At first you might think that Bill Sanders just couldn’t figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up. But the fact is that the multi-careered Maysville native is a fellow with an inquiring mind, a sharp intellect and so many interests that he’s just cramming as many as possible into one busy, productive and entrepreneurial lifetime.

Following careers in banking, thoroughbred racing and government, Sanders is finally hitting his stride. After launching Crush+Press, an online store for olive oil and gourmet food products, he founded Sanders and Co. LLC. and discovered a formula for what has become one of the world’s best extra virgin olive oils – First Fresh, an exclusive blend of oils from three olive varieties: arbequina, manzanillo and ascolano, produced in Corning, Calif., by Lucero Olive Oil for Sanders’ company.

“We perfected a fruity, buttery, spicy blend,” Sanders says, “with each olive bringing something special to it.”

Rock-star Status

Sanders has reached rock-star status as an advocate for the oil Socrates called “liquid gold.” He’s on a continuous international “Extra Virgin Tour,” inexhaustible in his advocacy for the real stuff and its health benefits.

And he doesn’t mean that stuff you buy off the grocery shelves. He stops short of calling it motor oil, but it doesn’t take much to catch his drift. It might be his unmistakable expression of pure disdain.

Mass-marketed olive oil is the dregs of the olive oil process with virtually all healthy properties extracted from it – and too old by the time it reaches shelves. Sanders blames non-truth in labeling and lax standards for the “fraudulent” oils foisted on unsuspecting consumers.

Sanders is the only child of William and Mary Helen, who were proud of their son’s academic accomplishments at Mason County High School, the University of Kentucky and the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University.

Shifting Focus

The good son returned to Maysville to head the trust department of the local bank, but after seven years he couldn’t deny the siren call to Washington, D.C. His political activism had begun in high school and later with the College Republicans, so, without a clear job in mind, he turned away from a banking career and headed to the nation’s capital.

He worked in senior positions in the administrations of Reagan and both Bushes, primarily in the departments of Labor and Energy and the Farm Credit Administration. During law school, Bill became passionately involved in thoroughbred racing and breeding and eventually served in several capacities as a thoroughbred pedigree consultant, president of AmTote International and director of government affairs for Television Games Network.

In the mid-‘90s, lightning struck in the form of back problems that led him to an obsession with health and fitness. He resolved to change his life – or at least his lifestyle.

Doing nothing by half – do you see a pattern here? – he ran the first of seven marathons, pain-free. He was focused on healthy eating, established his first health-related business, More Life, More Sunrises, and gave inspirational “living-the-better-life” seminars. He did related video production and event planning.

How committed was he in his pursuit of excellence in olive oil and wines? Well, he went to wine school instead of the Republican National Convention, when the choice was his.
In 2011, he came home after his dad’s death to be closer to his mother, and he began to expand Crush+Press.

Liquid Gold

The United States is the third-largest olive oil consumer in the world, but most of the consumption is of inferior oil. Sanders is determined to change that. The first batch of First Fresh extra virgin olive oil, produced in 2012, enjoyed a winning streak with three high-profile awards: the silver medal at the 2013 New York International Olive Oil Competition, qualifying to be listed among 2013 World’s Best Olive Oils, a gold medal at the California Olive Oil Council Annual Olive Oil Competition, and a 2012 Prestige Gold award at TerraOlivo, an international olive oil competition in Jerusalem, Israel.

“It’s a true honor to earn recognition from such prestigious organizations. These awards are a testament to the authenticity and freshness of First Fresh, when many olive oils on the market today claim to be extra virgin, but aren’t.”

Long-time friend and fellow Kentuckian, Mac Riley, president of BAHR Associates in D.C. and also a Chase Law School grad, says, “His many friends know Bill as an incomparably bright, talented and captivating personality. He could successfully apply his energies to many endeavors. But, Bill’s passion, his love, is olive oil.

“My wife and I entertain regularly and we use olive oil in the majority of foods we serve. We were among the fortunate few to first taste Bill’s oil. Since then, we haven’t bothered with anything else.”

Bottled Brilliance

Bottled in California and distributed from a warehouse in Springfield, Ky., First Fresh sold 10,000 bottles in its first year. Sanders’ goal this year: 25,000.

First Fresh comes in 500 ml. bottles for about $20. A smaller 250 ml bottle is planned for this summer. The oil is sold at Fairway Market in New York City, at Good Foods Co-op, Wine+Market, and Lexington Seafood in Lexington, Jon Carloftis’ Rockcastle River Trading Company in Livingston. It’s is also sold at Liquor Barns throughout Kentucky, Paul’s Food Markets and Lotsa Pasta in Louisville, Kremer’s Market The Party Source in Northern Kentucky, and 100 other locations in 15 states plus D.C.

Sanders launched a second brand this summer with Manfredi Barbera, a fourth-generation Sicilian olive oil producer. Fresh 2 Village Blend is an exclusive blend of three olive varieties from three Mediterranean villages; Andria in Puglia, Italy; Écija in southern Spain; and Kalamata in the Peloponnese region of Greece.

“I’m on a mission, not just to sell olive oil,” he says, “but to change the way people think about olive oil. Americans are using olive oil that is the equivalent of a brown or black banana. They are just a fat with not enough juice. I aim to introduce more Americans to authentic and affordable extra virgin olive oil. Olive juice!”

Sanders is a one-man advocacy band, personally doing 500 hours a year of tasting demos in stores. Having perfected his taste buds and the perfect olives for his oils, he won’t stop until as many people as possible join him in a taste. It’s for your own good, after all.

Information about First Fresh: SandersFirstFresh.com. You can follow First Fresh on Facebook. Email bill@sandersfirstfresh.com or call 202-744-2176.