Welcome to our new column, Sustainability Spotlight! We are featuring businesses in Whatcom County that are putting sustainability into practice. Stay tuned for our next article featuring Colleen and Travis Unema of Brio Laundry and Brio Cleaners!
Peak Sustainability Group’s Kat Klass interviewed Holly Bevan-Bumford, owner of Holly’s Meat Pies. Formerly Good-to-Go Meat Pies, Holly’s company’s new name shows her as the face of the company. She has a location in Everson and in Bellingham, Washington in addition to selling her meat pies at local Farmer’s Markets. Holly’s Meat Pies just celebrated its 10th anniversary in January 2022 – no small feat in the food business. Holly shared what she’s learned on her entrepreneurial journey and how she prioritizes sustainability in her business.
Holly’s Meat Pies received a 2017 Sustainability Champion award from Sustainable Connections for local sourcing efforts.
Happy 10th anniversary! When you reflect on your journey, what aspects of your business have remained constant and what has changed?
I’m grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ve learned that having a consistent quality product takes a lot of work and commitment.
When I look back at the last ten years, the journey has been a huge part of my life. First, I learned how to make the pies and came up with recipes. My husband Bo was a big help in setting up our first and second locations as well as running the mobile pasty shop at the Bellingham Farmer’s Market. By the third year, we were setting up a second location in Lynden. I had to learn how to juggle a cooking location, a second location, and the Farmer’s Market. And then we stepped into the huge Everett Farmer’s Market which was a big boost for business. We rented a place, which didn’t work out. Then the pandemic hit, and in 2020 we finally found a second home in Bellingham.
“All along my values have stayed the same. I source local, organic food from my community. As I grow, I’m going to keep moving in the same direction. Part of that commitment has been my membership with Sustainable Connections since 2012. They have been a big champion for my business.”
So, why did you choose to make Cornish pasties the featured product at Holly’s Meat Pies?
My family is from Michigan, where the Cornish pasty is a strong tradition. When I started, it was about making a hearty, convenient meal for working families.
Through COVID, I felt that it was even more important because people were feeling more isolated. They couldn’t go out to eat, but I could give them a home-cooked meal. Cornish pasties really are the best comfort food.
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
I signed a lease for a second location two weeks before COVID hit. It was going to be a full restaurant, and suddenly, I had this new expense. It was financially and emotionally taxing. COVID was difficult, but I’m an adaptable, resourceful person. We already had a prepackaged product. So, when people were buying in bulk at the start of the pandemic, I was able to sell a lot of frozen products.
“Overall, the pandemic pushed me to adapt and simplify my business. I discovered our menu was too big. Also, a lot of my employees needed to be home to care for their families during COVID. I also realized the importance of setting prices at a sustainable point, which is always difficult for a business. Sustainability is many things, and part of it is making enough to earn a living.”
What is your big vision for the future of your company?
If Holly’s Meat Pies could grow enough to have a super-efficient, dedicated production facility, that would be ideal.
A big part of who I am is creating connection with people. Creating strong relationships is an important aspect of being sustainable. My number one priority is to keep working with more local farmers and continuing to support sustainable farming. For me, it’s all about where I source my ingredients and the people that help me make that food.
Another big priority is having a great work environment for my staff. That’s the new journey, the realization that I need to charge enough for my product so that I can create better jobs and better opportunities.
I get asked every day about shipping. But when you talk about sustainability, shipping is very difficult. One aspect of it is not trying to ship all over the country. I want to focus on the Puget Sound area. I know the demand is there, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do that in a sustainable way.
What are some of the sustainability-focused actions you’ve implemented at Holly’s Meat Pies?
Part of my journey to be sustainable is allowing it to unfold over time. Buying local isn’t always easy. I am honest and transparent about local sourcing. When local sourcing doesn’t work, I go to the Community Food Co-op. For example, Broad Leaf Farm has grown the organic onions and potatoes that we use since the beginning of my business. And I get my carrots from Hopewell Farm.
In the beginning, I was amazed that I could go to a farmer who could say to me, “How much do you need?” and that they would plant and harvest around the knowledge that I would be buying their food! Talk about connection!
“I’ve tried to be a poster child for zero waste. I was tired of buying plastic packaging, so we created a recyclable, compostable packaging solution using paper plates. We’re also trying to get rid of single-use plastics in our production space and kitchens.”
Because I have a frozen product, I use lots of electricity for blast chillers and freezers – for now, that’s part of my business. If I have a standalone facility someday, I’d love to have solar panels on the roof!
What about Holly’s Meat Pies are you most proud of?
I take a lot of pride in continuing to make a great-tasting product that helps improve people’s lives. Many folks let me know how they incorporate the pasties into their busy work lives and how much they appreciate having them in their freezers. Those connections mean a lot to me!
Where do you think your business can improve or grow?
We are always looking to use more local, organic ingredients!
“I tell folks that the reason my pasties taste so great is because we use the best ingredients. Much of the year these organic vegetables come from local sources or the Community Food Co-op in Bellingham.” Farm-to-Table, The Heart of Our Business – Holly’s Meat Pies (hollysmeatpies.com)
Do you have any advice for business owners who want to build or improve their sustainability?
It took me a long time to work with the Small Business Development Center. They are a great resource and were so helpful when I updated our business systems enabling me to track our sales numbers.
When I was starting my business 10 years ago, I sat down with a consultant, who told me something I will always remember – “to stand for something.” When I talked about wanting to use good, local ingredients, the message in that was, “You should stay true to your mission – integrity is everything.”
Integrity and connection certainly are part of Holly’s mission. With the adaptability of an entrepreneur and an unwavering commitment to quality and sustainability, Holly has created strong connections with her growers and her community. This has cultivated a loyal following over the past ten years and helped her to thrive even during the toughest of times.
Peak Sustainability Group can help businesses calculate your business’s carbon footprint or put together a sustainability plan. We also analyze business systems, measure and report environmental impact, complete greenhouse gas inventories, and advise on third-party certifications. Email email@example.com to schedule a 30-minute free consultation.