Podcast

FEBRUARY 26, 2018

Episode 9 – Building a Business that Upholds Community

Kendall and John Antonelli with Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

Our guests, Kendall and John Antonelli, join us this week to talk about their business, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, and their long-standing commitment and passion for philanthropy and community building.

In 2007, the couple went on their honeymoon, which sparked John’s decision to quit his corporate job and begin exploring the world of cheese with his wife, Kendall. Flash-forward 10 years, and the Antonelli’s have created a cherished and growing artisanal cheese business that supports Austin’s cheesemongers and cheese lovers alike. And their community involvement doesn’t stop there. The Antonelli’s philanthropic support extends throughout Austin and the United States. Hear more about the impact they are making in Austin on our latest episode of Change the Rules!

Lisa Graham (00:00):
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Change the Rules podcast. I’m Lisa Graham, co-founder of Notley. And today we have Kendall and John Antonelli, founders of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop in Austin. Besides having an interesting story, it’s their passion and commitment to philanthropy and community building that sets them apart. So what, how I would like to start this interview actually is so you all own a cheese shop and you’ll also do cheese tastings, which are incredible. It’s not like one of those, just come and take a bite of cheese. You end up with like half a pound of cheese. So.

Kendall Antonelli (00:27):
Over half a pound of cheese.

Lisa Graham (00:28):
Over half a pound of cheese, and it’s delicious. But the way ya’ll start all of those classes is you have everyone go around the room and say, if they could be a cheese, what kind of cheese would they be?

Kendall Antonelli (00:37):
Cheesy icebreaker.

Lisa Graham (00:37):
So I challenge you- yes- to the cheesy icebreaker, whoever would like to go first, what kind of cheese would you be if you could be if you could be a cheese?

John Antonelli (00:44):
Oh man, thank you for having us. Do you want to go first, love, or do you want me to jump in?

Kendall Antonelli (00:47):
No, I’m gonna stall five seconds longer while you think of something.

John Antonelli (00:50):
Today I’d be mozzarella and I’m- you might be the same. Mozzarella is a pulled curd cheese as stretched. And so today the many different things that I was doing this morning, I felt, felt very stretched. But at the end of the day, it all comes back together. Creates a beautiful outcome. Everybody loves it too. So that’s, that would be me.

Lisa Graham (01:10):
Ah- feeling pretty good about yourself today.

John Antonelli (01:13):
I’m confident. Everybody loves mozzarella.

Kendall Antonelli (01:16):
All right. Yeah. So I would be a washrf rine cheese, which are your stinky cheeses, because for the same reason, I feel like I’ve been running around all day and going from one place to the next. And maybe I’m a little, you know, a little rank.

Lisa Graham (01:27):
Little rank.

Kendall Antonelli (01:28):
Yeah. So I’m going to call myself on a washed rind cheese today, but it’s also my favorite.

John Antonelli (01:32):
It’s also a cheesemonger’s favorite. It’s the best. It’s the style that you bring to a party. Nobody eats and you get to take it all home. So fantastic.

Lisa Graham (01:40):
Nice trick. I like it. Awesome.

Kendall Antonelli (01:44):
So Lisa and Dan, what cheese would you be today if you could be a cheese?

Dan Graham (01:48):
Oh I’m sorry, you thought this was your podcast. [laughter]

Lisa Graham (01:54):
[Inaudible] No, I tried vegan cheese yesterday for the first time. As John would say, cause I asked John and Kendall’s opinion first. Yes, I would eat it. No, I would not think it was real cheese.

Kendall Antonelli (02:07):
Right?

John Antonelli (02:07):
Yeah. That’s about right.

Lisa Graham (02:10):
There’s a time and place.

John Antonelli (02:11):
There’s a little known fact about me for two years, I spent eating soy cheese when I was 10 to 12. My mom took all dairy out of the house at the time for health reasons. And I snuck down every night and stole Velveeta off the block. Still one of my favorite cheese products, for sure.

Lisa Graham (02:30):
I love that you do qualify that with cheese product.

Kendall Antonelli (02:32):
Yes. We just don’t call it cheese anymore, but we still love Velveeta. It makes that queso really nice. [laughter]

Lisa Graham (02:38):
So what we’d like to start with is why cheese, you know, how did y’all get to starting a cheese shop? Because I’d also love for you guys to work in what your backgrounds are in because you are people who could have kind of done anything. Well, so why did y’all come to cheese and how did you guys get here?

Dan Graham (02:58):
John you were an auditor, right?

John Antonelli (02:59):
Oh yeah. CPA by trade. I was at Deloitte and Touche at the time. So the origin story of our business.

Kendall Antonelli (03:05):
Yeah. Take us back, honey.

