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Local Nut Butter Business Grows

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EUGENE, Ore. — What started out as a simple side project has snowballed into a full-time business for two local girls.

Wild Squirrel Nut Butter got its start in Eugene, but has gained nationwide recognition, including a stint on ABC’s Shark Tank.

The girls say though the deal was a bust. The exposure was just what they needed to really get the ball rolling. But they say they owe a good chunk of their success to the support of local shops in town that helped to make their dream a reality.

It’s been almost two years since Erika Welsh and Keeley Tillotson accidentally started their business.

“It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, and Keeley and I were eating celery and peanut butter and ran out of peanut butter and decided instead of biking to the store in the rain, that we would try to make our own peanut butter,” Welsh said.

After winning over hordes of friends and family, they felt this was more than just a side project, so they approached local stores in town.

“We had a really unorthodox approach to business. Neither of us were business majors. We just walked into the back of grocery stores. We walked into Kiva, looked for the manager and held up a jar of our product,” Tillotson said.

“Erika came in and showed us their product and it was something quite different than anything we had in terms of the nut butters…We like to try and support any local product. They’re taking a shot. We don’t mind taking a shot with them,” said Tom Kay, Kiva Grocery Department employee.

The Kiva wasn’t the only one. In fact, Market of Choice was the first shop in town to welcome the girls onto their shelves.

“Market of Choice is a family-owned Oregon business that supports our local economy by supporting local vendors,” said David Pemberton, Market of Choice Manager.

The girls say they couldn’t be more grateful. And while everyone is happy for their success, they say there is at least one downside.

“It’s exciting. It’s a neat thing to see, except I don’t get to see them anymore,” Kay said.

The girls will make another appearance on the show’s first episode of the new year, which will air Friday, Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. on ABC.

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