Katie Hamilton Shaffer admitted that as a young girl she used to write fan letters to Martha Stewart. So it might seem like fate that her new business is a nominee in a national Martha Stewart contest to name the best “American Made” products and enterprises of 2013.
Hamilton Shaffer’s business is called Feast it Forward. Working with a team of partners, she’s helped to create a fledgling enterprise she describes as a combination of Food Network, Newman’s Own and Martha Stewart.
Feast it Forward promotes charitable giving through culinary- and wine-related video episodes, she explained. The company also sells its own brand of wine and other gourmet hand-crafted products. Proceeds from the sales of those products are donated to selected nonprofit causes.
It’s the products part of Feast it Forward that has been nominated for the Martha Stewart contest, Hamilton Shaffer said. Three other Napa Valley-based businesses are also nominated in the contest: Wild Boar Farms, heirloom tomatoes; Salute Santé!, grapeseed oil, and Napa Organics, skincare products.
Feast It Forward sells its own wine, along with custom spice blends and chocolates. The spices are created in conjunction with Whole Spice Company of the Oxbow Public Market and Kollar Chocolates of Yountville.
The products are sold online and at some local wineries and grocery stores, including Vallerga’s, the Napa General Store, Flora Springs Winery and Carpe Diem Wine Bar, she said. Eventually, they hope to add many products to the Feast it Forward line and sell nationwide.
The startup business is in the midst of securing financing for expansion, she said, and plans to have a team of 14 paid employees by this fall.
Feast it Forward has currently earmarked 24 charities across the U.S. for donations. The company plans to transition to more of a grant-giving process focusing on women’s, health, children, animals, community and international nonprofits.
Hamilton Shaffer, no relation to the Shafer wine family of Napa Valley, got her start in the valley when she created Toolbox Wine Co. She has since sold that business. Along the way, she teamed up with new partners Rebecca and Kevin Gouveia, retired Navy veterans from Washington D.C., to form Feast it Forward. The group is also working with CEO Brook Altman, a former brand developer and Emmy award-winning producer of Martha Stewart Living.
“I wanted to make a difference,” Hamilton Shaffer said. “If you don’t give something back to the world, your purpose here is kind of useless,” she said.
After being nominated by a friend for Martha Stewart’s American Made contest, Feast it Forward is now competing with more than 2,000 other “creative entrepreneurs” who make everything from handbags to cookies, stuffed animals, jewelry, furniture, cheese, clothing and pottery.
Anyone can vote in the contest at the American Made website. The top finalists in each of six categories will win a gift basket containing products from Martha Stewart’s various product lines and other prizes.
The grand prize winner of the American Made contest receives $10,000, a trip to New York City and a photo and video shoot with Martha Stewart Living, among other prizes. Hamilton Shaffer said Feast it Forward currently has the most votes in the “food” category.
Online voting on each category nominee continues until Sept. 22. The grand prize winner will be named Oct. 7.
Regardless of the outcome of the Martha Stewart contest, Hamilton Shaffer said she has big plans for Feast it Forward. “We want to make this the next lifestyle brand.”