John Antonelli (03:06):
I’ll set the stage. It was 2007. I was at Deloitte. We were getting married and we had a perfect wedding. We had a perfect house here in Austin. We had already been living here for two years. We had two perfect dogs and we went on what to me was a perfect honeymoon. We were in Grenada in the Caribbean and I was sitting on the beach drinking a perfect drink. I believe it was pink-

Kendall Antonelli (03:34):
One too many perfect drinks-

John Antonelli (03:34):
With an umbrella- my style. Yeah. Thanks for that caveat…One too many drinks. And I thought to myself do I really have everything that I want? At the time, the only thing missing was my job. Being an auditor- it’s a great job. It’s a great career for many people and just not for me; it wasn’t for me. And so I leaned over to Kendall and told her that I was going to quit my job when we got home. And I said, great, what do you want to do? And I said something in cheese. And so we basically spent the rest of the honeymoon in between having a really fun time and going and eating a ton of food, talking about all of the things that we like to do and the types of businesses that we might want to run. But what really came out of it at the end of the day was a decision to spend two years to find our passion. I was thinking pretty heavily at the time about the passion I had experienced back in DC at Georgetown when I was an undergrad and how easy it was to do work, do execute on things and complete tasks. And you could, I could, I could multitask multitasking. Not many people actually multitask, but I could do a lot. I could achieve a lot. And when I was at Deloitte, it felt like every day was a drag. You know, I would run out of energy. I would be stuck in a corner and it’s long hours. So you, you know, I could do it.

Kendall Antonelli (04:57):
Yeah. I always joke with John about it. Like you know in Dirty Dancing, no one puts baby in the corner. Well, everybody puts an auditor in the corner, so it just definitely wasn’t a fit.

John Antonelli (05:04):
It wasn’t a fit. And most people don’t smile at you when you say you’re an auditor. And so Kendall at the time agreed that I could have two years and the same amount of money and same amount of time as somebody that would typically go to like an MBA program, which is a typical track for somebody like me after a couple of years at an audit firm. And so I, I left my job after a busy season. I wanted to make sure we got through and in February 6th of 2008, so a couple months after the honeymoon, I quit. And I started learning about the food industry. I know I wanted to do- that cheese was calling to me, but I didn’t know anything about it yet. I really, we really hadn’t gotten into artisanal cheese at the time. Potentially thinking about doing grilled cheese sandwiches, maybe a fast casual restaurant, something of that affect.

Dan Graham (05:55):
But I have to ask, when you, when you say the cheese was calling to you, what does that feel like?

John Antonelli (05:59):
What does it say?

Dan Graham (05:59):
What does that mean?

John Antonelli (06:01):
There were signs, we’ll say there were signs. So after that I got the opportunity. One, there was an article in the Austin Chronicle about three weeks after we got home from the honeymoon. And it was about Kathy Strange, who is a global cheese buyer at Whole Foods. And it was like, basically like cheese is a dream career. Like I forget what the title was, but I read the article and I was like, I could, I could, that sounds cool. Like you see a runway for the first time; somebody shows you what are possibilities. But again, I didn’t really know much about the food industry at the time. So my first task was to get that knowledge. So I, I, my friend at Georgetown, his father ran Kerbey Lane- owned and operated and founded Kerbey Lane. And I bumped into him two weeks after the honeymoon at a happy hour, Georgetown happy hour. And I told him that I wanted to get into the food service business. And he’s like, why don’t you get an internship with my dad? And so-

Kendall Antonelli (06:59):
Oh, it’s like, if you’re wondering, no, this is not a normal thing. Walk into Kerbey Lane and say, “I want an internship.” It could be now, but back then-

John Antonelli (07:05):
It wasn’t-

Dan Graham (07:06):
Is this the Ayers?. Yes. That makes sense.

John Antonelli (07:09):
So so Mason’s dad was great and he interviewed me a couple of times, and then finally, we’ll bring you on as an intern and right about that time, their accountant quit. And so I got to not only give them value by helping do their books, but I got to be a bus boy, a host. I got to cook in the kitchen. Yeah. I cooked 50 pounds of bacon one night, which is incredibly,

Kendall Antonelli (07:35):
Yeah, you were really fun to sleep next to-

John Antonelli (07:36):
-humbling experience.

Lisa Graham (07:37):
How many days did he smell like bacon?

John Antonelli (07:41):
Not enough…

Kendall Antonelli (07:41):
Can you ever have too much bacon? Yes. That night you can have too much bacon. [laughter]

John Antonelli (07:46):
And so, and I got to like help build menu items. I got to work in the commissary.

Kendall Antonelli (07:50):
Y’all opened a new store.

John Antonelli (07:51):
We moved a location there, Northwest location. And so I got this six month sort of look into what the food service establishment was. And the next 18 months of the process was really about knowing 1) we didn’t want to ever operate a 24 hour restaurant and 2) at the time, well Kendall- she’ll get to share what she was doing, she had, she was in a really amazing career and doing some incredible work. And so at the, during those months, it was sort of just me on a trajectory going forward. And Kendall was fully supporting me, but it was, it was me alone. And this is- truly comes down- basically a love story. So when we-

Lisa Graham (08:33):
Can you cue the Journey?

