We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Wang Diggs and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karen, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
I came up with the design of ChouAmi (a small-batch fermentation device for professional AND home chefs) because I benefited so much from eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, and pickles, that I wanted to enable others to easily make their own fermented vegetables and fruits using a device that is well-made, and with NO plastic. ChouAmi is made from stainless and glass with a food-grade silicone gasket, and really built to last a life time, which also contributes to lessening our environmental burden.
As a professional chef and certified nutritionist, the cultural history, preservation technique, and scientifically proven positive benefits of eating live-cultured (lacto-fermented) foods were important things that I really wanted to share with everyone!
And so, here are the salient points of why my business helps the community and the world:
1. Eating fermented foods strengthens our health in myriad ways, including boosting our immunity and digestion.
It serves to increase the biodiversity of our gut microbiome, which researchers from both the medical and microbiological disciplines have proven to be a key part of physical and mental well-being.
2. By enabling people to easily make their own fermented foods at home, such as sauerkraut, pickles, or kimchi; it greatly lowers the detrimental negative impact of single-use packaging (often made from plastics) that adds to global warming and are destroying our precious planet. In other words, my business is encouraging everyone to become more self-reliant, and to re-connect with Nature, through food.
3. We offer free educational webinars, tutorial videos, and recipes from our website that de-mystifies fermentation. and we often have special guests on our webinar who are specialists in herbal medicine, gardening, homesteading, etc sharing information that serves to enrich the lives of our attendees.
4. We are fully committed to a NO Plastic ethos, so even our shipping materials are made from paper, or other materials that will not harm the environment.
5. Chouami ‘s LLC (GourmetMatters) is set up as a Benefit Corporation, so as a business entity, we are devoted to give back to our community by supporting worthy causes.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
ChouAmi is actually the second business I’ve set up related to the design I created for small-batch fermentation. My first launch into having my own business was in 2014 when I did a Kickstarter campaign to help fund my design, which was called Kraut Source (www.krautsource.com). I did not have the financial band-width to pay for the manufacturing of my design, and I decided to turn to crowdfunding. To my amazement, I raised a substantial amount of money with over 3,000 backers from around the world and was able to fully start my business. The success of raising funds in this way is very important to me because I proved the concept, AND I did not have to borrow money from the bank!
After several years of being in business with Kraut Source, I was approached by partners (a father and son team) who wanted to create a similar fermentation device like Kraut Source but bigger in order to fit onto a french-made glass jar, and so ChouAmi came to realization based on the patented design of Kraut Source (which fits onto American-made mason jars).
We also launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2020, and it was also successful.
What sets my apart as an entrepreneur is that I did not set out to start a business in order to make money. I started my business based on a passion for good and healthy eating, AND listening to my creative inner voice that presented a unique functional design (which came to me while I was taking a shower!). I am not a product engineer, but I just followed my instinct and was able to create a kitchen tool which works really well, and is patented.
My main goal is to make people healthier by connecting them back to cooking and fermenting in the kitchen, and I have done so, which makes me really happy!
My main challenge when I started my first business was that I had a bad partner who ended up embezzling from my business. Honestly, I was living in a constant legal nightmare for several years, but I kept going and has overcome the initial shock and difficulties of that blow. What kept me going was that I knew I was contributing positively to the world.
Now, I have new partners, and we work great as a team because we are all in alignment with our business and social ethos;
which is to make a positive impact with developing kitchen tools that improve people’s health, while also making our environment safer and cleaner for future generations.
For me, making money for the sake of just making money is the worst form of capitalism that has brought us to climate collapse, vastly unjust social dynamics, and a despairing disconnect with our core humanity and with nature. I truly hope that I am part of the new paradigm to shift our concept of what “being in business” means.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in San Francisco, so if my best friend came to visit, I would drive to Point Reyes and go hiking with her. and depending on the season, go foraging for wild edibles such as mushrooms, seaweed, or plants. Then we would head to my local farmers’ market and get some additional goodies to cook up a big gourmet meal and invite other friends to come over.
To me, the Bay Area has so many incredible natural spots to explore, although everyone likes to go to restaurants and museums, or ride on cable cars…I think I would elect to show my friend truly unique natural places or sustainable farms that are making positive impacts on our environment.
Garden Valley Ranch in Petaluma to pick organic roses
Harley Farm’s Goat Dairy
Swanton Berry Farm
Depending on season:
Seaweed foraging around Bodega Bay
Mushroom hunting near Salt Point
Hiking around Big Sur area
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The book, Wild Fermentation, written by Sandor Katz was instrumental in starting my path to fermentation.