, Raw, Local, GF & Organic). *All of our products are made free from major allergens with the highest quality practices & ingredients. Woman owned business at the intersection of health & convenience. Where crunchy meets science.
The relationship of Micro Mama’s and myself was founded on the shared mission/path of alchemy, I guess is the best way to say it. I guess you could say we started in each other a long long time ago, yet we start anew every day .. however woo woo or corny that sounds… it’s true. We continue together doing tasty, and meaningful work that feels good.
When I started Micro Mama’s, I was going through a major life challenge/change. I was a solo parent, and my number one goal was to provide, be present & available to and for my kids. Let’s be honest…that’s one of the toughest jobs, yet bar-none has been/is the most rewarding. So, in the beginning, my combined favorite was that & creating something that met the metrics of my definition of “having it all”. Everyone should define what “having it all” means to them. Tweaking it as life evolves is good & there isn’t a wrong answer if it makes you truly happy. So being the facilitator of goodness & well being is a favorite too. Cultivating healthy relationships from the ground-up. Supporting small local organic family farms that nurture soils to grow amazingly clean, trustworthy, and nutritious vegetables. Working with an amazing team in the art of making naturally fermented nutrient dense vegetables is awesome. Supplying our local retailers, restaurants, and customers with our region’s premium products is of equal joy & importance.
2) What are the challenges to owning a small business in NH – environmental or otherwise? We’ve always navigated with the spirit & inspired action that every challenge is “figure-outable”… in the early days some nine years ago… we were the first vegetable fermenters in our state. Educating state health departments, working with federal regulatory departments, providing scientific based evidence, and crafting our mission was time consuming, but worth it. Our state was allowing other fermented vegetables to be sold, but there were no NH commercial makers/processors. There was also no one in our region (east of the Mississippi) who made clean products we’d want to eat ourselves. By NOT fermenting plastics, we’d be doing something no one was doing (we are still the only ones to our knowledge) & that was part of our mission. The obstacles that presented were time intensive and financially consuming. Living in the bare bones of personal material needs can keep you inspired/innovative, and it didn’t equate to sacrificing core foundational goals… and it never will. Simmered down … honestly the determination in knowing the “why” we were able to figure out the “how”. I also work in the world of healthy bacterial intelligence… so that definitely factors in most definitely… all giggles aside.
3) Please tell us about Micro Mama’s experience with COVID-19. What challenges have you overcome? We’ve been consistently blessed by the increase of sales in our retail sector during the pandemic. Reason being that people are learning, embracing, and implementing healthier food choices to build immunity, and feel better to navigate through through these scary times. While profitability in this sector is really low, it’s still worthwhile in the mission. Another reason could simply be that people are eating most meals at home, and are incorporating our products for the joy of a new tasty condiment… both are great news!!
Our wholesale/restaurant accounts, food service family and friends have been hit the hardest, as have our shared sales in that sector. We lost close to 50% of food service sector sales, but we’re hopeful much of this WILL bounce back. We’ve also built stronger sales with the restaurants hanging on. As restaurants have had to be innovative with changes we’re in transparent partnerships that help each other navigate the storm.
Restaurants & food service establishments are hurting & the importance of their survival is vital to our communities. We need to continually support each other with the dedication to the shared mission to provide for our local economy & food web… so if you’re able to afford take out even once a week… order from a locally owned establishment!! DO IT so they are there on the other side of this pandemic. Locally owned restaurants that use local suppliers, and have dedicated local regulars make all the difference. We are dependent on each other and that IS GOOD NEWS. If everyone who has the privilege to eat out makes that choice than we’ll literally get through this stronger… In. So. Many. Ways. And when the pandemic is over.. keep this up!!
4) Buying local food is a huge part of preventing climate change. Can you tell us about your own zero-waste journey? Our ingredient lists are SMALL, but we process up to 60,000 pounds of vegetables annually. Some years more, some years less. Every vegetable that we use is locally grown in accordance with healthiest practices for the earth & its inhabitants. Every part of every vegetable is 100% used. About 5-10% is given to local farmers for animal feed & compost. All of our commercial bulk containers can be returned & reused. We work with our farmers in exchanging harvest bins/totes, WE HAVE NEVER FERMENTED in plastics, and support regenerative & organic farming practices. We don’t use any heat or cooking and fermenting naturally increases vitamin & nutrient content. We work in partnership with Three Rivers Alliance, and Community Farmers Alliance to distribute locally grown & produced foods. By working with these Alliances we are able to increase regional availability while reducing our emissions footprint. Once our food service customers are able to offer our products from their olive bars, and salad bars again… ( hopefully soon) than customers can purchase our veggies by the pound using their own containers if they wish.
5) Anything else you’d like to share? Your GUT is intelligent. Feed it well. The brain/gut relationship is pinnacle to good health and for vibrant immune system. Every bite of Micro Mama’s has you a millionaire with probiotics & prebiotics. When you eat our fermented veggie you can feel good about who grew it, who made it, and who’s serving it up! You’re an ambassador & we’re proud to be the embassy of integrity. Living * Loving * Local