John Antonelli (08:38):
When, when Kendall and I were on the honeymoon, the whole idea behind my thought process was that I want to optimize my life. Right? I’ve already got such amazing stuff happening, but if one area is sort of not ideal, it’s holding me back. If I can make a change, I should make a change. And so we, through this process, like cheese called the Kendall too cause I would just talk about it in my sleep, after studying and learning-

Kendall Antonelli (09:02):
Literally, he’d sit up in the middle of the night and say something about cheese and then lay back down and go back to sleep. And he, I’ve never seen you do that with anything else, anything else in our life, but he’d just talk, wake up, talk about cheese, and lay back down.

John Antonelli (09:14):
Fast forward-

Kendall Antonelli (09:18):
And that’s what our life looks like [laughter].

John Antonelli (09:19):
She still loves me. Well, she could have eloped on the honeymoon. When I mentioned I was going to quit my job.

Kendall Antonelli (09:29):
No- annulled. [laughter].

Lisa Graham (09:29):
Like with some other guy from the resort?! [laughter]

John Antonelli (09:29):
[Inaudible] One who was not talking about cheese.

Dan Graham (09:29):
That’s a different story.

Kendall Antonelli (09:31):
[Inaudible] You’re taking this two years and you said, well, I can either go get my MBA, or I believe I can take that money and put it into something that I create on my own. And I loved-

Dan Graham (09:39):
So cue the business plan.

Kendall Antonelli (09:40):
And I loved my job. I was working at a local nonprofit American Gateways. It was Political Asylum Project of Austin at that time. And I was assisting immigrant survivors of crimes with their UNT visas, which is basically a temporary immigration status while they’re working on their case. And I love the nature of my work and I have the utmost respect for people who can stay in a long time, cause it definitely starts to wear on you. And so I loved it and I was kind of coming to this point to where I need more skills. And I already had a graduate degree from Latin American studies at UT. Then I thought I need a social work degree to help these people like I and the secondary trauma and how can I provide them the resources and help to them while still being a good functioning partner for them. So I started thinking about a social work degree and thought, well, that seems weird. So I was kind of coming to this crossroads as well. And then John and I knew we would want to start to have a family at some point if, if that was in the cards for us and working on some human tracking cases it can get in your head, but there’s danger involved in certain things. And so then we just were looking at the whole picture and what do we want to do or not do? And at that point I was like, okay, great. You build your little hut and go work down on sixth street until 2:00 AM and provide grilled cheese sandwiches. I yeah, go for it. I’m going to stay doing my thing. But along, around that moment, like I realized that a lot of what my clients were fleeing their situations and the reason that they ended up in this, the bad situations they were, I had all that right in front of me. I had a good supportive, loving husband. I had the structure and the career there and everything. And yet I was starting to kind of turn my back on it and go inward just from all of the negativity and the stories and things that I’d heard. And I thought, I can’t look this gift horse in the mouth, what am I going to do about it? And so I kind of saw myself going down that negative path too. And we looked at each other and we said, well, what are we best at? We’re best at eating and talking. And we think our best when we’re together. And so how do we put that all in one thing? And so really-

Dan Graham (11:36):
And build a business around that.

Kendall Antonelli (11:37):
The idea for the cheese shop came and John kind of finally, I think it really took shape when it was okay, I’ll come on board and we’re, this is something we’re going to do together. And we’re going to create this dreamy little mom and pop shop and our kids are going to run around. And which yet, now that we’re like their gross, I don’t want them in the cheese shop at all, but- sorry, kids. But anyway, so we, we envisioned that and being part of a community, which I think is what this conversation comes down to is really establishing ourselves and being part of a community and having some roots and putting down on building our lives together here. And then it just, so came about that. Yeah. My love story with cheese, I grew up my stepfather is a rancher and my parents’ ranch in North Texas and had a cattle ranch. And I showed sheep in 4H and I rodeoed and I was a rodeo queen and I knew firsthand that we were not interested in.

Dan Graham (12:27):
What is a rodeo queen?

Kendall Antonelli (12:28):
Oh, yes, Dan.

Lisa Graham (12:29):
Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry- your Highness, what is a rodeo queen?

Kendall Antonelli (12:32):
Rodeo queen is what you’re forced to do when nobody else from your association will run for rodeo queen and you have to represent yourself in high school rodeo. But I would say, more proudly, that I did in the rodeo events world, I did goat tying, ribbon roping, breakaway roping, pole bending and cutting. And so those were all sports I did within it. And so, yeah. Then when we, now you threw me, Dan, I don’t even know what to talk about after that.

Dan Graham (12:54):
I have so many questions!

Kendall Antonelli (12:57):
I think where I was going with it-

John Antonelli (12:58):
New podcast opportunity. [Laughter]

Kendall Antonelli (12:58):
Is it- we’ve seen agricultural lifestyle firsthand and we know what it takes to go into making good food and operating a farm. And we knew that that wasn’t for us. If we talked about our vision in our life, we wanted to travel. We wanted to have kids and show them the world. And producers don’t get to do that. Their, their goat’s milk every day, unless there’s off season and they have to be there every day. And so, as you can tell, I like to talk a lot and it kind of all came together that we could be a voice for them and kind of speak to what they do. And from a unique firsthand perspective. But with our strengths of eating and talking and being with people and being a part of this community and part of the urban city life in Austin that we love.

