Daphne Taylor never set out to build a multimillion dollar national brand, yet her Coeur d'Alene-based Namaste Foods is just that. It grew out of her empathy with friends and family who were unable to enjoy various foods because of allergies, says Taylor, who started developing recipes that were gluten-free, as well as allergen and GMO-free around 20 years ago.
Now, Coeur d'Alene-based Namaste Foods has 50+ products, including cookie and cake mixes, pizza doughs, pastas, baking ingredients and more, available via online retailers like Amazon, grocery chains like Safeway and Costco, as well as on their own website.
Their perfect flour blend and their waffle mix are the most popular items, says Taylor, who is partial to the spice cake mix, with cinnamon and cloves, for fall.
"People turn it into carrot cake, gingerbread, all kinds of things," she says.
In the early days, she did everything by hand, says Taylor, who brought her products to local health food stores like Huckleberry's Fresh Market, many of which were often just starting out, too. Her kids would get paid a penny a piece to put labels on. "It's been a family business since day one," says Taylor.
She knew she was onto something when she got calls from people who had tried her products while in the Northwest and wanted more, but lived out-of state. Eventually she and her family had to decide where they wanted to go with the business. It was growing with little or no marketing, says Taylor, but they knew it would benefit from more effort.
So, 19 years ago, she left her government job, waitressed at the old Beachhouse near Silver Beach and attended to such things as food distributors, UPC codes and business cards for her small business.
"It kind of started growing in spite of ourselves," says Taylor, who can trace her interest in business to an early age.
She was 4 years old, Taylor recalls, and realized that certain rocks allowed her to write on the sidewalk. Not missing a beat, she sold them to the neighborhood kids for a penny.
"That's when you know you have an entrepreneurial heart," says Taylor, who has learned to trust her instincts with Namaste Foods.
She was taking yoga at the time she was naming the company and heard the word namaste — a Sanskrit salutation translating to "I bow to you" — and knew, despite some pushback, that it was the right word for the company, she says.
"We started this company to try to help people, and since day one that's been our focus," says Taylor, who organized a giveback program and is partial to groups that help women and kids.
Namaste is also giving back to the small business community by doing contract manufacturing for others, including those who want an allergen-free environment. Right now they're working with a Spokane-based company that makes a powdered lemonade and needs a co-packer.
"Isn't that something?" asks Taylor. "I love that."