Mushrooms are enjoyed worldwide both for their savory, umami-packed taste and medicinal qualities. A rising star among these fabulous fungi is chaga (Inonotus obliquus), which is considered to be one of the most powerful antioxidants—so much so that it is being explored in cancer studies. Here, Gavin Escolar of The Chaga Company shares more about this mushroom and how it is being used to fortify foods and drinks.
GGBA: How do you use chaga in your company’s products, and where do you get it from? Do you grow it?
Gavin Escolar: The Chaga Company infuses the highest quality and antioxidant superfood in coffee, tea, powders, tinctures, chocolates, salts, and cookies.
Chaga is a superfood closely related to truffles with the highest amount of antioxidants—seven times higher than acai, the highest amount of immune boosting properties—and it tastes great!
I sustainably source chaga in the deep parts of the Arctic Circle in Alaska and continually test its potency to ensure that we provide the highest quality chaga for everyone. I then infuse this special superfood with the finest teas, coffee, chocolates, snacks, and other products. I believe that chaga should be incorporated in your daily routine for health and wellness.
GGBA: Do you believe that chaga has improved your own health, and did that inspire you to start The Chaga Company?
Gavin Escolar: Chaga changed my life for the better. Chaga has given me energy, clarity, and focus. Chaga also helped me with my inflammation and it made me lose 35 pounds. I was so convinced by [the health benefits of] chaga that I opened a shop in Juneau, Alaska, and stayed for a year there before moving back to my hometown of San Francisco.
I started in San Francisco at the San Francisco Fungus Fair in 2018 and grew the business to have an online presence, events, and numerous farmers markets all over the Bay Area from Napa to Carmel Valley.
And as the pandemic hit in 2020, it became clear that everyone needs to have chaga in their daily life due to its high antioxidant compounds and immune boosting properties. My business has been in the center stage of wellness and nutrition.
GGBA: Who are some of your role models, and especially those who helped to influence your business?
Gavin Escolar: Pete Slosberg, founder of Pete’s Wicked Ale and an advisor from SCORE SF – SBA helps me on my retail distribution, direction of the company, and overall priorities. I also attribute my knowledge of chaga to the native people of Alaska, mycologists like Lawrence Millman, Robert Rogers, and the members of the Mycology Society of San Francisco.
I suggest going to workshops provided by the SBA and GGBA for their networking contacts. The people I have met and workshops I have attended have been essential to the growth of my small business.
GGBA: Why did you decide to join the GGBA, and how long have you been a member?
Gavin Escolar: I decided to join the GGBA to be with my community. It is my first year as a GGBA member and I experience the community and the desire for all of us to grow and expand.
A small business like mine needs a community so that we can meet and grow together. I find that the GGBA has a great group of people with shared interests.
GGBA: How has being a member of GGBA helped your business so far?
Gavin Escolar: Being a member of the GGBA gave me confidence to talk to larger companies for contracts and gave me exclusive resources only available to certified members. It allowed me to meet other small businessowners, who are in the same boat, for collaboration.
I find going to networking meetings (currently online) has been fruitful, eye opening, and interesting, not to mention fun! To meet cool, likeminded people in different industries helps me and my business grow.
Gavin Escolar: Yes, I started going to the online Make Contacts and cannot wait to meet person. I would recommend going to networking events. A collaborative effort of helping each other as a community yields better results than doing [most] things yourself.
GGBA: What other advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting their own business?
Gavin Escolar: Start, plan, and find a mentor who can help you navigate the gestation period of your business. Passion, persistence, and courage are essential to open your business with a combination of financial knowledge and focus.
There will be many obstacles and challenges, but with focus, ethos, and drive always trump obstacles. Just have fun and faith in yourself and the business you have built. You will always find a solution and opportunity to grow and succeed.
GGBA: Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Gavin Escolar: Live your dreams; courage is when you start your own company and nourish your journey with chaga along the way. You are your own master and your business will show the quality of your work and persona. So, live your business and live your life. Enjoy!
Published by: San Francisco Bay Times