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Meeting The Needs of My Community. Passion Profile: Kris Ohleth, Founder of Garden State Kitchen

When I first met Kris as a co-panelist for The Ignite Institute Women Entreprenuers, I was struck by her salt of the earth personality, her eloquence and personal depth. She's the founder of Garden State Kitchen, a commercial kitchen in Orange, NJ.  She feels deeply about her mission to help food entrepreneurs. She's also a big fitness hobbyist, in fact a part time spin instructor.  My admiration of her is why I bring you her interview.  I ask her about how her idea was conceived, what the path looks like, and how fitness has weaved intricately into her life.

Video interview approximately 12 minutes.  Condensed transcript in blog form below. 7 min read.


You’re making a big career change. Can you update me on what you were doing before and what you’re doing now?

  • For quite a few years I had been in the business of environmental permitting. But, I really wanted to follow my passion & that’s always been the local food sector. So, realizing my strengths lied in being the support for people, I am starting a project called Garden State Kitchen. A shared commercial kitchen space to be located in Orange, New Jersey, with over 3,000 square feet of shared commercial kitchen space, event space, culinary classes, training programs, community space. Everything to facilitate a whole culinary entrepreneur. Opening our doors later this year.

Why did you decide to pursue this new venture?

  • It was through my various food positions, understanding what their challenges are and looking at their supply chain. It became evident that commercial kitchen space was a real gating issue for a lot of entrepreneurs because they didn’t have the capital or the wherewithal to build themselves a kitchen. I found that a true entrepreneur really goes to meet the needs of something in the community.

What have you enjoyed about the process?

  • What I love the most is just meeting wonderful people.  If not for this initiative, I never would’ve met you, Tina.  As well as so many other people who are inside and outside of the food space. Just committed to community, to women, to fitness. All these people end up at the nexus of food, the common denominator we all share.

How close are you, you said you were gonna open in 2017, have you found a space?

  • I have, very excited to say so. In the Valley Arts district of Orange. I received my preliminary zoning permit last week. Construction and permitting will be done over the next six months or so.

You're a strength seeker. When did that develop and why?

  • It all started when my brother-in-law, got his first weight set. He was living in our home, I was maybe 8 or 9 years old & he was 20. He got a weight bench and free weights in our basement, & I was curious. I started lifting, riding his elliptical trainer, and his stair climber at a very young age. I fell in love with putting on music & getting lost in the intensity of a work-out.

That's interesting, you got into lifting early. Is there ever a point where you get burned out?

  • I think I go through cycles where some things are more interesting than others. There's always one type of fitness pursuit I’m usually obsessed with at the time. One time I ran a half marathon, one time I was training for a powerlifting competition, then I’ll go through like 9 or 10 months of intensive training. I always want to challenge myself physically.

Why did you not go into some type of fitness career?

  • I’m not entirely sure. But, I do love it. The intensity, the connection. Part of it almost is that I don’t want to taint what I enjoy most in my life with making it my job. As a spin instructor, I can never just take a spin class again. I want to keep that as something that I just enjoy.

What does your workout look like? Describe the last one you did.

  • Recently, I’ve been going through a shoulder issue, rotator cuff. This morning my physical therapist told me that I could never do an overhead press again . I tried to explain to him that there is something deep inside of me that wants to push things over my head. However, it may just be emblematic of my personality. But in the meantime, I’ve been relegated to squatting, spinning, or core workout. This morning, I did a 45 minute spin with a core workout in advance of that.

Name 2 of your favorite fit pros that you follow and you love about each one.

  • Jill Coleman. She has, more than anything, inspired me to be a whole person. Not just a person who eats over here, lifts over here & does cardio over here. I can’t even begin to explain how insightful I find her writing to be. She’s so generous with her spirit, time, and energy. I’ve been through a lot of her workout programs & I feel like she gets it. Also Jen Sinkler, who I found, is my absolute favorite because I love her approach to being unapologetically strong: to lift weights faster, to just being a badass, to being big, & not being afraid of it.

Kris Ohleth, Founder of Garden State Kitchen What do you love about being a woman?

  • Could I say everything? Because I really truly, feel that way. I am very fortunate to be married to a wonderful man & sometimes I feel empathy for him. There’s something I feel that limits him from experiencing the fullness of life, at times. I contribute so much of that to being a woman. Just the empathy, the desire to grow & learn & to connect, like we are. That’s just, for me, the epitome of being a woman.

That’s so beautifully said. It really is, I love that. Kris, can you tell us how we can find you on social media?

  • Absolutely, you can go to my website & on there are links to my instagram, facebook, and twitter. So, I hope to see you all there.

She believed she could so she did necklace Iron Strong's "She Believed She Could, So She Did" necklace is inspired by strong beautiful women like Kris.


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