As a camper for 6 years and later, counselor, at Camp Kici Yapi in Prior Lake, Mike “loved everything about being outside. Bonfires and campfires called my name.”
Fast forward to 2014, and Mike, having worked as a history teacher, decided it was time for a different venture. “I wanted to get back to what was fun for me.”
Remembering his time as a camper and counselor, he sought to replicate the communal experience of sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows for s’mores. The only problem? “I didn’t like the taste of conventional marshmallows.”
Mike wanted to give the store-bought marshmallow a face-lift so, enlisting the help of a baker friend, he learned how to make marshmallows using natural ingredients and tools found in his home kitchen. The result was a more flavorful marshmallow — free from artificial colors, flavors, and syrups. “A better marshmallow for a better s’more” became his business’ clarion call.
After several years of running a specialty s’mores bar catering service, event guests began asking Mike about where they could purchase the hand-made marshmallows. So, in 2016, he and his wife, Christine Nelson (a former Tanadoona camper!), launched North Mallow.
Last year, North Mallow offered to bring their specialty s’mores bar to Camp Fire’s annual Light the Way event. Since then, they’ve donated s’mores station services to our Capital Campaign Open House and are planning on supplying marshmallows for Tanadoona’s 2019 summer camp season.
Mike’s support of Camp Fire goes far beyond a traditional vendor relationship though. “When I was a teacher, one of the things I was worried about was what kids did after school. Sometimes they don’t get dinner and, during the summertime, a lot of them don’t get meals or activities to do – especially if they come from lower-income families. It’s really powerful when organizations help fill that gap.”
Another reason Mike supports Camp Fire? “A lot of camps are rustic — that’s the great thing about camp. But I like that there’s a ton of investment being put into the Tanadoona property. With kids and families wanting to see more modern facilities, it’s great to see a day and overnight camp investing in facilities and not just relying on nostalgic, rustic, buildings.”
Eventually, Mike wants to build philanthropy into his business model — giving a portion of North Mallow’s profits to various organizations and summer camp scholarship funds. Until then, “we can support organizations by catering different events, partnering with them. We can support them through marshmallows”.