To Colleen Sundlie, there’s nothing wrong with a sweet tooth.
“I’ve always had a sweet tooth,” Sundlie said. “I think we’re made with one.”
But that comes with a caveat – Sundlie believes that sweets should be limited to ones that occur naturally. And that’s how the humble date came into her life.
Sundlie had always been a fan of alternative sweeteners besides sugar, like honey, but didn’t really discover dates until 2005, when her husband Ryan got a teaching job at the United Arab Emirates University and the couple moved across the world with their newborn son. At first they just seemed like another fruit to her, but the date syrup was a different story.
“I was overcome by the complexity and how you can use it,” Sundlie said. “You derive nutrition from the syrup because when you’re processing it, it actually condenses the nutrients.”
A few years later the couple moved back to the States to Seattle, and began testing out date syrup with consumers. At first people were a little hesitant, Sundlie said, but everything changed the moment they tried the syrup.
“I thought if people could really love the flavor so much without even thinking of the health benefits, there must be something to it,” Sundlie said.
One demographic Sundlie never had trouble with? Kids, who were often more ready to try the fruit than their parents. Although Sundlie admitted her oldest son Henry gets a little weary of them after growing up around them for 10 years.
“He’s like ‘I’m going to have honey, don’t be offended.'”
So Sundlie went all in, and The Date Lady was born in 2012. Today the company not only sells dates and date syrup, but specialty products like caramel sauce, chocolate spread, balsamic vinegar and date sugar. While the date sauce is made from Tunisian dates, the dates they sell are sourced from California.
What excites her about date syrup is the simplicity combined with the complex flavor, Sundlie said. All that goes into date syrup is dates, and that’s it – compared to something like agave that has to be extracted from a cactus. And The Date Lady is careful to make sure the dates they use are organic.
While Sundlie has had a strong background in marketing (including the Winter Olympics) which helped her build the company, a business centered around food is new. The biggest thing she’s learned over the past several years as a snack maker is how challenging it can be to get your name out there.
“Every day I can’t believe the amount of resources you need to launch a brand when doing it from scratch…There’s such a sea of brands out there, it’s definitely overwhelming.”
But she’d people attempting to launch their own brand to find a balance between working hard and appreciating each day. She and her husband established “ground rules” as they were growing the company to keep their family a priority. There wasn’t even wireless at the house for a while, she said, to keep themselves from bringing work home too much.
“Make sure that you’re living in the present and not for the big finality of success…you just have to enjoy daily life as you’re growing the company,” Sundlie said.
We’re excited to feature The Date Lady’s Date Snack Pack in our November box, and be sure to visit their website if you’d like to try them (or get more) for yourself!
All images courtesy of The Date Lady’s Instagram account.