John Antonelli (13:40):
And at the time then we were, we were doing, whether we knew it or not, doing personal visioning as a, as a couple. And we’ve, we’ve done this a couple of times now, but looking at the business as a vehicle to have a better life rather than being our life. And so when we looked at it with, we wanted to be together- I used to like go and during those two years, I’d go and sit and wait for her to come out for lunch. I’d wait an extra half an hour, just so I’d get the extra minutes. Right?

Kendall Antonelli (14:07):
Friends who know us think that we are disgusting because we want to be together all the time.

John Antonelli (14:12):
It’s wonderful. I love it.

Kendall Antonelli (14:13):
My mom will look at me and say, didn’t, I raised you to be a strong, independent woman and I say yes you did. I just also really liked being with John.

John Antonelli (14:21):
And so we visioned and it was, you know, being together

Kendall Antonelli (14:24):
By the way he also really likes being with John and prefers him to me now, as well. [Laughter] Sorry, hunny-

John Antonelli (14:30):
We looked at our lives and wanted to make sure that the business was just an extension of who we were rather than the business being all that we were. And so a lot of the decisions that we made were based off that.

Dan Graham (14:42):
I have to ask, oh, you know, in all the businesses that I’ve been involved with, sort of in an early stage or the startup stage by far, the hardest part is picking a name and, and, you know cause there’s so many things to think about, you know, domain name availability. And does it sound good? Is it- the ability to spell it. And to me Antonelli’s is like just a great name for a cheese business, but was that, was it, was it obvious for you guys or was, did it take some time to come to that?

Kendall Antonelli (15:13):
Zenoweak’s cheese shop did not have quite the same rang. So we gave up my Ukrainian maiden name for that one.

John Antonelli (15:21):
We had lots of different names and, and Kendall, we’re just not that punny. Right? Okay.

Kendall Antonelli (15:26):
There are all these amazing cheese shop names around the world. There’s like the Calf and the Kid and Fromagination, Pastoral, and those are all people we respect and love and we tried them on and they just didn’t fit us. And I think part of it wasm from the very beginning, when we talk about our brand, we always said, let’s just all we can be as who we are. And even when we opened the doors to the shop, we thought, oh, people are gonna think we’re frauds. We don’t have culinary degrees. I don’t, if they come in and ask me about a cheese, I may not know anything about it. Cause this was all a journey for us as well. And instead we said, we’re just going to own what we know and own what we don’t know. And so that came to our name was, well, let’s just be Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. We probably would have been That Cheese Shop, but that’s taken. So I was like, let’s just be who we are. The only problem with that-

John Antonelli (16:04):
Your friend said you should be Austin- Austin’s Cheese Shop. And we’re like, but-

Kendall Antonelli (16:09):
You limit yourself immediately at the beginning. Growth is stunted. The only problem with Antonelli’s Cheese Shop is right when we opened, we looked significantly younger and didn’t have children and no gray hair and people would walk into the shop and think, “Oh, you’re cute. Where’s your parents”. And so I’m pretty sure they thought we were this like brother and sister and that the Antonelli’s, the old couple was somewhere-

Lisa Graham (16:26):
The old Italian guy is going to walk through-

Dan Graham (16:30):
Don’t worry guys- you’re getting there.

Kendall Antonelli (16:33):
Thanks Dan.

Lisa Graham (16:33):
That’ll be you one day.

John Antonelli (16:35):
Yeah. It’s at the end of the day, it also is great marketing for us. You know, we want to eat out at these restaurants anyway and we wanted to go to these events and it’s the life that we wanted. So we might as well just, you know, attach the brand to ourselves.

Kendall Antonelli (16:49):
Yeah, there’s pros and cons to being your brand. But at this, one of the big pros is that whenever we’re out doing something, that’s part of our business too.

John Antonelli (16:55):
Pro: when you’re at like a really great wine festival. Con: when you’re out on Sixth Street at two in the morning and the bartender’s like, you’re our cheesemongers.

Dan Graham (17:04):
Right. Then John’s yelling you know who I am- give me a free shot.

Kendall Antonelli (17:09):
Never-

John Antonelli (17:11):
All the shirts I wear now have the logo now too.

Kendall Antonelli (17:13):
Except we take them off when we go out at night. Actually we have a very strong policy personally that we prefer not to get anything for free and everything we get for free, we always pay for it and then tip on it. So thank you, chefs, don’t send it to us cause we’re going to pay for it anyway. So but we, that was part of our business philosophy that until we can be sustainable and afford to give everybody else the kickbacks, they give us that we would pay full price for everything upfront to everybody else. So the way we all stay in business, right? Yeah.

Lisa Graham (17:42):
Wow.

