Four years ago, Isaiah Cochran’s parents, Sally and Chris Cochran, began making maple syrup at their bed and breakfast, Hidden Serenity. Two years ago, Isaiah decided he wanted in on the action.
So he began to make and bottle his own maple syrup from the family’s trees. But he wanted to do more than just make maple syrup. He wanted to sell it. So Isaiah, a 16-year-old sophomore at Kewaskum High School, worked with his dad and sister, Krystal, to develop a label.
And he began to sell his product, Iszi Liquid Gold, at a stand. Business Sense Isaiah markets his syrup wherever he can. “I had like a little lemonade stand, where I sat out there and sold syrup across from the Shalom Wildlife Sanctuary,” he said. He sold his syrup at rummage sales.
And pretty much wherever he went. “I will sell it to teachers, friends, whoever wants it,” he said. Business has been good. In the last couple of years, he has sold all of the syrup he has made. No one is surprised that Isaiah has developed a booming business. He has always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
When he was in fifth grade at Farmington Elementary School, he started a duct tape wallet business. He even had employees. “If the other kids sold wallets, I’d pay them a dollar. I made the rest,” Isaiah explained. One of Isaiah’s friends caught on, and a little competition started. “Finally, the teacher said no more selling anything because people would come up and buy the wallets.
They wanted people to buy from the school store,” Isaiah said. So Isaiah and his friends made a deal with the school and sold their duct tape products at the school store to raise funds for the school’s fifth-grade class trip. Today, Isaiah has other jobs as well. He works for a race timing company and mows lawns during the summer. He also helps out at his parents’ bed and breakfast.
At this time of year, though, Isaiah concentrates his efforts on his syrup business. It can be time consuming, and conditions must be just right. In order to make maple syrup, temperatures need to get below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.
The sap flows quickest when temperatures reach about 50 degrees during the day and below freezing at night. In Wisconsin, maple syrup typically starts to flow each year at the end of February or beginning of March. “The freezing temperature freezes the sap and causes it to go down into the roots during the night.
When it warms up, the sap shoots up the tree, and that’s when we collect it through the spiles,” Isaiah explained. The spiles currently are tapped into about 40 trees on the Cochran family’s 12 acres. The sap is collected in plastic bags that hang on the spiles. Once the bags are filled, Isaiah dumps the sap into a large container.
From there, the sap is placed on a wood stove called an evaporator so it can boil. “The majority of what comes out of the trees is water, and then that little bit of natural sugar. So when it boils down, it will take the water out of the sap and make it thicker,” Isaiah said. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, Isaiah said. “So it will take a lot of sap and a lot of boiling it down before we can get a whole gallon,” Isaiah said.
After boiling the sap outdoors on the evaporator, Isaiah brings it into his kitchen. There, he filters it, but doesn’t add any ingredients. He then boils the syrup a while longer on the regular stove. To make sure it is has the correct sugar content, Isaiah uses a hydrometer, which measures the sugar percentage in the water and the density of the sap. “You’d be surprised at how thin the syrup is.
The store stuff is so much thicker with the preservatives. This isn’t as thick, but definitely much tastier,” he said. Although Isaiah does enjoy making and selling the syrup, there is no question as to what his favorite part of the syrup business: the final product.