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International Day of Rural Women Spotlight: Indiana Soccer Moms Score Big as Global Entrepreneurs with USDA Assist

Posted by Zane Evans, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service in Trade Rural
Oct 13, 2023
FAS Administrator Daniel Whitley holds up peanut shaped sign for BNutty with its female owners, Carol Podolak and Joy Thompkins.

For a women-owned business in rural Indiana, working with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) became a life-changing experience. Soccer moms Carol Podolak and Joy Thompkins sold homemade peanut butter as their kids’ team fundraiser to travel from Portage, Indiana to Dallas, Texas for a tournament in 2016. Customers wanted the pretzel, blueberry, and toffee peanut butter more than once a year, so Podolak and Thompkins started taking custom orders. And now, BNutty is on shelves in stores around the world.

 Alt text: Two women Carol Podolak and Joy Thompkins poke their head out a window of a van that they use for their BNutty business.

As the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Rural Women on October 15, these two moms embody the impact rural women are making both in the United States and around the world. Every day, FAS works with rural women in agriculture, like Podolak and Thompkins, to grow their businesses. “We met our first large export client at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Indiana. Our booth was funded by Food-Export Midwest and FAS,” said Podolak. 

Additionally, BNutty uses FAS Market Access Program (MAP) funds to advertise and export its peanut butters through Food Export-Midwest. “FAS and Food Export-Midwest helped us with grant money, trade show booths, and marketing materials which translated into being able to work with other countries – it made a big difference for us when we were first learning about exporting,” said Podolak.

FAS Administrator Daniel Whitley chats with BNutty owner Carol Podolak inside the manufacturing facility in Portage, Indiana.

Podolak and Thompkins also created new jobs and enhanced the work environment for their employees through their growing export capabilities. BNutty is a prime example of how exports benefit American communities by growing small-businesses and creating local job opportunities.

Teamwork and community development are what started Podolak and Thompkins’ business, and while they’ve become global women entrepreneurs with the help of FAS, they continue to give back to ensure their small town succeeds with them. Thanks to the success of BNutty, the mom duo has helped fundraise to build an eight-field soccer complex in their hometown, host college showcases, and help fund SAT and college prep for local high school students. 

FAS Administrator Daniel Whitley chats with Carol Podolak about BNutty’s business and their beginnings inside an office building.

BNutty’s dedication to building its community and company has been widely celebrated. This year alone, it won the award for Small-Business Association Indiana Exporter of the Year, been listed on the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies in the country, and is one of EXIM Bank’s exporters of the year. One could say the world is going nuts for BNutty’s peanut butter.

Category/Topic: Trade Rural