Expansion Financing Essential for Rapidly Growing Thomasville Producer
Kyle and Janelle Wehner started Dreaming Cow in 2009 to test whether their yogurt concept could be built into a national brand. Using an all-natural recipe derived from the South Island of Janelle’s native New Zealand, they make Dreaming Cow yogurt on Kyle’s parents’ Thomasville farm. Kyle handles sales and marketing and Janelle works in product development.
They bought their pilot dairy plant, designed for a very small production, online and moved it down from Wisconsin. Within the first year of production, the plant was quickly overwhelmed by the demand for more product. They would need to build a new larger facility, and quickly.
“It’s a hard battle to gain traction in the hyper-competitive dairy aisles of grocery stores. But customers responded to our yogurt. We use only the highest quality year-round grass-fed milk and no refined sugars, stabilizers or preservatives,” says Kyle. They began to seek financing to expand their operations.
Kyle approached the SBDC to learn how to prepare a business plan that would help them secure a loan for their expansion.
“The Wehners wanted guidance on what should go into their plan,” says consultant Marty LeFiles of the Valdosta State SBDC office. “They wanted to make sure they had everything their lender would need to look at.” LeFiles and Area Director Ruby Riesinger facilitated the Wehners’ meetings with the Brooks County Development Authority to explore funding opportunities. They also provided the tools they needed to begin developing their business plan and cash flow projections. Kyle and Janelle have also attended GrowSmart™ and Maximum Money.
The Wehners received a working capital loan and a capital equipment loan to implement the first phase of their expansion. “When we first met, Kyle and Janelle were producing upwards of 7,000 cups a week, and their yogurt was selling in 75 stores,” says LeFiles. “Today, Dreaming Cow’s sales have increased over 400 percent. Its yogurt is sold in more than 500 stores in 30 states.”
“In the beginning, we were selling to farmers markets,” says Kyle. “Our output right now is roughly 30,000 cups a week. We’re maxed out, and we’re still just in our pilot phase.”
The Wehners expect to complete their expansion in May, at which point they will begin producing half-a-million cups of Dreaming Cow yogurt a week and add several new product lines. “Our goal is to be the most respected natural dairy company in the country,” says Kyle. “With a little more investment, we could produce a million cups a week. We’ll max out, and then look at expanding again.”
“Janelle and I are both in our 20’s and have had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way, which is expensive,” he continues. “The SBDC can help you refine your vision and work to make it happen.”
“The Wehners are very forward-thinking and innovative,” says LeFiles. “They plan for the big picture. They will continue to be successful because they are both interested in learning how to manage and grow their business and that’s important.”