Mara King and Willow King: She’s Going With Her Gut

November 3 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Fermentation Station

When I first learned exactly what beer was, I’ll admit, I was slightly disgusted. People willingly guzzle yeast that’s been fermented? Yuck! OK, so I eventually learned the error of my ways and am now a happy camper when it comes to swigging down a tasty beer. And as it turns out, plenty of the most scrumptious foods we regularly consume are fermented, from bread to sauerkraut, yogurt and every hipster’s favorite beverage, kombucha. Thanks to alchemy, the act of fermentation works some straight-up magic on food and drinks, and people are nuts for it. The New York Times even published an essay entitled “Fermentation, a Love Story.” Fermented foods are often touted for their immune-system-boosting effects. Does your internal gut need a healthy makeover? Then what are you waiting for? Jump on the train to fermentation station!


According to the Cleveland Clinic Digestive Disease Institute, there are five key benefits that come from incorporating fermented foods into our diets. The good bacteria in fermented foods help us digest what we eat more easily, and can fight off disease-causing bacteria. Such foods aid the human body in making certain vitamins we need, like B12 and potassium, and diversify our gut bacteria in a good way, helping stave off chronic disease. And by including fermented foods in our diets after taking antibiotics, we’re able to get back to feeling healthy a lot quicker.

WOMEN TO WATCH: Mara King and Willow King, Co-founders of Ozuké

Today’s Women to Watch, Mara King and Willow King, may share a name, but they’re only related through their love of food fermentation and their thriving Colorado business, Ozuké, which extols the idea that fermented is not just a type of food; it’s a lifestyle.

Mara was born in Hong Kong to a food-focused family, and spent much time in her grandfather’s decades-old noodle factory when growing up. She’s been a professional chef for more than 20 years and has worked in food manufacturing, restaurant management and food safety. Willow, a former English teacher and devotee of all things delicious, has lived on almost every continent and traveled the globe in search of the most mouthwatering recipes.

Their friendship evolved over—What else?—kimchee, the queen of fermented foods. They’d often make live, raw krauts and kimchee at home, and as friends and family happily noshed on their creations and praised their fermented finesse, their business idea emerged. Now Mara and Willow oversee a handful of employees, a pet forklift named King Tub and a factory that produces their Kosher, vegan, organic, non-GMO, allergen-free fermented delicacies. Ozuké is mostly known for its fermented pickles but has a whole range of unique, artisanal products, like green-tea sour pickles, citrus-and-ginger kraut and a super-yummy beets, dulse and kale combo, each priced less than 10 bucks.

Part of what makes Mara and Willow’s personal and professional relationship so special is that they just get each other. Both are mothers, and during their first year in business, they worked weekends, starting at 6 a.m., just to make it all happen. They made sure to work around each other’s schedules, juggling kids at day care while getting their pickling prowess on.

I love Mara’s stress-coping tip. She recommends grabbing a knife and slicing up a mound of cabbage, noting that getting your hands on a bushel of veggies calms the nerves. Who knew food prep could be so therapeutic? So, ladies, the next time you’re in a pickle, take a deep breath and get to chopping!


Today’s quote comes from our pickle-loving third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson. He said:

“On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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