One of the benefits of owning your own small business is the ability to be nimble and make quick financial and operational decisions when the need arises.
Shawn and Mariah Butenschoen are proof of this. The Butenschoens own a five-acre organic blueberry farm in Elverson, a town in the Northwest part of the state, just a short drive from the Canadian border.
The Butenschoens also own Probably Shouldn’t Distillery, which is located on the farm. The distillery is where in the past year or so, Shawn and Mariah’s willingness to adapt has benefited their business and their neighbors in Whatcom County.
As the distillery business improved, the Butenschoens were increasing usage of their 80-gallon double boiler, running it as much as 10 hours a day. The increased usage meant an increase in energy costs and that was having an effect on the bottom line. Shawn began investigating possible alternative energy sources and that led him to RD’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The Butenschoens put their application together and in April 2019 they received a REAP grant for $7,145 to help invest in a 10kW solar array, which was installed the following month on the roof of the distillery.
A year later, the Butenschoens ability to adapt quickly would have an even larger impact.
When the COVID-19 outbreak came to Washington in March, the Butenschoens saw an opportunity to help their community. Within a matter of days, they began producing hand sanitizer in addition to the normal distillery operations. They were able to produce large amounts of the in-demand product thanks to partnerships with their yeast supplier and with FrinGe Brewing in nearby Ferndale.
They made donations to local schools, Catholic Community Services and the Lighthouse Mission, which helps the homeless.
The Butenschoens serve as a great example for fellow Washingtonians, both in the way they operate their business and in their service to their community.
Photo: Shawn and Mariah Butenschoen’s willingness to adapt has helped their business and their community. Photo by Dean Koepfler.