From Banker to Organic Chicken Feed Entrepreneur
A Changing Business Climate and a Big Idea Inspire Scratch & Peck to Launch an Earth-Friendly Animal Feed That's Making Everyone Feel Better
Soy-free, certified organic, non-GMO animal feed
2017 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Bronze Prize Winner
Scratch and Peck Feeds
Diana Ambauen-Meade was a successful mortgage banker in Washington State. Life was good, until The Great Recession of 2008. The housing crisis hit; new regulations turned the mortgage industry upside down, and Ambauen-Meade began some serious soul searching.
Ambauen-Meade had been raising chickens for a long time. She mixed her own chicken feed because she wasn’t comfortable feeding them the commercial feed that was highly processed into pellets, instead of naturally formed, like grain. At the request of friends, and soon friends of friends, the idea for Scratch and Peck Feeds blossomed.
Ambauen-Meade knew that delivering the feed door-to-door wasn’t a sustainable distribution option, so she came up with a plan. She started contacting area retailers, letting them know that she already had clientele buying directly from her in their location. She told the retailers if they would carry her product, she’d send those customers to their stores instead of selling to them direct. She said, “The response was pretty amazing. Our customers have been great promoters for us. Although people can buy our product online, we really use our website for education — to help people care for their animals and to explain the value of organic feed. It’s another way we can stay connected with our community.”
In 2012, Scratch and Peck became the first non-GMO project-verified feed manufacturer in North America. In 2013, its feed qualified as certified organic — making it the first product of its kind to hold both designations. The company has also expanded its product line, now mixing feed for other types of livestock, as well as producing supplements and fermenting kits.
Although a lot has changed throughout the years, one thing that hasn’t is the company’s commitment to the land, the organic movement and American farmers.
“We could buy lower-cost grain from China or India, but we are committed to supporting the American farmers who are doing the hard work of growing grains organically, and to paying them a fair trade wage. They are amazing stewards of the land,” Ambauen-Meade said.
Ambauen-Meade was thrilled to find out that Scratch and Peck Feeds not only made it to the top 100 of the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, but also was selected as a top ten grant winner. “It’s always great to be recognized for the work you do, particularly if it’s something you’re passionate about,” Ambauen-Meade said. “That’s a great feeling.”
She’ll use the grant money in two different ways. Her first priority is her employees. She plans to use part of the money to provide some team-building opportunities and the other part to purchase new machines that will make sample packets automatically to reduce labor impact.
In less than a decade, Scratch and Peck has grown from a personal mission into a booming business with a loyal customer base.
Running a small business is a process, with lessons learned along the way. Those lessons can come in the form of corrected mistakes or good decisions that ended up being great decisions or unexpected victories.
Here are Diana Ambauen-Meade’s top three:
- MENTORS & ADVISORS: Reach Out to Other, More Experienced Business People
“One of the smartest things entrepreneurs can do is reach out to other people who have experienced things that they’re being challenged by,” Ambauen-Meade said.
- BUSINESS CULTURE: Take Care of Your Employees
Any business with employees should build a positive culture focused around taking care of their staff. She said: “It’s very important that you take care of your people because they’re the ones who will get your business where it needs to be. Without our staff, we wouldn’t be this successful.”
- CHANGE MANAGEMENT: Be Agile Enough to Change — and Recover from Your Mistakes
One of the biggest challenges of running a small business is the constant change; and the need to be agile enough to turn on a dime.