In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.

From planning and financing, to licenses, locations and staffing, new business owners have a LOT to think about in the start-up phase of their businesses. We talked to Nadia Halward and her husband François Blanchet from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to hear about their experience setting up their own business, Mucho Gusto Catering, earlier this year.

Nadia, a Red Seal Chef and avid traveler, and François, a fisherman with a French background, share a love of Mexican cuisine and a passion for good food that is thoughtfully prepared. They recognized a gap in the Prince Rupert market, where nobody else was focusing on Latin-inspired cuisine.

Nadia and François originally planned to open their business as a food truck but expanded their vision after receiving advice from Futurpreneur Canada’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence. They decided to launch as a catering company first to help them build a presence in their community, and invest in a food cart once they had tested their product in the market for a few months.

The couple participated in a ThriveNorth Business Planning Workshop in November 2015 and received a ThriveNorth Small Project Grant in December. “Getting the support from other entrepreneurs through the workshop and receiving guidance and coaching from the Entrepreneur-in-Residence had a huge impact on our business,” said Nadia. “And the grant really helped us get the project off the ground.”

Soon after, the pair received a loan from Futurpreneur Canada and formalized their relationship with their business mentor, David Eng, owner and founder of Sunset Charters. “David was critical to us throughout the whole business planning process,” said Nadia. “He was a natural choice when it came time to choose a mentor. Not only does he have a good sense of the community we live in, he also wants to see our business grow and thrive.”

With their new skills, financing and a mentor in place, Nadia and François began working out the logistics of their business. They set up an office and payment system and acquired the necessary permits, licenses and insurance. They spent months searching for a commercial kitchen to use to prepare their food and finally found one at the local curling club.

“We didn’t have the start-up capital to build a kitchen, so we had to find a kitchen we could rent,” explained Nadia. “We partnered with the curling club to use their kitchen and cater their events. We have the full run of the kitchen and are really happy with our arrangement.”

On February 27 and 28, Mucho Gusto participated in their first public event, selling breakfast and lunch at a curling club tournament. “We were much busier than expected and sold out of a few things, like our pulled pork benny, earlier than we thought we would,” said Nadia. They enlisted a friend to help them at the event and served over a 100 people.

“We got positive feedback on our gorditas, a corn flour pocket, and it was a really great way to introduce our product,” said Nadia. “People loved the food and we are getting enquiries for our products to take home and warm up.”

What are Nadia and François planning next for Mucho Gusto?

They purchased a food cart and plan to hit the streets soon. “We’re thrilled to have secured a deal with the Wheelhouse Brewery, a really popular spot in Prince Rupert,” said Nadia. “In a few weeks, we’ll begin selling gorditas out front of the brewery on Friday nights. The owners have been so enthusiastic about working with us and we really appreciate that!” Nadia and François are currently scoping out more locations to sell their food other days of the week.

At the same time, the pair is moving forward with their catering services. “We’re promoting our catering services as well and reaching out to potential clients,” explains Nadia. “We specialize in providing great food to smaller groups, up to 30 people.”

To support their growing business, the two are considering expanding their team. “We started with a bigger bang than anticipated and I realize now we’re going to need a staff member in the next month or two,” says Nadia. “My next step is to figure out what’s involved with hiring and registering employees.”

Want to connect with Mucho Gusto and try their mouth-watering gorditas and more?

Visit them Saturday, March 12th and Sunday, March 13th at the Marine Bonspiel taking place at the Prince Rupert Curling Club (2345 Seal Cove) from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

You can also visit Wheelhouse Brewery in the coming weeks and get a free gordita sample! Details will be posted on their Facebook page soon.

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