Mar 7, 2024 - News

The Shift: Tyler Hopwood kneads bread business from scratch

A photo of a man in a black t-shirt that reads "Hopwood Breads."

Tyler Hopwood. Photo: Chloe Hansberger

St. Louis native Tyler Hopwood's pastime for comfort turned into a business making comfort food for Northwest Arkansans.

Why it matters: Hopwood Breads is an example of the many startups bubbling as NWA shifts its economy away from dependence on a few big companies.

Driving the news: The artisan bread with a cult following is now available at Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville, and Hopwood will have a booth at the Fayetteville Farmers Market beginning in April, he told Worth.

  • His loaves and one-of-a-kind sourdough doughnuts were previously only available through pop-ups and subscriptions β€” frequently held at breweries β€” to his 3,100 followers on Instagram.

The big picture: During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers stuck at home turned to hobbies like crochet, gardening and baking sourdough. Many posted their results on social media.

Composite photos of baked goods - the first shows rows of cream-filled doughnuts and the second four loaves of sourdough bread.
Hopwood's cream-filled doughnuts (left) and loaves of sourdough bread. Photos: Tyler Hopwood

Backstory: Hopwood started watching a couple's pandemic journey with sourdough on YouTube β€” now Proof Breads in Arizona β€” mostly to fill time and because he found it soothing.

  • Before long, he was working to perfect his own recipe.
  • "It's like having a pet that determines your income," Hopwood told Worth of the starter that requires nurturing, feeding and controlled temperature.

In 2023, he joined a business accelerator organized by Cureate, a food-focused consulting company of Fayetteville. At the end of the program, he won the final-pitch competition and was awarded $5,000.

  • He bought a bread oven with the dough.

Between the lines: Hopwood currently churns out about 80 loaves and 80 cream-filled doughnuts a week, using about 100 pounds of flour. He mills the whole-grain flour used in some recipes himself.

The bottom line: He's waiting to see how the spring and summer seasons go and if he can double production, but he has no plans for a brick-and-mortar location.

  • Hopwood hopes to eventually have a shared kitchen and more food service and grocery clients.

🍞The Shift is a regular feature to catch up quick on what's happening in Arkansas' economy and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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