Growing her business – Ventura lemonade maker’s products take off with Jordano’s help

By: Marissa Nall, Staff Writer | March 25 – 31, 2016

Founder Lori Volk of Lori’s Original Lemonade offered samples of her products at the 2016 Jordano’s Food and Equipment Show.

The 2016 Jordano’s Food and Equipment Show debuted one of the legacy company’s latest offerings, Ventura-based Lori’s Original Lemonade.

Founder Lori Volk offered samples of her products at the fair, alongside more than 250 vendors and manufacturers. Her new flavor, Lemongrass Lite, was one of more than 850 new items offered to 1,000 plus customers over the two days.

“We’re one of the very few local vendors here and that’s really exciting because we’re sitting next to huge companies that have been in business for 100 years and this company here, Jordano’s, has been in business for 100 years,” Volk said.

Since founding the company in 2012, she’s sold more than 500,000 bottles of lemonade, but it’s in recent months that things have really taken off, she said. Last year, Lori’s grew 52 percent and she expects to see similar growth this year.

With a Jordano’s contract, Volk’s product will now sit on shelves at Albertsons and Vons throughout Southern California. More lemonade tastings will highlight openings of the stores locally at the Hollister and Turnpike locations.

“We’re really excited about growing with them,” Volk said, adding that sales at local Gelson’s and Bristol Farms stores are still going strong.

While she hinted at new flavors to come, she wouldn’t give details for fear of competition.

“I’ve decided there are people hot on my heels now,” Volk said. “I think I’m going to keep it under wraps for now. We’re excited about that possibility.”

The organic cane sugar, lavender, fresh juice and other ingredients that make up her lemonade recipes are sourced all over California and Arizona, she said. As the California drought and other hardships have struck the lemon industry over the last few years, Volk has diversified her supply.

Her booth at the biannual foodservice event was located in the Jordano’s Natural Marketplace, which was dedicated to products that were organic, natural, green, gluten free or environmentally friendly. Jordano’s makes an effort to source locally and among companies with ethical practices, said owner Pete Jordano.

“One of our biggest things we do is we try to work with our local purveyors as much as possible,” said Larry Fiscalini, assistant director of purchasing, though opportunities are limited by lack of manufacturing in the area.

The last few years have seen a consumer-driven push within Jordano’s to source environmental and organic products, Fiscalini said.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep up with that growth,” he said. “It’s been in the media a lot the last couple of years and the manufacturers have been able to get the cost down, which has been nice for everyone.”

Volk, who was a Business Times Top 50 Women in Business winner in 2015, plans to spend some time introducing her suppliers to her customers.

“We’re trying to get back to our trees,” Volk said. “We want to talk to our growers and find out who they are, their stories, because they’re really the ones who are making this whole thing possible.”

Everyone from growers to the people who stock the lemonade on the shelves will be featured in her campaign.

“I want to go find the people,” Volk said. “There are so many hardworking people out there. I want to trace everything back because I’m not alone. I have a lot of help here and I’m just out here supporting all of them at this point. That’s what my job is, trying to make this thing really fly.”

The company, which now employs four people, started when budget cuts led to Volk losing her job at a school district, just as her children entered college. Her youngest graduates this year so her original purpose still drives her, she said.

“I just really wanted this thing to work more than anything,” Volk said. “I poured my heart and soul; it’s my whole life in this bottle. With the littlest one graduating, it’s my pure intention to make sure that that happens but at the same time, we’re investing it back into the company so that’s the important thing right now.”