Kendall Antonelli (17:43):
That’s why you guys haven’t gotten free cheese yet, Dan and Lisa.

Lisa Graham (17:46):
Like we’re waiting, we just invite you over and then you’re like, “Hey, we have cheese”. We’re like, “Great.”

Kendall Antonelli (17:52):
It’s been sitting in my car, but here you go.

Lisa Graham (17:53):
I know.

Kendall Antonelli (17:53):
What can you do?

Lisa Graham (17:53):
Sneak it into my fridge. So could you guys talk about how you all work in your community, work into what you do? Cause I know that that’s also very important to you all and there y’all are involved in different causes around town as well. How have you guys started to give back to the community and prioritize that with your work and with your staff?

John Antonelli (18:14):
Yeah, well from day one, it was part of our training, our ethos, right? One of our five, sort of, pillars was being a outstanding member of the community. So we define it slightly different. We, you know, neighborhood as one, then Austin, and then our industry. So the U S is still competing against company- countries like France and Italy to actually be represented representative of this wonderful artisan cheesemaking movement. So, you know, a lot of times you talk to somebody from Europe and oh, U.S. only has processed American singles, right. That’s kind of the assumption. And so we think of our community as, as that part of our industry-

Kendall Antonelli (18:58):
Helping to redefine American cheese-

John Antonelli (19:00):
Helping to redefine American cheese. So in the early days, you know, we always had a plan for giving back through the business and we had to be creative because we didn’t have that great cashflow-

Kendall Antonelli (19:14):
Non-Profitable. I told you, I came from the non-profit industry.

Lisa Graham (19:16):
Nonprofitable [laughter].

John Antonelli (19:16):
It was good that you did, you, you knew how to work in that kind of business. No, I’m just kidding. But we, we didn’t have much money, but you know, you immediately have asks and requests from, you know, folks walking through the front door, we’ve got this event coming up, we have this and Kendall and I, we do, we are, we want to, we don’t have a business to make money. We make money so we can, you know, spend it on doing good and give back and, and-

Kendall Antonelli (19:44):
and being the kind of business we want to be.

John Antonelli (19:45):
-we want to be. And we always kind of stretch ourselves before we actually have the money anyway. But in this case with creativity, like for instance we could give like a hundred dollars gift basket and it’s got a really high food cost margin and you don’t really get to showcase what we do. And so we got creative and after starting to host our events, we’d invite people, give tickets to our cheese classes, which would give us the opportunity to bring somebody into the space and actually kind of showcase what we did. And, and because the margins, we were able to get more. So we constantly gave back. When we were giving back maybe without a true vision to it, but we were always training it to our team. If you’re not, you know, if our business is not an uplifting member of our society, of our community, it’s really not worth having the business. It’s a lot of work. It’s intense on many days. And you know, nobody in the cheese industry, well, there’s probably a couple, but aren’t making money hand over fist, so it’s a lifestyle. And so if you’re not doing good and “do good” as one of the tenants of our mission, it’s kind of not worth the time we could be doing something else and maybe do it.

Kendall Antonelli (20:55):
Yeah. We could be making a lot more money doing something else in life, so it’s our why for existing. But I think to that point, like, oh yeah, and getting creative. I, I’m an emotional woman as John will tell you. And so it’s hard cause we would make it a lot of emotional decisions of like, yes, we’ll give to them. Yes. We’ll give to them. And the hard part as a startup entrepreneur was knowing when to say no, as well. And I did get some, but we weren’t, we’re always open book and honest with where our books are. And so I would say, “Hey, this is where we’re at, etcetera. I’m sorry, we can’t do this.” And I’ve gotten at least a dozen emails back saying that was the kindest rejection letter we have ever seen. So I just, I have to own it that our philanthropy plan has also been a give and take and give and take throughout the years. And at the beginning it was really getting creative, but we were working all the time and I’d say the biggest part of our philanthropy plan to where we are today is number one, making sure our business was operationally sound. So that meant for a few years, besides giving to we’ve given in the eight years to think 360 something organizations and fundraisers.

Dan Graham (21:53):
Wow. But beyond that-

Dan Graham (21:55):
That’s amazing.

Kendall Antonelli (21:55):
It was awesome. And at the same time- Thank you. Thanks. We tried-

Dan Graham (21:59):
That’s great.

Kendall Antonelli (22:00):
But at the same time we knew we wanted to make a bigger impact somehow, but how do we get to that? We were still everyday in the business instead of working on the business. And so to be able to expand our philanthropy plan, it meant being a better business operationally and sustainably more sound. So it meant hiring the right people and the, the whole saying of getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats. And once they have now really taken off and we have an amazing team, that’s allowed us to really engage out in the public more. And so really we’ve just taken off in these last couple of years, we turn eight years old in February. And so the last two years are really when we’ve gotten to come out of it, except for the exception- I’ll let you talk about the American Cheese Society and how we volleyed those kinds of engagements back and forth. But so nowadays we, this year we changed our philanthropy plan to be our #CharitableCheeseCause, but really we’re spotlighting one non-profit each month and then choosing to support them in a much deeper and more profound level than just multiple little donations of a $25 gift card here and there all over.

