Wild Friends Foods Started in a Dorm Room and Became a Million-Dollar Business—but Its Founders Are Aiming Even Higher

As University of Oregon sophomores, their hobby of pantry-raiding to make nut butter earned them the title of the “Peanut Butter Girls” on campus.

Wild Friends Foods

Founders: Keeley Tillotson and Erika Welsh

Year founded: 2011

Product description: Nut butters you'd use to impress to your rich friend on a glamping trip.

Yearly sales: Declined to comment.

Is it profitable?: They declined to comment on exact profit margins—but they did just score $3.5 million in a round of funding led by Cambridge Companies SPG.

Available at: New Seasons, Market of Choice, Fred Meyer, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Green Zebra

Price: $5-$15

Keeley Tillotson and Erika Welsh want you to know they've grown up.

As University of Oregon sophomores, their hobby of pantry-raiding to make nut butter earned them the title of the "Peanut Butter Girls" on campus.

But the side gig evolved quickly. They started dabbling with ingredients such as chocolate, cinnamon and coconut. Tillotson drew a squirrel label and made a website. Seven months after making their first jar, they were flying to California to film a spot on ABC TV's entrepreneurial reality show Shark Tank.

"The sharks told us, 'There's no way you can run a company and be in college at the same time,'" Tillotson says. "We took that to heart. On the plane ride home, we decided to leave school."

What started with $50,000 in backing from Tillotson's family has now grown to millions. The two want the brand to become the next Annie's. To do that, the pair are looking to expand their offerings. In addition to over 15 different nut butters—dessert-worthy on their own with ingredients like chocolate, honey, chia, collagen and flax—they're planning on moving into the breakfast aisle, with instant oatmeal and nut butter cups.

"Our goal is, we want to be in every grocery store, ever," Welsh says. "Right now, we're in about 9,000, which is a lot, but we have a long way to go."

Guilty pleasure snack: Tillotson says frozen toaster waffles and peanut butter. Welsh likes sweet potato waffle fries.

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