I launched DIUD somewhat accidentally/spontaneously/impulsively. It was an idea I’d been contemplating, but then several fortuitous things happened at once and it seemed like the universe was trying to send a message that I should contemplate no longer and just take the leap of faith! So I did.
What happened is I was sharing the dressing with friends and getting their feedback while this idea was percolating that it could be a business. A Team Member at my local Whole Foods who found out I made salad dressing asked if he could try it. When he called to say he’d shared it with some people at the regional headquarters who had loved it and they wanted to bring it in, I think I screamed in his ear, poor guy. At that point, I didn’t have a place to make it legally, no real “formula” or “process”, it was just the dressing I’d been making for my family for 15 years, but that was what convinced me to launch Dress It Up in earnest. He only ordered 4 cases, but it was by far the “biggest” order I’ve ever received.
That is easily my favorite milestone.
As far as growth, I have three children and when I started DIUD they were 3, 7 and 10. They’re now 7, 11 and 14 and DIUD has really grown as they have and my ability to still be there for them has allowed. When I started DIUD, my youngest child was in school 3 days a week until noon. DIUD was only in about 8 stores, but it was all I could manage. Now she’s in 1st Grade and I can handle the roughly 100 stores we’re in a little more easily. I don’t make every soccer game, and I don’t make every sale, but there is balance, and both are growing nicely.
Pictured above: white bean, radish and feta salad tossed with Dress It Up Dressing. Below: paired with grilled eggplant.
I love they way you think about that. It’s a great way to approach the repetition of routine and keep it creative.
It’s exactly what I love – and have always loved – about my dressing: I can rely on it, which enables me to be so creative with other choices I make.
For example, I can go to the Farmers Market and pick up something I’ve never heard of before, and yet know I can make something delicious with it.
This is one of the things my business has exposed me to that I absolutely love, both in the creative and the culinary sense. While I occasionally went to the farmers market before, now I’m there every week, sometimes three times a week, selling the dressing and making a salad for people to sample with whatever is available. As a result, I’ve tried things I’d never heard of before: kohlrabi, Japanese sweet potatoes, romanescu cauliflower, and those sweet white turnips. I eat my corn raw 85% of the time these days, I know I prefer yellow carrots to all others. A good watermelon radish rocks my world.
I’ve met customers who have introduced me to new ways of using the dressing, and other food producers who are pouring their heart and soul into what they make. Food is a popular topic right now and everyone is trying new things – and often photographing it and putting it on Instagram or wherever – but collectively, it’s broadening all of our palettes.
Most importantly, I think it shaped my ability to go into this sort of a business. I’m one of four children and we’re all self-employed. That might be because we’re un-employable, but it’s also made it unremarkable that I would take a swan dive into unexplored territory.
It was my younger brother’s idea that the dressing could have a life beyond just our family’s appreciation. He’s a musician and apart from a short-term gig at Pfizer to pay his rent right after college, he’s never had any job besides that. That’s a level of dreaming that is fortunately encouraged in our family, and gives you the confidence and support to go out on a limb.
It’s my favorite part, and probably the one in which I’m the most hands-off because I rely so much on the talents of others.
The girls are drawn by Inslee Farriss, who is a fashion illustrator and just amazingly talented. She can take my vague descriptions and turn them into these beautiful interpretations. Sometimes I have a very clear picture of what I want, for example, with the Apple Cider, I knew I wanted it to look like my hairdresser, so I described her to Inslee and the result is that gorgeous creature you see on the label. Other times I know exactly what I want the dress to look like and leave it to Inslee to imagine the girl within. She’s so creative, she can give me five options and I’ll love all five.
The next step is a collaboration with my sister that I adore. We take Inslee’s watercolors and then “dress them up”. My father was a photographer and he did a book in the 1980s with a well-known Washington chef, Jean-Louis Palladin. We use the images of food from the making of that book and turn them into clothing: a glass of champagne becomes a dress, a raspberry a ring, a lettuce leaf a shawl. When we can’t find an image we like there, I’ll take one myself. The way you can cut and shape vegetables is endlessly creative: the apple slices that became a skirt on our Apple Cider label; the radishes that became a necklace… One of my favorite details is the handful of multicolored carrots that became a bustle on the Blackberry jar. I love that it’s not immediately apparent, but if you look closely, you can reveal these wonderful details.
HA! Before or after salad took over my life?!!? I mean, this is a pathetic answer, but we eat a lot of salad.
I love cooking for the children, but after spending the days around food, I’ve lost a lot of that mojo.
My go to summer meal: pasta with loads of fresh mozzerella, tomatoes and basil. You literally just boil pasta and chop and it’s ready.
I’ll pan fry firm tofu that I’ve briefly marinated in the apple cider vinaigrette and serve it on rice with steamed broccoli. It takes 20 minutes.
Winter: I make a soup out of roasted butternut squash, carrots, parsnips and ginger that 2 out of 3 of my children will demolish.
Truthfully, I’d only ever used the dressings as salad dressings before my customers started telling me about its other uses.
Now I use it to roast meat and vegetables, glaze a broiled fish. I was served venison which had been marinated in our red wine vinaigrette and I’m not a big venison lover – at all! – but it was tender and delicious.
I am forever grateful for the woman who told me she used it on raw asparagus which was something I’d never eaten. But she then took it further and combined the asparagus with Maché and pistachios and Gruyere which is such an incredible combination, I’ve made it dozens of times since.
Another suggested brushing the dressing on slices of sweet potatoes and roasting them – which is incredible!
I made a kohlrabi and jicama slaw recently after being asked to make something “fresh” for a garden party, it’s the perfect pot-luck dish.
I love it when you get a group at the farmers market and everyone just starts brainstorming recipes. It’s been four years now that I’ve been receiving their suggestions and I want to thank them and say, please keep them coming!
We should. I’m going to put that on my To Do list.
We’re just starting to get active with our mailing list, so please sign up on our website and we’ll announce them there, but in the meantime, this summer we can be found at:
USDA Farmers Market on Fridays
Bethesda Farmers Market on Sundays
Mosaic Farmers Market on Sundays