We had the good fortune of connecting with Eric Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Eric, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
The answer to this question is in the food itself! Many people have been enjoying tempeh for a long time. However, so many folks are unaware as to what this food really is. Tempeh is as complex as it is simple. The flavor and aesthetic qualities speak for themselves, so educating ends up being one of the most important roles for myself with this business. What I mean to say is that while it can be humorous to tell people at the farmers market that tempeh is “moldy beans”, the reality is that tempeh often holds a reputation only as a meat substitute. Don’t get me wrong… I love a tempeh reuben, or buffalo tempeh wraps, but to think of this food – with it’s long storied history, only as a substitute for something else would be doing it a disservice. In that regard, I find it crucial to educate curious shoppers and make sure they walk away with a better understanding of what tempeh really is, how to use it, and why it is a valued addition to anyone’s weekly shopping list.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Little House of Tempeh is a small batch, soy-free tempeh company. We make fresh, unpasteurized tempeh using different beans and seeds rather than soy (which is sort of the industry standard – what you would find at the grocery store). This differentiation from what people might be used to out of this product is a great way to have fun with some different flavors + textures, and also offering an alternative to a bean that a fair few people are allergic to.
I always knew that I wanted to work for myself. However, I am also extremely naive, haha. Turns out running and growing a business is hard work! Generally, my biggest challenges are less about selling tempeh, and more about work/life balance. One thing I learned pretty quickly is that when you work for yourself, it’s hard to turn it off and it’s also hard to know where the boundaries are. Should I do work at home? Should I keep my email on my phone? Should I even dare to speak one more word about tempeh while spending time with my family? One lesson that I am consistently trying to work on is to create boundaries and also to respect them. It’s easy to always be thinking about something business related in the background. Licensing, inspections, sales tax, invoices, etc etc. However, being present in the moment is always something that I have valued. But it is something that takes practice and dedication! Life is short, and though I own a business, I don’t identify as only a business owner. I think it’s important to maintain dimension. I have many interests, and many passions! Come see me at a farmers market and let’s talk!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, this is Colorado. So live music and spending time outside have to be top priorities. Thankfully, there are numerous places to do both at the same time. For me when it comes to live music outside, one thing comes to mind. This is likely an unpopular and possibly blasphemous opinion, but I am not talking about Red Rocks.
Yes, Red Rocks is amazing and an experience that everyone should have once! However, I like to keep it a little more low-key so I am talking about the Mishawaka Ampitheater. This hidden gem is just under 15 miles from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon (right outside Fort Collins). I would get a couple tickets to a great show, and then camp in the canyon the night before and the night of the show. Best part about “The Mish” (as it is lovingly called)… no cell phone service! Definitely a lot less unwanted noise and light. You just get to enjoy the show and watch the moon rise over the hills.
Then, we would cruise down to Denver and hit a farmer’s market! Our picks are City Park Farmers Market on Saturday and South Pearl Street on Sunday. At the market on Saturday we would get coffee from Green Bus Cafe, and breakfast/lunch from WongWayVeg food truck. Then we would walk off all that deliciousness while taking in the greenery at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Sunday it would be a loaded potato and a strawberry/red bell pepper lemonade from The Easy Vegan. Then we would fill a box with amazing treats from Francesca at Hungry Tree Hugger! Now I am hungry just thinking about it!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The simple answer here is family. My beautiful wife and son are the reason this business exists. It is a number one goal of mine to show my son that doing something you love, and something that you’re passionate about is one of the great things about being alive! The broader answer is community. My business exists because of family, but it keeps afloat because of community. The dedicated shoppers that come out to support small businesses each week at farmers markets. The farmers that host their own intimate markets on their farms after putting in so many hours each week. The fellow vegan businesses that lift each other up and help to support one another. All of these aspects of community remind me daily how lucky I am to be even a small part of any of it.