As summer begins to heat up and families, friends and outdoor enthusiasts take to the state parks and local campgrounds, two sisters and businesswomen, Grace Drueke and Tanya Brothen, both born and raised in White Bear Lake, have the answer to storing and preparing all outdoor cooking supplies. After bringing the product on a camping trip in October 2018 with friends and family and hearing them rave about its use, the sisters reached out to the manufacturer because it was no longer being produced. Now, Brothen and Drueke have taken over branding and sales and have turned the product into a profitable business.
The Chuck Box Camp Kitchen, a 19-inch by 24-inch by 18-inch heavy-duty green box with enough space to fit an entire outdoor kitchen set, is the sole product sold by Yoke Outdoors. It is manufactured in Hastings. Weighing only 19 pounds while empty and around 50 pounds when fully stocked, The Chuck Box has the capability to hold a stove, has multiple drawers for utensils and utilities, can fit pots, pans, mugs, plates and a coffee maker, and anything else you may need to cook meals while enjoying the outdoors. Sold only on the Yoke Outdoors website, the Chuck Box is manufactured through rotomolding, a process by which a really sturdy plastic is produced with no seams or weak points.
“It’s not bombproof, but people have described it to be that way,” said Drueke. “If you buy it once, it’s meant to last a lifetime.”
Brothen and Drueke have both moved away from Minnesota, but their parents still live in White Bear Lake. They find time throughout the year to visit their family and check in with the company that they run remotely. Despite living away from their home state, they still feel honored to represent a Minnesota-made product.
“We’re telling the world how great Minnesota is, and we’ve been doing that our whole lives, and now we get to also do that with this product, which is awesome,” said Brothen.
As Yoke Outdoors only sells one product, Brothen and Drueke have been able to find unique ways to market their product without having to spend huge amounts of money on advertising.
“Most of our marketing and outreach is just through other outdoor enthusiasts,” said Drueke.
Through the use of social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, Brothen and Drueke have been able to market their product successfully and grow a strong customer relationship.
“We find that it’s a really friendly business we are putting out there, and the great thing about that is it attracts really friendly customers,” said Drueke. “It just makes running the business so much fun.”
Because the COVID-19 pandemic led to a huge surge in family camping, Brothen and Drueke contributed to doubling Yoke Outdoors’ sales in 2019-20. With the same goal in mind for 2020-21, they are currently working on a rebrand that is set to launch in August. Working with Studio Minneapolis, the sisters hope to continue the momentum they have gained from last year and continue to increase growth while still remaining a true Minnesota brand.
“They are very excited about this product, and took us on as a small local business,” said Drueke.
Brothen added, “It’s not just one piece of it that’s a Minnesota company.”
As sales continue to grow and with a rebrand in the making, Brothen and Drueke are beginning to look toward the future of Yoke Outdoors and the Chuck Box. As only the company only sells one product, the sisters are considering an expansion of the company’s repertoire by adding other products to supplement the Chuck Box.
“I think there is a desire to find other Minnesota-made products that are in the outdoor cooking realm and potentially add them to the lineup of products,” said Brothen.
In the meantime, Brothen and Drueke continue to grow their outreach and create a more seamless experience for campers and other outdoor enthusiasts across the country with their locally made brand.
“We know once people get one in their hands, they absolutely love it, and they have so much fun with it,” said Brothen. “So, getting more people to have that experience is exciting.”