On May 5, 2022, The Real Dill turns 10 years old. Since we made our first jar of pickles in 2012, the company has evolved in ways that we never imagined were possible. We feel incredibly blessed and lucky to be sitting here, 10 years later on our 10th anniversary, still making the best pickle products of their kind and still loving the work that we do.
We sat down with the our cofounders, Justin Park and Tyler Dubois, to reflect on the last decade of being business owners, the lessons that they learned along the way, and their hopes for The Real Dill's future.
Q: What gave you the courage to start a company?
TD: Where we were in life, risking everything wasn’t as risky. We didn’t have kids, we didn’t have mortgages. If things went bad, we were still going to be fine. While it was still risky and scary to make the jump, it was going to be easy enough to go back to our old jobs, if needed.
Q: What was your first objective when you founded The Real Dill?
JP: The goal was to start a new career that would make us happy. We both had jobs that we didn't love or that made it hard to have a good work/life balance. We wanted jobs that would fulfill us creatively and offer us the opportunity to have a good quality of life. We also had some experience with really bad bosses, so we wanted to avoid having more of those.
Q: Why pickles?
TD: In the simplest form, I love pickles. It’s one of my favorite kinds of foods. The fact that pickles are preserved, flavorful, and bold. These are all of the things that make food fun and exciting. A lot of it goes back to the first time I pickled something. I remember thinking, wow you’re taking this perishable vegetable and doing something to it that makes it special and gives it an extended life and a personality. Early on, it became clear to me that you could really use the pickle jar as a blank canvas.
Q: Why have you chosen to remain founder-owned this long?
JP: Because we are stubborn! We have strong opinions and know exactly what we are trying to accomplish. And we feel like we are able to step up to the challenges that arise and face them on our own. We have always felt that bringing in an outside partner would force us to compromise in some way. But also, we really value having complete control. It allows us to run the business according to our morals and values, as opposed to having to prioritize someone else's investment. We feel like this business is a reflection of us, as individuals, so it is important that we are able to manage it in a way that we can be proud of.
Q: Why have you chosen to manufacture your products vs. co-packing them?
TD: To me, it’s so crazy that people would want to start a company making something and then pass off the actual process of making it. For us, it doesn’t feel authentic to who we are or authentic to the vision of the company. I didn’t start a company to not make pickles. And because we have all of these rigid, self imposed standards of how we do things, how they look, and how they come out, it’s not really something that you want to give away just because it’s easier. Certainly it would be easier. But creating is half of the fun.
Q: What was the mission of the company when you created The Real Dill? Has it remained the same?
JP: I am not sure if we actually wrote out a mission early on, but we definitely had a lot of conversations about who we wanted to be and what was important to us, as a company. Ultimately, the core of that was about making the absolute best products of their kind, and making sure the business held the same values and morals that we do as individuals. I can say with 100% confidence that none of those things have changed a bit.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a business owner?
JP: Having created something new in the world that brings joy to complete strangers is one of the best feelings imaginable. And for it to have created jobs that people enjoy and take pride in puts the icing on the cake.
Q: What is the most challenging part of being a business owner?
TD: I think there is a lot of pressure when you have a tight team of people you genuinely care about. You carry a lot of the responsibility and the duty of not only making sure that you’re making the right decisions for the company, but also your employees. You just want to steer the ship in the right direction that you’re proud of when the day is done.
Q: Describe the last 10 years in three words.
JP: Unforgettable rollercoaster ride.
TD: Fortunate, tireless, resilient.
Q: How has The Real Dill evolved over the last decade?
JP: It has been a steady evolution, one step at a time. For starters, we launched the company with just pickles, and now we are probably more well known for our Bloody Mary Mix. But we have also evolved to be more active when it comes to serving our environment and our community. Early on we just had so few resources that we couldn't figure out how to make our environmental and charitable commitments a part of the business, but as we have grown we have found some effective ways to leverage our resources in a way that helps to further our impact in those areas. As far as we are concerned, this is a journey without a final destination, so we expect to continue evolving. But we have been really careful to only evolve one step at a time, so that our growth and development can occur at a speed that allows us to ensure we continue to stay true to our values as we grow.
Q: Did you ever imagine the company would become what it is now?
TD: I guess you always hope that, but no. We didn’t even look that far into the future when we started this. Our mentality was let’s do what we can, and if it doesn’t work, we tried. If you give it everything you’ve got and it doesn’t work, there is no shame in that.
Q: What's the best business advice that you have received in the last 10 years?
JP: Ask questions. You can never stop asking questions, and never stop learning. The second you think you know what you are doing you're in trouble.
Q: What are you most excited about when you look to the next 10 years?
TD: Continuing to grow and provide a good place to work for the people who work so hard for us to be able to do this. Even though it’s probably closer to 10 years off, the idea of Justin and my kids actually working at the shop is one of those things that, while it was never a plan or an intention, the thought of having a multigenerational family business is a dream. Whether that comes to fruition or not, it’s one of those things that I didn’t plan on, but it seems like it would be incredible.
JP: Sometimes it's hard to imagine what the next year will bring, let alone the next 10 years. But, ultimately, we are trying to build a business that can last the test of time, and the only way to do that is one day at a time. We'll continue to honor the values that got us this far, while trying to continue to let our creativity and inspiration take us in new directions. As for the near future, we are working on some new products that we are really excited about. Also, after a few years of closing our doors to the public, we are really excited to find some fun and creative ways to welcome people back to The Dillery.