One budding entrepreneur discovered his sweet spot in Happy Valley when he founded Homegrown Flavor Company, a well-suited business to serve a community with a passion for sustainable, local dining, drinks and agriculture.
The path to the present wasn’t easy, though.
Nicholas Pavlak left Penn State to follow his entrepreneurial dreams in his junior year. With a background in gardening and sustainability, and an education focused on agriculture, he developed a business plan for a 5-acre, fully sustainable, organic produce farm. But the 21-year-old found the costs out of reach, particularly when he had no property or equipment in State College, and minimal capital.
Adjusting his idea, he created Homegrown Garden Designs to provide design, installation and maintenance services for families and businesses desiring a fully functional, edible and sustainable landscape in their own yard. Again, though, he ran into some obstacles, finding the market small and a need to build community trust in the brand.
Having previously worked as a bartender and bar manager, Pavlak further refined his dream to utilize the skills and services he already knew in the food and beverage industry. Thus, Homegrown Flavor Company was born, providing products that enhance cocktails and drinks in a sustainable and functional manner.
“Homegrown Flavor Company is dedicated to leading the way in flavor and taste development,” Pavlak said. “Through the education and advancement of craft mixology, organic local produce, sustainable environments, functional gardening and fundamental agriculture systems, we create growth and drive demand for natural, healthier, wholesome and fresh goods."
Homegrown Flavor Company offers a variety of cocktail enhancements, such as bitters, shrubs, flavored sugar cubes and syrups, but also services such as bar menu design, spirits education and event experiences. Pavlak said the business is primarily focused on the product line for the time being, “simply because we do not have a lot of capital invested in the business right now, to be able to push more of the services.”
For now, he said he’s “using our products to introduce our brand to the community and receive feedback regarding what products and flavors are in demand, as well as what services they might be interested in and what the market cost may be.”
The products are available at The Branch and the Vine in downtown State College, and you might also find them in your drink at The Allen Street Grill. You can also find Homegrown Flavor Company at upcoming events including Pop Up Ave on April 28, the State College Culture Crawl on May 13 and the Boalsburg Memorial Day Festival on May 28. Other partnerships with local businesses and events are planned and Pavlak said he has an interest in connecting with regional suppliers for ingredients such as produce, honey, herbs and spices.
As Pavlak grows his brand, he’s looking to three consumer trends in order to further develop his product line: an increased focus on health and wellness, meeting the demands of what's known as the "smart consumer" who demands transparency and truth in advertising, and reaching millennial customers.
"Millennials are the most socially and digitally connected generation in history," Pavlak said. "Their recent consumption patterns, which demand for authentic, better-for-you, handcrafted and local products will continue to drive a significant shift not only in consumption patterns, but also in the way brands market themselves to this increasingly important consumer group.”
With this in mind, Pavlak has a positive outlook on his development for the upcoming years, both as a local business owner and as a community member. His hope is to become an area staple and connect with more partners, suppliers and vendors.
It’s a realistic outlook for the young entrepreneur, especially if he continues cooking up cocktails like his favorite — The Campfire Cocktail.
“(It’s) inspired by all the memories created with my grandfather, as we shared stories and laughs sitting around a fire the days up at camp or outside the camper on any of the great adventures," he said. "The Campfire Cocktail is bourbon-based with coffee liqueur, Homegrown Flavor Company Spiced Brown Sugar Syrup and Homegrown Flavor Company Orange Bitters ... (it) warms you up with notes of vanilla, caramel, coffee and citrus (with) each sip.”
THE CAMPFIRE COCKTAIL
2 oz. bourbon
1⁄2 oz. coffee liqueur
1⁄2 oz. Homegrown Flavor Company Spiced Brown Sugar Syrup
3 dashes Homegrown Flavor Company Orange Bitters
Combine and enjoy!