Meet The Maker

Retreat Drinks

Meet Anne Farrens, Founder of Retreat Drinks

May 25, 2023  |   by Trev True

Retreat Drinks owners

Tell us about yourself.

I am a mom, wife, PNW superfan, have a day job in corporate aviation, love to read, eat, travel, go fishing (salt and fresh water), and drink coffee! I am originally from Tacoma and graduated from PLU in 2007 with a PR & Marketing degree. I’ve lived in WA for 39 years.

When and why did you start Retreat Drinks?

I started Retreat Drinks in 2019 to have a healthy hot chocolate mix I could drink while traveling for work. I needed something to mix with coffee in my hotel room that felt like a treat. I shared the mix with friends, who encouraged me to sell online. I hired a designer to create a website, applied for a cottage/home kitchen food license, and sold our first packet in June 2019. The next month, I convinced my husband to help me with a booth at the local farmers market and we sold out that day — it was an 80-degree afternoon in July, so we knew we had something. We planned to focus on expanding to other local markets over the next summer and then Covid hit — all the markets were shut down. To sell in retail stores, we needed a commercial kitchen so we could obtain a food processors license. Our friends at Ohana Coffee Company, another local maker, offered to let us share their space and we’ve been in the facility ever since.

Retreat Drinks cacao
Retreat Drinks Hot Cacao

Where do you make your hot chocolate mix?

Downtown Gig Harbor

How do you source your cacao?

Since 2019, we’ve purchased from wholesale companies in the United States who only have relationships with organic, fair-trade farmers. We hope to buy our cacao directly from the farmers in the future. We source our organic and fair-trade coconut cream powder directly from the farmers in Sri Lanka.

What has been your biggest challenge along the way?

Growing the business and learning by making mistakes. Our first profitable year was last year (2022) and we immediately re-invested all profits back into the company to purchase new packaging for the 2023 winter season. Once the new packets arrived, we realized they were the wrong size due to a miscommunication with the printing company, and we had to place an entirely new order for hundreds of thousands of paper packets — eating the loss of the first purchase. It’s the most money we’ve ever lost and was a hard pill to swallow. We now have quality control steps in our marketing and design processes going forward for this reason!

What keeps you going?

Positive customer feedback is #1 — hearing from happy customers is the lifeblood of our operation. We feel great about offering jobs to our community as well, we’ve had employees aged 17 to 77! Also just knowing that our product is better for our customer’s health makes us feel so good.

What are your favorite things to pair with a hot cacao?

Coffee (hot or iced), campfire, sometimes booze, cozy socks.

What’s the most satisfying thing about your job?

Seeing our product on store shelves and knowing how much work went on behind the scenes to get it there — from employees to shipping/delivery to the farmers who grew the raw ingredients and the container ships that carried it across the globe! It truly takes a village!

Retreat drinks hot cacao

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Never hesitate to ask for help. From social media to working on our “elevator pitch,” other people have been there, done it, and offered insight to us. We are part of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce and have a network of other business owners supporting us — the chamber is a great place to be a part of in any city!

Retreat Drinks Owners

What’s on the horizon for Retreat Drinks?

New flavors and products, we’ve just teamed up with a local chef to formulate some fun new versions of our hot cacao and other new offerings, including a coffee creamer line.

What are your passions outside of work?

Faith, family, and friends. Cliche but without those three I’d be lost..

How do you keep work/life balance?

Every Sunday night, I try to cancel a few things during the week that don’t need to be there, and to always make sure I have downtime, especially after extremely social events. I try turning my phone off multiple times a day when I’m with my husband or son, and at night when I go to bed. I don’t have hard rules, sometimes you have to work late at night or wake up before dawn for a flight. But I balance it by building in quiet time when I can, from 5 minutes during a hectic day to scheduling an entire afternoon unplugged or blocking a full day where I have nothing on the calendar. It works!

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