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Transition time

 

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Above: The majority of Turtle Island's employees work in production. Athos and Tibbott plan to increase production manpower as the company grows. 
Below: Tibbott displays Tofurky's meatless sausages, which are made with outdoor grilling in mind. They are designed to cook so that they do not fall apart on the grill.
//Photos by Sierra Breshears
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Athos is not worried about taking risks, but he does not want to endanger the financial health of the company either. To capitalize on the risks he takes, he plans to rely on his past experience as a scientist, where he has already learned to deal with defeat. He believes he knows how to structure product development so that the company can improve, even when things don’t work out. “You can actually learn something from that failure, and the next one has a better likelihood of success,” Athos says.

Turtle Island is expanding their frozen-food line, which will mean even more head-to-head battles with the Goliath food companies. Currently, Tofurky offers three types of frozen pizzas, which have met with quick success as the No. 2 brand of pizza in the natural food channel. The freezer section of a grocery store is often far larger and more competitive than the refrigerated section, where Turtle Island has already staked their claim. Athos is hoping their loyal customers will see the name and recognize the quality of the brand. “I’d like to think they’re going to follow us wherever we go with these new products,” he says.

Tibbott has considered selling before, and he credits Athos with keeping him interested and with helping the company move forward as an independent entity. With Tibbott’s marketable story tied tightly to the identity of the brand, Athos has focused his efforts on setting up a systemic internal structure with the staff and in the product- development chain to help sustain the company once the founder moves on. For now, they both share a competitiveness that keeps them motivated.

“I like the thought of taking on these big -name companies with billions of dollars of assets behind them and beating them at that game,” Athos says.

“Plus, it’s more fun to be David than Goliath,” adds Tibbott. “Who wants to be Goliath? There’s no fun in that.”

Matt Werbach is a journalist based in Hood River. He can be reached at editor(at)oregonbusiness.com.">editor(at)oregonbusiness.com.