Businesses have been known to start in various ways. Up until a few decades ago, starting a business usually involved going to business school, working in the industry for a bit and then starting your own company. While many entrepreneurs still do this, it is becoming increasingly common for businesses to start in untraditional ways. As discussed in our blog a couple weeks ago, your personal ethics can inspire business ideas. Sometimes you think of an idea that would change lives and there’s no better way to share it, than to execute it, and bring it into your local market.
Mellisa Mills didn’t start her company, Spread’em Kitchen, in the most traditional sense either. From looking to just earning some extra money on the side, she has grown tremendously since then. Hard work is an understatement to describe her journey to getting her start-up to where it is today. Mellisa started creating plant-based cashew dips and spreads in her spare time. She decided to start selling them at local farmers markets and her product did really well. “I started this in the farmer’s markets, never thinking that I’d have a business on my hands,” she said. As they became increasingly popular among local shoppers, she started receiving positive feedback left and right. Her clients that had food allergies or dietary restrictions expressed their feedback in ways that would touch anyone’s soul. “They were thankful to have finally found something they could eat that wouldn’t hurt them,” she said. “The stories were so moving that I was convinced I had to share this with as many people possible.” Now Spread’em Kitchen’s dips and spreads are sold in over 100 retailers in Canada.
It’s inspiring to see someone’s side-job create such an impact to a community. With food restrictions becoming increasingly popular due to ethics, health concerns or even just individuals becoming more conscious about what they consume, Mellisa’s products meet that demand. The spreads and dips that she created are unique for a few reasons. One, they contain smart ingredients used such as cashews, beets, cilantro, carrots and many more fresh herbs and vegetables. Two, they are vegan! This means that any person that do not eat meat or dairy can still enjoy a spreadable and delicious product to add to their wraps or sandwiches. Her unique techniques make the spreads have cheese-like flavours and textures that make it possible for anyone to enjoy. The best part of it all is that Spread’em supports non-genetically modified organism (Non-GMO) farming practices that ensure cleaner foods.
When it became clear to Mellisa that her product needed to be officially launched and sold all over, she knew that she would need help in the beginning stages. “Futurpreneur Canada was a great help in the early days of starting my business,” she shared. “I participated in their Rock My Business Plan workshop and it was amazing.” Futurpreneur offers this initiative in hopes to educate other young entrepreneurs, such as Mellisa, that don’t have experience in writing an effective business plan. The workshop has been running for a little over two years in British Columbia with the support of RBC and the Government of BC. It has helped many young entrepreneurs build not only their business plan, but their confidence to take on this great commitment.
A business plan is so essential in any business because it provides a concrete plan of what you want to do, how you are going to do it, what you need to do it and where it will all be happening. It’s also extremely important to have if you need financing. If there isn’t a concrete road map to what you want to do, finding someone to believe in your idea will be difficult.
Mellisa also received mentorship from Futurpreneur in her first couple of years of business. “It’s nice to know you have someone in your corner who can act as a sounding board for your ideas,” she said. “A mentor isn’t going to give you all the answers, but they may help you ask the right questions.” Bouncing off ideas, thoughts and concerns with someone that has been through similar situations has helped our entrepreneur figure out what the best course of action is for specific situations.
As we always like to do at the end of our spotlights with our entrepreneurs and mentors, we asked Mellisa what her advice what to aspiring young entrepreneurs: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk and connect with as many people as possible who are doing similar things. It’s the network you build that will really support you and help you along the way. Start small and dream big!”
If you are thinking about starting your business or for more information, click here.
Written by: Sara Pivato, Social Media and Content Intern, Futurpreneur Canada