Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Ella Kinloch

Wise Words

Ella Kinloch is the founder of Make Cheese, a service that creates kits with all the ingredients and equipment necessary to produce homemade mozzarella and poutine.

Ella Kinloch is the founder of Make Cheese, a service that creates kits with all the ingredients and equipment necessary to produce homemade mozzarella and poutine.

Five years ago, Ella left her job as a high school teacher to seek adventure and pursue her passion for cheese. She embarked upon a four month cheesemaking internship, before touring Vermont with the aim of visiting and learning from twenty six cheesemakers. Make Cheese currently operates out of Alberta, Canada, supplying kits for the home production of mozzarella and poutine, as well as offering cheesemaking classes for CND 20 per head. There are also plans to launch brie, blue and gouda cheesemaking kits in the future.

1. Where did the idea for Make Cheese come from?

I was dumped. Previously, my partner and I had plans to farm organically together. I chose to learn cheesemaking on a farm in New Jersey. However, after some time had passed, it was clear that only one of us city slickers would go on to farm. I went back to a corporate job and kept my mouth shut about my cheese adventure. I didn’t eat much cheese for a few years either. Then one day I came across a box full of my cheesemaking books in a storage container. I kept the box by my bed for some reason. Then, gradually, after a good friend’s encouragement, I began making cheese at home and began to wonder if others would like to do the same.

2. Do you see your kits as one-off purchases and gifts, or is this a new way of life for creative consumers?

At first glance my kits seem like a novelty gift. However, on second glance, the art of turning milk into cheese dates back to the Egyptians. Nowadays, we are seeing more and more people turn to urban farming activities like beekeeping, backyard chickens and common garden spaces. The amount of excitement around my kits tells me cheesemaking fits this urge in people. I get requests all the time for different kits like gouda, brie and cream cheese. Just mention to people that it is possible to make homemade cheese and you’ll get an almost euphoric reaction. I think that’s what happens when you tap into someone’s cheese obsession.

3. Can you describe a typical working day?

I like to experiment with my cheese recipes. I gain great satisfaction out of turning recipes meant for large-scale dairy operations into bit-sized, easy, healthy recipes. I make cheese at night because I find it relaxing, then when I wake up I peek in at my creations in the fridge to flip them or salt them. Most days I go to the post office with my orders. The post office staff have been some of my biggest encouragement. Now they want me to host a cheesemaking night as a company social.

4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Make Cheese?

I love to watch the world go by at a coffee shop or sip a tea with a newspaper or book. Having the rocky mountains nearby is also my source of rejuvenation. A good hike or cross-country ski feeds my soul.

5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

Before starting Make Cheese, I had hundreds of ideas to lead an unconventional life. I approached every idea hoping it would ‘rescue me’ somehow. This was a stressful mindset to have because I was living like something was always missing. Make Cheese came about only because I threw off trying to fix my life and I let myself to be playful and imaginative. It’s difficult to be playful and fearful at the same time. 

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?

Technology. I fussed over my website. My website definitely needs work but I am glad I launched despite its technological limitations. Another thing that still drives me crazy is lack of space to store my inventory. I have very patient roomates because they tolerate boxes in the living room.

7. What motivates you to keep going?

The joy of seeing people experience something new. Before I interned as a cheesemaker, I had never even touched a cow. This one step towards the unfamiliar opened me up to many more of life’s treasures like nature, people and science.

8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would start with a few more types of cheesemaking kits. My ‘Lotsa Motsa’ Mozzarella Kit is the most fun cheese to make because it involves stretching the curd, however it ranks as medium to difficult cheese to make. In retrospect, pre-launch I would have prepared a few easier cheese kits so that people could make simple cheeses and gain confidence gradually.

9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

I see myself offering an educational component that teaches youth about how their food is connected to everything around them. Also, for each kit, I would like to incorporate video instructions as its crucial for people to see the recipe come alive. Lastly, there are many people out there who have been making cheese for years and they have become very good at it. I would like to empower these people with the supplies and resources they need to teach others in their communities.

10. If you weren’t working on Make Cheese, what would you be doing?

I would be finding odd jobs until I found something that I am passionate about. Before I started Make Cheese, I was shy about quitting a corporate job and exploring my interests in things like film, meditation and acting. But having this time to explore was pivotal in helping me create my business.

11. Tell Springwise a secret…

For fun, I have begun to make a film about my cheese adventure. My identical twin sister plays ‘me’ in the film. It was mind-bending to watch my twin playing me. We had a blast filming.

12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I always felt hopeless when I heard people talk about ‘getting there’ like having a business is a final destination. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, I hope that before you begin anything you can first see the power of ‘not knowing’ what to do next. It may be helpful to fully embrace that you ‘don’t know’, without resisting not knowing, and then see what action shoots up out of this open space.

You can read more about Make Cheese in our article here, or visit the Make Cheese website here.