As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people out of the job market, it has provided an opportunity for people to take a step back from their regular day-to-day routine and evaluate if they are happy with their current career path. As someone who drastically pivoted careers, I understand the excitement that comes along with a career change, but also the self-doubt, fear and uncertainty that it brings.
I pivoted careers to start Spread’Em Kitchen Co., a Vancouver-based company that creates delicious vegan dips and firm cheeze products from nourishing whole-food ingredients. Without having a background in business, I learned along the way about the financial and educational resources and mentors that would then be essential to the growth of Spread’Em, and now responsible for our business growth of 900 percent since 2015.
Although I didn’t have a background in business, I did always have an entrepreneurial spirit. When I first moved to Vancouver, it was difficult to find a job, so I went to thrift stores to source fabric and hand-sewed mittens to sell on Granville Island. This wasn’t a widely successful endeavour but gave me a first taste of sourcing “ingredients”, creating a product, keeping track of inventory and experience with sales. I also had a job selling B2B credit card machines, which allowed me to understand how to read the customer and the tenacity that a job in sales demands.
Still with a lack of formal business training, I turned to educational resources and took learnings from people who inspired me. I found webinars and YouTube videos to be an easily accessible resource to learn from, and accessed additional free learning tools online, such as Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning) for website creation. There are also numerous free small business resources that provide the ability to speak directly to a professional with any challenges or gaps in knowledge you may have.
The resource I found most helpful to start my own business was Futurpreneur, a non-proﬁt organization that provides ﬁnancing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners. I was able to build a relationship that lasted beyond the initial 3-day Kickstarter, and I still get calls from them to this day to check in on my business needs and to invite me to events with other entrepreneurs.
The Kickstarter provided me $10-$15K in funding, which I used to upgrade my Vitamix to an industrial grade blender and flew me to Toronto for a business accelerator program. That along with a good relationship with the Business Development Bank of Canada, to ease the stress I was putting on my $500 credit card limit, gave me the necessary means to launch Spread’Em with the proper tools, confidence, and financial resources that I needed.
From mentors, resources and business professionals, the best piece of advice I received was two-fold. Firstly, separate your personal self from business in terms of finances. The money that comes in from your business is not yours but belongs to the company and should be treated as such. It’s important to acknowledge the company as a separate entity, to keep the lines from blurring and to keep yourself accountable for your business finances. Second, there are no shortcuts. The journey of starting a business is a long and often tough one, but it is your journey and you need to trust the process. This advice rang true to me when I would try to take a shortcut only to find it only created more work in the long run. Trust that the little steps taken day by day will get you there faster than trying to jump over them.
Now, being an entrepreneur with a growing business, I can impart my own advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out, and my advice is this: Go full steam ahead without hesitation. Don’t have one foot in and one foot out. I didn’t have a choice as I had nothing to lose so I jumped in with both feet, with persistence and with an appetite for success. This ultimately led to the success of Spread’Em Kitchen Co., a nationwide company that I can proudly say I grew from the ground up.