WESTFIELD, PA. — What started off as an effort to save a family dairy farm has now grown into a national organic skyr brand, Painterland Sisters.

Riding in a beat-up, red Subaru, sisters Hayley and Stephanie Painter began peddling 14,000 sample cups of Icelandic, organic skyr yogurt around their community, visiting local grocers and neighbors.

But the sisters soon realized they had too much product to stay local and gained national recognition. They began planning the business in 2018, launched the brand in 2020 and sold its first cup of yogurt in March 2022.

“We were at risk of losing our cows if we didn’t start Painterland Sisters — we would’ve had to sell the dairy,” said co-founder Hayley Painter. “We definitely didn’t think we would go national, but we knew we needed to move enough yogurt to cover our minimum production quantities. It is very challenging to launch a dairy product in retail stores because the minimum amount of units you have to produce is high, and the product is perishable so you have a limited amount of time to move that product before it spoils. So our market demand wasn’t just in Pennsylvania, it was in the natural grocery channel nationwide.”

Painterland Sisters organic skyr yogurt is lactose-free, offers 21 grams of protein per serving, is made with 6% milk fat, includes probiotics such as BB12, is sweetened with organic fruit and cane sugar, and is free of additives, fillers and preservatives. Each serving also features four cups of Painterland Sister’s cow’s milk.

The company sources its milk from its own dairy farm, as well as local dairy farms around the Westfield, Pa., area.

“These are farms in the area that practice organic farming,” Hayley said.

While there are endless options of dairy products to manufacture, the sisters landed on skyr yogurt to bring a piece of the farm to the world, as well as a better-for-you yogurt.

“When comparing the types of yogurt on the market, we found that skyr would have the most creamy and decadent texture while maintaining the benefits of milk,” Hayley said. “At a high level, it’s the ultra-filtration system of finely straining the milk that maintains the nutritional integrity, while creating a thick texture. From there, we add a lactase enzyme to break down the lactose in the milk. It’s through this process that we are able to create a product that is different than other yogurts on the shelf.”

Hayley said transparency is the company’s point of differentiation amongst other skyr yogurt brands on the market.

“As farmers, we have the advantage of showing how we create the yogurt,” she said.

After realizing they had a scalable product, the sisters began a crowdfunding campaign in July 2023 on Wefunder. The company’s goal was $1.2 million but the company has since raised $1.235 million.

“Our mission is to sustain our farm and other farms for generations to come,” Hayley said. “We also don’t want to sell our brand in 5 to 10 years. We need to keep growing so we can keep heading toward our mission.”

Hayley said those seeking to invest will grow with the company in return for investing.

“We landed on Wefunder where we set the terms,” she said. “The incentive and return-on- investment is actually distribution of profit or dividends. So the larger more profitable we get, the more profits we can disperse with our shareholders. The goal is with yogurt and dairy, people eat more and more of it, giving a great opportunity to grow. So these farmers can pass it on for generations to come and hopefully their dividends will continue to grow.”

With the company holding its first crowdfunding round, Hayley said she has been appreciative of how they’ve been funded thus far.

“We have had a loan from our family’s farm bank, as well as loans from our family,” she said. “We received multiple grants and refined our business plan for years until we had it fully solidified. We sought out guidance and input from professionals in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) business, something we knew nothing about when we started this business. So when we launched our yogurt line, we had put four years of work into it prior.”

Painterland Sisters will use the funds for increasing growth, supporting working capital for sales expenses, production and increasing marketing.

“Production includes ingredients and the actual cost of using (a) co-manufacturer and labor, and marketing is the least amount (the) funds is being used for,” she said. “People have concern we’re using it just for marketing, but we’ve actually been able to stabilize our marketing. We do a lot of organic techniques like free reels and free videos on social media, (and) really connecting and working with our retail partners and getting a lot of people who are excited to be brand ambassadors of our yogurt.”

In the company’s first full calendar year of 2023, Hayley said Painterland Sisters sold approximately $4 million worth of product and produced approximately 2.5 million cups of yogurt. In 2024, the company said it is projected to use approximately 5.2 million lbs of raw milk. The company also said it is projected to be profitable by 2025.

“In the world of dairy, you can’t really do it small,” she said. “We have projected to hit $6 million in sales this year of 2024, but believe we will surpass this by how we are trending already and the fact that we were 11% over our projected sales for 2023.”