John Antonelli (23:01):
And I know that that kind of came out of Kendall, getting much more involved locally in the philanthropic world, because now we kind of got to see what it looked like from the other side of the table. And, you know, oftentimes they really need a bigger megaphone to get their cause out. And we have, we have 10,000 customers on our, our newsletter and that’s a really great platform to share this, the important work that folks are doing. And so, Kendall-
Kendall Antonelli (23:29):
Yeah, so I could give an $80 two tickets to a cheese tasting, which maybe brings in like 200 at a- at a silent auction for them, or they can be our feature that we’re pushing all month long. And we give a proceed- a portion of our revenue from one day and then get mentioned across our 40,000 followers throughout our social media. And that’s one way we can get behind them a lot more. So that’s one way we can get behind them a lot more.

Dan Graham (23:53):
Who’s the philanthropy this month, we’ll add the benefit to our vast, vast audience for our podcast.

Kendall Antonelli (24:00):
January was Allies Against Slavery. And then [inaudible].

Dan Graham (24:04):
Because John is amazing.

Kendall Antonelli (24:06):
And then February, because it’s the month of love, we’re actually giving to B.I.G. Love, which is an organization for cancer assistance for kids, kids working through cancer. So and we’re at the harder part for us is now honing down what organizations will we be focusing on. And I think that that’s something where we’ve talked about our personal vision and our business vision, but we need to create what does our philanthropy vision look like? So 10 years down the line, 20 years down the line, what is the legacy of Antonelli’s Cheese in the philanthropy community? Cause I think that we still have to round that out, but right now…

John Antonelli (24:36):
It- it’s in line with our personal, so what is the Antonelli’s going to do?

Kendall Antonelli (24:41):
Right.

John Antonelli (24:41):
So they’re one in the same. So we have to make sure that we’re-

Dan Graham (24:44):
I’m going to throw out an idea. I’m just going to-

John Antonelli (24:46):
Go for it-

Dan Graham (24:46):
You know, for you know, anyone who comes in for cheese tasting gets a token. On the wall, you have three finalists and they drop their token in a box.

Kendall Antonelli (24:55):
I love it.

John Antonelli (24:55):
And yeah. And so, you know, the nonprofit of the three that wins for the month-

Kendall Antonelli (25:02):
But could you also say, well then all the actually what’s great is you’re giving exposure to three non-profits, but if it’s a popularity contest, then you’d think that maybe the person who got the least amount of votes actually needs the push the most-

Lisa Graham (25:15):
Or they can all push people to the shop-

Dan Graham (25:18):
…customers and-

John Antonelli (25:19):
Dan’s game theory.

Kendall Antonelli (25:24):
Yeah. So right now we’ve chosen-

John Antonelli (25:25):
That’s great for the [inaudible] plan.

Kendall Antonelli (25:28):
I love it. I think we could execute it-

Lisa Graham (25:29):
That’s John’s way of being like, Oh, Dan, we’re going to put that in the parking lot…

Overlapping voices (25:32):
Flush that…we’ll put a pin in that.

Kendall Antonelli (25:35):
Actually, Lisa, what I heard was we put it in the refrigerator because the parking lot you can forget about, but the refrigerator, at least you’re opening it every day and you’re seeing it.

Lisa Graham (25:41):
And keeping it fresh. I’m sorry. Now we’ve chosen non-profits that deal with issues of food access and food justice, sustainability, green initiatives, cause that’s important to us. And then lastly, it’s an open category and it’s anything that’s really affected our team members. So we have team members like myself who like to deal with mental health issues. Half of our team, unfortunately, I think has lost a parent at a young age so organizations that deal with that and cancer and Alzheimers, so really that’s kind of our open bucket.

Dan Graham (26:09):
So how does Allies Against Slavery fit in? So we’re, we’re very familiar with them cause they won our Philanthropitch last year.

Kendall Antonelli (26:13):
Yes they did!

Kendall Antonelli (26:16):
Yeah. So I- my previous life was assisting survivors of human trafficking at American Gateways. And so I was on the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking, when, what is now today, Allies Against Slavery was born and it was this group of kind of do good people in the community who weren’t direct services, but wanted to help out. And the Central Texas Coalition was specifically direct services. So we would sit there every day, no once a month and talk about casework. So you couldn’t really have people coming into that, but then how do we harness the power and leverage the people who really want to get the word out? And so they really took off on it on their own, which is great. Yeah.

Lisa Graham (26:53):
Well, we’ve already established that Kendall is a rodeo queen-

Dan Graham (26:56):
Which I think is the most important revelation of-

John Antonelli (27:00):
the entire conversation…

Lisa Graham (27:02):
But apparently Mr. President is also here and so you’re the president of the American.

Lisa Grahm and John Antonelli (27:02):
Cheese Society.

