It's So Gouda!
Article By: Becky Seelen
When Marieke Penterman immigrated to the United States in 2003, she dreamed of owning a business of her own. Her husband, Rolf, was busy with the family's 400-cow dairy farm, but Marieke wanted to do something on her own before the age of 30. After missing the cheese back home in The Netherlands, making her own Gouda cheese seemed like the perfect idea.
"I do feel like the timing was right," Marieke explained. "There are not very many female cheesemakers, but I felt like I was welcomed with open arms."
Marieke worked with a local cheesemaker to obtain her state license. She traveled back to her home country where she trained alongside two different cheesemakers throughout the week. There she learned how to make authentic Dutch Gouda cheese, and her new business - Marieke Gouda - officially began.
Just four months after Marieke crafted her first batch of Gouda in November 2006, she captured a gold award at the U.S. Champion Cheese Contest in 2007. Dozens of awards followed including her biggest win thus far, the United States Grand Champion in 2013.
In November 2013, the Pentermans opened a brand new state-of-the-art facility along Highway 29 in Thorp. It includes a store and viewing windows to see the farm and cheesemaking process. This is where their ultimate dream came true: the opportunity to have a location where they can share their passion for modern family farming and handcrafting the best Marieke Gouda in an open and educational environment.
But like any business, it hasn't always been easy. At times, it was a challenge to find the right lender who could meet the new business needs. But then, Marieke met a team from Security Financial Bank (SFB).
"SFB is a bank with a vision," Marieke said. "I look at all my past experiences, I never felt as good about a lender as I do about SFB."
They looked at the numbers, but they also looked at us as entrepreneurs, she said.
"They heard us. They believed in us. I feel like it is a good partnership," Marieke said.
Jenny Jereczek, a relationship manager with SFB, has worked with Marieke to help her achieve her dreams.
"Marieke is an inspiration for all small business owners. She exhibits all of the traits necessary to own and operate a successful business," Jereczek said. "Marieke is driven, persistent, and innovative. She is a true entrepreneur who has a clear vision and goal and is willing to take the necessary risk for growth."
Marieke also is flexible in her way of thinking and understands that change may be necessary along the way, Jereczek explained.
"SFB showed me that they are a different bank," Marieke said. "They are willing to take a risk because they believe in their customers."
While Marieke has already seen great success, she has many other goals yet to accomplish, including making Marieke Gouda a well-known household brand. Currently, her Gouda is sold in many stores including Festival, Kroger's, Whole Foods, Safeway, Jewel, Albertsons, and other specialty cheese stores throughout the country. She also would like to grow the business large enough that they need to buy additional milk besides their own. Ideally, she would like to have a co-op to give farmers a fair price for their milk.
"With that, we would be able to give back to the industry," Marieke explained. "Dairy farmers are so special. They are driven by passion - not by money. They make sure that everyone has food on their table, and right now, they don't have food on their own tables."
To learn more about Marieke Gouda or to plan a visit to the facility, visit www.mariekegouda.com.