For Hillsdale alumni Roxanne and Nathan Seither, taking a hike was one of the best things that ever happened to them. It was there, on the coast of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, that they tried their first pasties-and fell in love. From then on, their freezer became the home of many more homemade pasties.
At the end of January 2019, Roxanne and Nathan — who graduated in 2013 and 2015, respectively — opened their own business called The Pasty Company in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and have begun selling pasties wholesale to various food businesses within their local community.
“Coloradans love two things,” Roxanne explained.“Beer, and being outside. And those are two things that pasties completely go well with.”
Their inspiration for opening a business was just the continuation of early dreams.
“The whole time we’ve known each other and dated, the idea of opening a business has always been something we wanted to do,” Nathan said. “We’ve always loved food, and we’ve always cooked together.”
The business began with a simple conversation in a bakery. Nathan, who was studying operations management at University of Colorado Colorado Springs, began to see the value in opening his own business and practicing the skills he was learning in his master’s program. Seithers said that when he talked with a family friend from church, Steve Boonzaaijer, who owned his own Dutch pastry shop, it finally clicked.
“I was just sitting in his bakery with him and just watching people in the shop and seeing this opportunity,” he said. “Everything came at once, seeing what I learned at Hillsdale, learned from community, and from my MBA class. It all came together.”
The idea appealed to Boonzaaijer, too, who was hoping to add more savory pastries to the menu. Aside from seeing the pasty as a “good complement” to his existing menu, Boonzaaijer said he also saw selling the pasties as opportunity to promote the new business.
“We really liked the appeal of giving him a platform to launch his business,” Boonzaaijer said. “Every businessman has had people help him on his way and give him an idea, inspiration. We are no different. When we see someone working hard, we see it as an opportunity to pay it forward.”
The idea came about in October 2018. Almost immediately, the Seithers began taking steps to formally open the business. After hours of creating recipes, writing out finance plans, and developing marketing platforms, the couple finally received their business license at the end of January.
Immigrating from Cornwall, United Kingdom, iron miners introduced savory pasties to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the 1800s. Due to their portability and convenience, pasties were an easy meal that still provided sufficient nutrients to sustain the miners throughout their workday.
Roxanne explained that the pasty is the kind of food you would find in a pub, “where you find the food of a working man.”
Made from scratch from beginning to the end, pasties demand both patience and intricacy.
After crafting a dough similar to a pie crust (“A great pasty dough has to remain flaky while also being very sturdy,” Roxanne said), Roxanne and Nathan hand-chop all the filling ingredients.
“We decided to grate our vegetables and use ground meat because we feel it evenly distributes our flavors more,” she added. “After our fillings are made, we wrap and crimp every pasty by hand. Then we bake them.”
To introduce the uncommon food to a brand-new audience, the Seithers serve pasties to their friends, family members, and even to their next-door neighbors. Whether by sending a pasty off with their mountain-biking neighbor or baking one for an ice-climbing adventurer, the Seithers agreed the best way to introduce the new food is through “organic” relationships.
“The people that we are engaging with help us manage this,” Nathan said. “It’s all very community-oriented. We try to tap into those trusted friendships and try to develop the business in that way.”
He added that this organic method of marketing also allows The Pasty Company to continue to develop and improve its product.
“We need honest feedback, which comes from good, honest friendships,” Nathan said.
Rev. Don Armstrong, the rector of their home parish, praised the couple for their creative contribution to the Colorado food community.
“It’s not another hamburger, or another taco,” Armstrong said. “It’s very healthy, but an easily edible food for busy people. The best foods are the ones that are narrowed down, that are very healthy, very local, personally prepared, expertly crafted, nothing fast, nothing mass produced, and that’s exactly where the pasty fits.”
Building off of their friends’ feedback, the Seithers began to form relationships with their buyers. With the goal of helping retailers sell every pasty that they buy wholesale, their business model aims at building genuine relationships to market their business.
“Their incentive is to sell your product and suddenly the buyers become your salesmen and your marketers all at once,” Nathan said. “We love supporting them. We want them to succeed, and we do our part so that people know about them. We also want to get to know our buyers, and it’s all based on the way that we live our daily lives, so as to not be disingenuous.”
Abigail Panabaker ’13, a long-time friend of Roxanne, credited Roxanne with much of her own cooking education.
Aside from “emanating deep respect for the entire cooking experience,” Panabaker said Seither’s generosity and creativity shone in the kitchen.
“She is fearless as a chef. It’s one of my favorite things about watching her,” Panabaker said. “She is adventurous about her flavors, and her recipes were bright and delicious and refreshing and inspiring. The dishes that she created felt wholesome and put together. It was a complete experience in one dish.”
Panabaker described the Seithers as “thoughtful, warm, and kind,” and said it was no surprise to her that The Pasty Company is already thriving.
“It’s the perfect brainchild of all of their strengths. Roxanne and Nathan are already business- oriented people. They understand money, they understand people and relationships, and how to get people together for the right reasons,” Panabaker said. “They invest in the place that they live in and they have for a really long time. This is another way for them to give back to the area where they live.”
Roxanne is the creative director of the Pasty Company while Nathan tracks their inventory and finances. Due to their success, they have not yet needed to take out a loan. Long-time friend Michael Papesh attributes the company’s success to Nathan’s driven nature.
“Nate was always strong-willed and determined to start something special. More than anything, Nathan loved good food and good company,” Papesh said. “Out of all the business ideas we’ve hashed out late into the night over drinks, it made sense that he and Roxanne would settle on something that blesses the people around them.”
While at Hillsdale, Roxanne studied English while Nathan studied political philosophy. The two agreed that this education was formative to the success of their business.
“I didn’t learn about business finance, but what I did learn, from an economic standpoint, is how to understand the wants of your buyers,” Nathan said. “You get the pulse of what you’re looking at, and getting a liberal education helps you understand your surroundings better. If you’re learning how to think, then everything is possible.”
Their shared love for the Hillsdale community greatly influenced the Seithers to foster a new community in their new hometown. Colorado Springs lacked community, so Roxanne emphasized the need for good food to bring people together.
“We ask, ‘how is this business going to help us be good stewards of this community?’” Roxanne said. “With the increased use of personal technology, social media, and division created by modern politics, we’ve noticed that there’s a lot of detachment from community. But what people are yearning for, whether they realize it or not, is community.”
Roxanne said that if there is one thing in the world that people can use to relate to one another, it’s food.
“Put that together with community. It’s two things that everyone needs,” she said. “Metaphysical and physical. Food feeds the body and the community feeds the soul.”
In order to do this, however, the food — or pasties — have to be shared.
“For some reason, food tastes better when you’re enjoying it alongside another person. I think that’s just part of being human,” she said.