Back in 2011, Keeley Tillotson and Erika Welsh were college roommates at the University of Oregon who loved peanut butter. So they started making their own in their tiny apartment that mixed in new flavors, like cinnamon raisin, and chocolate coconut, without the high sugar content typical of such snack foods. One thing led to another, and before beginning junior year of college they ended up on Shark Tank, and suddenly realized: Either they needed to drop out of college or let the business go.
They dropped out.
Fast forward four years from the Shark Tank airing, in May 2012, and Tillotson and Welsh, are running Portland-based Wild Friends, a nut butter company with sales expected to reach $7 million this year and distribution in Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger and a number of other supermarkets. At a time when funding has gotten tighter for many startups, the duo recently raised $1.4 million from investors on CircleUp, including a $100,000 investment from John Foraker, president of Annie’s, the prominent natural and organic foods company that is now part of General Mills, who they consider a mentor. Oh yes: Tillotson’s dad, Bruce Tillotson, 54, who previously worked for Honest Tea, is their chief salesperson, responsible for flying around the country to get the brand into stores.