John Antonelli (27:02):
That’s correct.

Lisa Graham (27:02):
So first question, our staff really wanted to know, do you get access to top secret cheese?

John Antonelli (27:17):
Oh yeah. Well, we’ll talk about that at another time..

Lisa Graham (27:20):
Okay.

John Antonelli (27:20):
That can’t be recorded, unfortunately

Lisa Graham (27:20):
We won’t record that. Okay. Sounds good. So what is your, yeah. So what does that role entail and how does that-

John Antonelli (27:26):
You know, I mentioned how we we talk about community in three different ways. So from the beginning of our business, you know, right after we decided we were going to do this cheese shop the American Cheese Society was hosting their annual conference here in Austin in 2009. So it was about three weeks later, we just got our fancy new business cards printed off the HP printer…

Kendall Antonelli (27:46):
Oh my God, they were horrible guys. There was a yellow line through them. Oh!

John Antonelli (27:51):
I still have one! It was, yeah, put together on a dime.

Kendall Antonelli (27:54):
Now you know a guy.

John Antonelli (27:54):
Exactly. So we- I had been spending a lot of time. This is awesome little fact again, I used to take like textbooks, my cheese textbooks into Central Market, push them in a in a cart and then go stand in front of the cheese wall and like read for like four or five hours and like study the cheeses on the wall. And I heard through the cheesemongers there that-

Kendall Antonelli (28:20):
And he did apply for jobs, by the way, at Central Market and Whole Foods and yeah.

John Antonelli (28:24):
And so I heard that ACS was coming to town and I want wanted, I really wanted to volunteer. It would be a great opportunity to just maybe learn about stuff. So I was I, I decided I got into volunteering a week early. So the judging and competition at ACS is a really big deal. And it’s the largest judging in the North, in North America.

Lisa Graham (28:47):
Judging of what….

John Antonelli (28:47):
Cheese, cheese and culture. Okay.

Kendall Antonelli (28:50):
It’s like a dog show, all of the cheesemakers enter their cheeses into like the breed or the category.

Lisa Graham (28:56):
Oh got it-

Kendall Antonelli (28:56):
And yeah so-

John Antonelli (28:58):
And then everybody gets judged and given back feedback and then there’s second round. So there’s ribbons and awards. And so I got in that year, 2009 as a volunteer and I was the, you know, I believe in internships and giving back. So I was the first one to show up; last one to leave. I smiled, I smiled as much as I could and just put it all out there. And, and it was great because I really got to meet these really… They’re mentors now, but I got to meet these folks that have been in the industry for a long time. And they, they made sure that I got to, I got to learn stuff and it wasn’t just, you know, a lot of it was just go push this cart into the corner, but that was fine. I loved it. And and so.

Lisa Graham (29:42):
But you did it well.

John Antonelli (29:42):
That was how I got started. Yeah. And then over the year in 2009-

Kendall Antonelli (29:48):
And sorry, fun fact, David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery in Oregon was president of the time and walked up to John and he’d only been volunteering for three or four days… [he] walked up to him in the middle of the hallway and say, so I hear you’re the guy who’s gunning for my job. And he was the president of ACS. And here we are seven years later and John-

Lisa Graham (30:09):
That’s crazy!

Kendall Antonelli (30:09):
But I think that the moral of that story is and that you can clearly there’s marketing benefit to being a philanthropic business. So to me, I don’t think it’s your why for why you should do it, but there’s a benefit. So John from the very beginning wanted to get involved in for any startup entrepreneurs who think I don’t have the time. One of the best things that we’ve done is volley back and forth. I promise to stay back on and run the cheese shop for the, both of the, every summer from there on out. So John could go volunteer that the American Cheese Society. So it was collaboratively together, a way that we both said, well, here’s the one place we can give right now. John’s going to go work his tush off there; I’ll work my tush off here, which basically means everything that can go wrong is going to go wrong while John’s gone and I’m alone. But-

John Antonelli (30:54):
And I won’t pick up my cell phone because I’m in a truck.

Kendall Antonelli (30:56):
I am not the tech savvy one. So when the POS dies, I just freak out and start writing everybody’s credit card numbers on paper, just kidding.

John Antonelli (31:05):
So that’s how I, and I volunteered for that group the next year and the year after they invited me on to that committee. And I’ve been, I was on that committee all the way through last year when I became president. And so it’s a really amazing opportunity. I I’ve gotten to work- the folks that are on the board. We have a high functioning board and they’re there. Many of them are veterans of the industry and I get to learn so much by being there at all the face-to-face meetings, during the monthly board calls. And it’s a great, really great way to give back to these. cheesemakers, that’s our sort of our core member.

Kendall Antonelli (31:40):
Yeah. We don’t have a job if they don’t exist. So we got to support the cheesemakers.

John Antonelli (31:44):
We have to make sure- we try to make their lives easier. It’s hard. And that goats and cows, they don’t take days off really. So you you’re on full time. And so it’s a really, it’s really fun. I’ve been, I’ve been enjoying it.

