Here's how the entrepreneur uses her company—which also produces jams and granola—to support her community.

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val fishbain spread the love foods founder
Credit: Courtesy of Spread the Love Foods

At her wedding, Val Fishbain gifted 150 guests jars of her homemade peanut butter as favors, intending for them to be eaten later. "It was a very California do-it-yourself wedding with a music-festival theme and shoes were optional. They started opening their wedding favors and, with their fingers, getting into the peanut butter," she says. Instead of being horrified, Fishbain realized she was staring at a business venture: Spread the Love Foods, a line of butters containing just one ingredient—the nuts or seeds themselves.

That was eight years ago. Spread the Love launched the following year, in 2014; her husband, Zach, assists with financial and operational aspects, while she handles "the branding, the marketing, and the look and feel." Fishbain's brand quickly expanded beyond peanuts into other nut butters (cashews and almonds)—and then came granola with three grams of sugar (instead of the typical 10) and jam with reduced pectin. Today, her nut butters are made in California, while the jams stem from Oregon. "They have the sweetest berries in the Pacific Northwest," she explains.

"I'm not a professional chef," adds Fishbain, who came to Los Angeles from the Philippines with her family when she was 15. "I'm a simple cook at home. When I don't like the ingredients or know what they are, I make what I like, instead." Growing up in the Philippines, Fishbain witnessed her mother's entrepreneurism come to life through a small clothing store. "Life there was tough. My mom raised me and my two sisters all on her own," she says. "It was a lot for work for her to have her business and watch it fail after a volcano eruption. Seeing my mom persevere was inspiring. No matter how hard it is here, it's harder in the Philippines."

spread the love foods nut butters
Credit: Courtesy of Spread the Love Foods

Because she left a career as a social worker—working with the homeless population and runaway children in Los Angeles County for eight years—to launch Spread the Love, Fishbain felt compelled to give back as she began her own venture. "Now, there's one less person helping that population," she explains of this choice. Finding causes to support through her business, however, was easy. "There are homeless people sleeping on the street right as we go in our office, on the stairs," she says. "We thought we should do something about it." A 2018 fundraiser donated $5,000 to PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) and $60,000 went to St. Joseph Center, which helps low-income individuals get food-industry jobs. Both are in the Los Angeles area, where Spread the Love is based.

The work never stops, but Fishbain is committed to living by her brand's name and, quite literally, spreading the love. So, when her husband also wanted to give back to his own community—Racine, Wisconsin, where he grew up—the company launched scholarships for students at his former high school. This year they plan to award five $1,000 scholarships.

Spread the Love Foods nut butters and goods are sold at Erewhon Markets in Los Angeles, as well through Walmart.com and Spread the Love Foods' website.

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