Sisters Stella and Lydia Schwartz never expected an old peanut butter machine left behind by their family’s tenants would launch them into their own business.
But that’s just what happened when the girls, who live in Whistler during the winter and spend their summers on Sheridan Lake, founded the Interlakes Nutbutter Company last year.
Initially, they just wanted to see how the machine worked, Stella, 13, said. But after making some peanut butter, they submitted it to a Whistler market for children called Bratz Biz where it was well received. They now sell their peanut butter at the Interlakes Farmers’ Market and the South Cariboo Farmers Market.
All the recipes they make and sell were created by them based on blends and flavours they like, according to Lydia, 15. Their flavours include coconut-infused peanut butter, and coconut-infused chocolate peanut butter, among others.
“It was a lot of trial and error,” Lydia said about the process of figuring out their recipes.
The girls described their peanut butter machine as a big steel box with a funnel at the top, where they pour in the peanuts and other ingredients that mix together and come out the bottom as peanut butter. The sisters use organic roasted peanuts from a company in Nelson called Organic Matters, which brings them in from Mexico. Lydia said they try to always use organic ingredients but so far they’ve been unable to find organic salt.
One 30-pound box of peanuts, Lydia said, makes about 59 jars of peanut butter and the sisters like doing two boxes at a time to make 118 jars. The process itself takes about four hours because they need to sanitize the machine first, wash the jars, sanitize any cutlery they use and always ensure they’re following cleanliness standards.
“We tried making almond butter but the peanut butter machine didn’t really like almonds and it kept stopping and overheating,” Stella said. Lydia noted they had to remove the casing and use an exterior fan to cool the machine down afterward.
If they can figure out how to make their machine work with almonds, Stella said, they’d definitely like to expand into making almond butter.
When it comes to taking their product to market, Stella said she likes meeting the various people as there are “a lot of fun, weird people who come to farmer’s markets and it’s fun to meet them all.”
Lydia, meanwhile, said she enjoys the fact the sisters get to keep the leftover “garbage jar” of peanut butter that is a mix of all the flavours that don’t fit into other jars.
The girls said they have both had a lot of fun making nut butter and intend to pursue it.
“It feels good because lots of people don’t expect kids like us to be doing this, so it kind of helps attract customers because they’ll go ‘ohh, what are you kids doing over here?” Stella said.
When they’re not running their own home-based business, they girls like skiing, taking part in sports and doing “pretty much anything you can do behind a boat.” Lydia added that they both like animals and own a cat, a dog, six one-month-old puppies and a rabbit.
“If you’re a young entrepreneur and you have an idea and you get your parents to help you fund it then just go for it,” Lydia said.