When Jan Shaw picks up the phone for our interview, she’s a touch out of breath and I can hear a smile in her voice.
“Sorry I’m a bit late,” she says. “We just got our first customer for Growing for Good!”
Congratulations are in order. The customer is a restaurant owner, eager to purchase some of Growing for Good’s fresh new product: mushrooms. All kinds of mushrooms, all homegrown on their very own climate-controlled mushroom barn in North Carolina.
“We’re growing oyster mushrooms — several varieties. White, golden, blue, coral, phoenix. Chestnuts, Trumpet oysters that look like a chicken leg, fat and meaty. Lion’s Mane. Cream of Mushroom and Au Jus. Oh, and Pippiono’s,” Jan shares.
She lists them off like a well-seasoned mycologist. Yet when I ask how long she’s studied these delicious fungi, Jan laughs.
“When we started this business, I knew zilch,” she says. “Zilch. It’s like drinking from a water hose.”
“We’re both pretty smart,” she adds, referring to her business partner and fellow mushroom enthusiast, Christine “Chris” Burns-Fazzi. “But jeez, I had no idea how much there was to learn.”
That journey started when the two long-time friends were catching up about three years ago. Chris presented Jan with a wild idea for a company.
“She cornered me and said, ‘I’ve been doing a lot of research on growing mushrooms,’” Jan says. “I looked at her and said, ‘You’re crazy.’”
But Chris was “relentless,” Jan says with a laugh. As a cancer survivor, Chris is very careful about what she eats. She wanted to grow something that could be used as an alternative to meat protein. Mushrooms, she explained to Jan, are high in protein and antioxidants, and good for your neural health. Not to mention, with her 35 years of accounting experience, Chris did the research and found mushroom farming had the best return on investment.
“It’s been an unbelievable combination of working hard and trusting God.”
Jan had a plot of land in Allegheny County of North Carolina. She bought it as a place to retire, reminiscent of the open country in Colorado where she grew up farming and gardening. Chris knew it was the perfect spot to build a mushroom barn.
“Here’s an architect,” Chris said. “Let’s work with him to design the building. We need to grow 1,000 lbs of mushrooms a week.”
Jan conceded. From there, everything began to fall into place — almost miraculously, Jan says. For instance, it just so happened that not long after, their community college was offering a lecture on how to grow mushrooms. Jan reached out to the teacher, a mushroom farmer named Ernie, who invited her to come to check out their farm.
“You came at the right time,” he told Jan. “I was just talking with my wife about how we’d like to partner with more local mushroom farmers.”
Then, when picking up a toilet for the building, Jan happened to stop in a store that just happened to have 1,500 square feet of used restaurant equipment — the perfect set up for growing mushrooms. A man at that store happened to be an engineer who specialized in restaurant design and made the suggestion to put epoxy on the walls to prevent spores from growing. Another farmer in the area just happened to have used epoxy on his own walls and was able to give Jan the right epoxy paint.
“There have been so many times on this journey that the right person has shown up at the right time with the right information,” Jan says. “It’s been an unbelievable combination of working hard and trusting God.”
Their journey also led them to GoodBulb. Mushrooms are fickle fungi and require very specific temperature and lighting for the best growing conditions. Too little light and the mushrooms don’t properly “bloom,” Jan explained, and with too much light they grow “too leggy.” Chris and Jan knew they needed to partner with a company that could work closely with them to meet their specific requirements.
“We knew it needed to be at least 6500 A LED lights, we needed it to be waterproof, and we needed it to be a fixture,” Jan says. “I spent some time scouring the internet but I couldn’t find anything.”
Then, she came across GoodBulb. She called and spoke with a representative, Thad, right away. After explaining her specific needs, Thad was thoughtful.
“Let me do some research over the weekend,” he said. “I’ll call you back.”
A few days later, he did exactly that.
“He called me back on Monday, which is almost unheard of,” Jan says. “He said, ‘Boy, we sure learned a lot about mushrooms this weekend!’”
Thad took the time to consult with the GoodBulb lighting experts, learned all about the best lighting for mushrooms, and made a recommendation for a lighting solution that fit Jan’s needs.
“Once he showed us that recommendation, problem solved,” Jan said. “We had the lighting we needed.”
Jan and Chris weren’t just excited to partner with GoodBulb for the lighting; they also empathized with the mission to Be Good and create a global impact from a local business.
“Watching the GoodBulb mission video almost made me cry,” Jan said. “I was like, oh my gosh. There’s another company in the world that’s looking to do good in the world.”
Similar to GoodBulb’s commitment to using lightbulb sales to bring solar lanterns to places without electricity around the world, Growing for Good’s mission is to create a positive global impact through a partnership with Chris’s foundation, the BFB (Burns-Fazzi & Brock) Foundation. The goal at BFB foundation is to help developing communities break the cycle of poverty by providing educational opportunities for girls and women, based on their belief that a woman’s dedication to sustaining her family will ultimately affect the rest of the community.
“How much better would this world be if more companies gave back?” Jan said.
“At GoodBulb, you have that same drive to do something more than just make profits for yourselves,” Jan said. “The light you provide significantly improves other people’s lives. Similarly, our motivation is that when one person of a family can get educated, they can lift the whole family out of poverty.”
Their commitment at Growing for Good is to give 50% of all proceeds to educate girls and women in Central America through the BFB Foundation. In addition, they hope to contribute to their local community in Alleghany County by providing employment opportunities in an area where unemployment rates are high.
“How much better would this world be if more companies gave back? Not forcing people to volunteer — but truly giving back, without looking for the increase in sales,” Jan said. “If more companies did that I think it would be a much better world.”
Learn more about Growing for Good, here.
Learn more about the GoodBulb mission, here.