Growing up in Oakland, California, Skyler Mapes never imagined she’d be building an olive oil business in south Italy. But after achieving what she thought was her goal to become an architect, she felt less than satisfied. In this episode, Izzy talks with Skyler about the new dream she’s living as founder of world-renowned EXAU Olive Oil and the challenges and joys of trailblazing in a traditionally slow-growth industry.
2:21 — The path to olive oil and initial inspiration
“The idea was not to start an olive oil brand, but I loved the idea of building a beautiful brand, sharing something that could live in a customer's most intimate space — the kitchen, where people cook meals for their family.”
3:33 — Why Calabria
“We’re in south Italy, in Calabria, which produces almost one-third of Italy’s olive oil — south Italy more broadly produces 84% of the country’s olive oil — so if you’re going to be anywhere to produce olive oil, this is it. The resources and the access in this area are insane. That’s how I landed here to be able to take this as far as I can.”
4:41 — Checking the pace of customers’ expectations
“Anyone formally trained in tasting olive oil who understands the product extremely well will tell you that if you’re trying to grow a huge brand fast, you’re not making quality olive oil any more. It’s not possible. That’s a reality the public needs to understand. We need a reality check. When people are working their asses off to produce something with their hands and make the absolute best version of the product possible, that has limits.”