Eric VanderSchaaf ‘07

–By Christy Wolff ‘10

If Eric VanderSchaaf ‘07 was told during his high school years that he would receive a college degree and eventually start a family-owned food company with his wife – while also raising three children – he might not have believed it could happen. With God’s guidance, the help of several impactful mentors, and his experiences at Trinity, VanderSchaaf is now a proud husband, father, and business owner.

VanderSchaaf learned about Trinity through Restoration Ministries, a Christian-based organization that provides life-changing programs to recovering addicts, among others. Following a drug overdose shortly after his high school graduation, VanderSchaaf entered this rehab program, which was co-founded by his grandfather, and his life turned around.

During treatment, VanderSchaaf was introduced to Trinity’s baseball team, whose members often volunteer in the Restoration Ministries children’s program. VanderSchaaf was no stranger to baseball, since he grew up playing on different teams. So, he quickly formed relationships with some of Trinity’s players. Near the end of the treatment program, VanderSchaaf connected with Trinity’s baseball coach at the time, who encouraged him to try out for the team.

By the fall of 2004, VanderSchaaf was enrolled at Trinity with a baseball scholarship. “I was happy to be spending time with kids my age again and having some normalcy in my life,” VanderSchaaf shared.

Not only did VanderSchaaf excel at baseball, but he also excelled in the classroom. “I was a great student in high school but never applied myself. When I got to Trinity, I had a new focus,” VanderSchaaf recalled. He declared a Spanish major with a business minor. He had developed a relationship with Professor of Psychology Emerita Mary Lynn Colosimo, who is heavily involved with Restoration Ministries, so he also took several psychology classes.

During Colosimo’s introduction to psychology course, she encouraged students to pick a statement that guides their lives. VanderSchaaf chose “To know Christ and make Him known.” This impacted his faith that started to grow during rehab – and he still makes this phrase a focal point of his walk with God. Mark Hanna, his resident director at the time who is currently Trinity’s Associate Vice President for Student Life & Athletics and Athletics Director, also helped shepherd his faith. “He showed me how to be a man and how to lead a family,” VanderSchaaf said.

When asked about VanderSchaaf’s years at Trinity, Hanna said, “Eric’s is an incredible story and ultimately one that bears real witness to our steadfast and faithful God and to the vital importance of formative Christian communities like Trinity.”

After graduating in 2007, VanderSchaaf entered the commercial insurance industry and found a job in downtown Chicago. A few years later, he moved to Texas to take a job with an e-commerce company. During this time, he realized he had his own ideas for launching a business. “I wanted to bring something new into the world,” VanderSchaaf shared.

By 2012, VanderSchaaf and his wife Mary Claire established Treehive: a better-for-you breakfast company that sources syrup and pancake mix. This grew into Austin Food Group, a privately held, family-owned and operated, food-holding company that oversees three different businesses. Products include breakfast items like syrup (inspired by eating Saturday morning breakfast with family) and pancake and waffle mix, and are sold nationwide at Walmart and Whole Foods and at local Texas grocery stores. “My dream of owning my own business has come true. I have the flexibility to be with my family and love growing these businesses alongside my wife.”

Looking back on his experience at Trinity and reflecting on how it helped him become the man he is today, VanderSchaaf recalled the incredible mentors he had. “Everyone seemed to have a focus on the redeeming power of God and helped shepherd me to that healthy place,” he said. His years at Trinity were a crucial time as they helped frame how he runs a business with excellence. He learned how to push himself and show Christ’s love in all he does.

“So how will I take that into the world? Trinity helped me ask those big questions.” VanderSchaaf said.