Lisa Graham (31:56):
That’s awesome.

Kendall Antonelli (31:56):
But so yes. You have seen some secret access cheeses.

Dan Graham (32:00):
Well, I know, I know we’re just about out of time, but I did want to come back just real quick because I think it was really interesting and we’re talking about earlier, cause it was, it’s been all over the news when we were talking about kind of the American perception of, of cheese in the world that it’s, you know, and it’s not always without controversy. There was a, I think an article about some potential espionage had happened in France and their largest cheese factory burned to the ground. And and, and all that was left was debris.

Kendall Antonelli (32:27):
Yeah. Oh, wow. That was good. Well done.

John Antonelli (32:31):
Well played.

Kendall Antonelli (32:31):
I’m going to leave me just like-

Dan Graham (32:32):
Oh, I’d high five. [inaudible- multiple voices speaking over each other.] All right.

Dan Graham (32:39):
Those of you listening high five yourself, at least once a day feels really good.

Lisa Graham (32:44):
Groan in your head.

Kendall Antonelli (32:46):
I’m sorry. I think the only I would also add is that because of our recent endeavors to really get involved. And so now sitting on the philanthropy side, like I’m on a couple boards and, and we’re sustainers of some different organizations.

Dan Graham (33:01):
Which boards are you on?

Kendall Antonelli (33:01):
Fumble. Austin Child Guidance Center. I just recently joined and I have a history of depression. And so they provide free and low cost mental health services to anybody regardless of their ability to pay. And so I love them and there they were the, I just found out the other day, the first organization to bring a child psychiatrist to Austin. And they go back 67 years and they’ve really led now the trauma informed care and creating a screening for that, which hadn’t previously existed. So they’re doing some awesome things. And then, yeah,

John Antonelli (33:31):
And we were like sustaining members of Urban Roots and KUT.

Dan Graham (33:36):
Max is great.

John Antonelli (33:37):
Yeah. Max is fantastic.

Kendall Antonelli (33:39):
And Sustainable Food Center and Slow Food Austin, but then nationally we’re on the Good Food Merchants Collaborative of the Good Food Foundation. And so helping to spearhead that. But I think through those and now sitting on that other side and also because that was my background it helped us hone in on our mission. So we always had a mission which was something long and horrible, that was a temporary mission.

John Antonelli (34:00):
That nobody could remember.

Kendall Antonelli (34:00):
Like to help tell the story of artisanal food in a way that links producers with consumers so that they’ll support this happy production. And we know that a good…

Lisa Graham (34:08):
So your mission was like your 30 second elevator speech.

Kendall Antonelli (34:11):
It’s like this whole podcast that I’m doing right now. But we know that a good mission is one that you can say in a breath and everybody on your organization can repeat. And we just couldn’t figure it out. And it was a year and a half ago, we were driving on our way to the pumpkin patch at Sweet Berry farm. And we weren’t talking about work, but out of nowhere, John said, “Do good, eat good” And I was like, that’s it- that’s finally it! And for all the grammatical buffs out there, I am also a grammar buff, but we don’t mean eat well as in the healthy for you. Although artisinal cheese is extremely healthy for you, but we mean, do good eat good and how are we operating in our business in a way that supports producers who make their goods in a way that’s good for the planet and good for their animals. And they’re paying their teams fairly and getting to us in a good way, how are we operating our business and doing that? And then ultimately it has to taste good and that we all want to eat good food. And if we can do that, it allows us to be profitable and support, pay our team above living wages and support our Austin community and our larger community. And it’s all a cycle that goes back around. So that’s our do good, eat good mission. And that really only came out of our recent efforts to get out in the community and understand it in a different way.

Lisa Graham (35:13):
That’s awesome. Thank you guys so much for coming.

Kendall Antonelli (35:15):
It was fun! Thanks for having us.

Lisa Graham (35:17):
Sorry you got to say four words, guys. Welcome to the Antonelli’s Show! It’s a fun one. [Laughter; multiple voices)

Lisa Graham (35:26):
So be sure to visit Antonelli’s cheese shop at their original location on Duval street, or y’all actually have a new location at the Fairground in downtown Austin. Yeah.

John Antonelli (35:34):
Where we finally get to do grilled cheese sandwiches.

Lisa Graham (35:36):
That’s amazing!

Kendall Antonelli (35:37):
Cheeseboards! Glass of wine! Mmm girls- come relax.

Lisa Graham (35:40):
Awesome. Lunch, dinner?

John Antonelli (35:41):
Lunch, and dinner, weekdays, weekends, seven days.

Lisa Graham (35:45):
Awesome. And you can also find info at www.antonellischeese.com. The Change the Rules podcast is sponsored by Chez Boom Audio and the talented Shayna Brown. You can find her studio chezboomaudio.com. That’s C H E Z. Boom, audio.com and Change the Rules is now on iTunes. Woohoo. You can find every episode by searching “Change the Rules”, subscribe to follow us. And if you like what you hear, leave a review. Thank you.