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.
In Terrace, B.C., the phrase “get your goat” has a whole new meaning thanks to two coffee-loving entrepreneurs.
Bryan Last and Aleksa Havelaar are the co-founders of the small-batch coffee roaster, White Goat Coffee Roasters. White Goat roasts fairly-traded organic coffee beans slowly and carefully in order to highlight flavors which are unique to the beans’ geographic origins. Their coffee blends are developed to showcase and balance the best of these flavours and are named to celebrate their local outdoor environment.
The business has been open since April 2017, and the pair’s premium fresh-roasted coffee blends are already a hit in their community.
“Coffee is at its best within one month of roasting, and by locally roasting in small batches we can ensure optimum freshness and flavor for our customers and retailers,” says Bryan.
And just like their coffee blends, Bryan and Alexa also make for a well-balanced pair.
Prior to starting White Goat, Bryan was a project manager. His experience working in coffee-producing countries inspired him to learn the craft of coffee roasting and also gave him the idea to start his own coffee roaster business. However, he needed help turning his dreams into reality.
When he met Aleksa at a Futurpreneur business development workshop and learned she had a background in marketing and brand development and also shared his interest in specialty coffee and premium local products, he knew he found the perfect business partner.
After researching the Northern B.C. market and learning that there were limited local options for fresh-roasted coffee, they recognized that there was an opportunity to supply the growing trend for locally made premium products. Soon after, White Goat Coffee was born.
“Getting our roaster up and running and getting our first bags of coffee out for sale was a huge milestone,” says Bryan. “When those first bags of coffee sold and we started getting great feedback from our customers, it was really exciting and satisfying to see our idea brought to life.”
Of course, launching a business is no easy task and their initial success also came with a few challenges.
“Ask any small business owner what their biggest challenge is and they’ll probably answer time,” says Bryan. “There is a lot that goes into running a business and finding the time to fit everything in is challenging.”
He says that being organized and having a solid plan can go a long way in overcoming this hurdle. However, even the best business plan won’t be successful without having the confidence to back it up.
“The other big challenge that we found to starting a business is faith… faith that your idea is a good one, that your market research is solid, and that all the steps to getting up and running are achievable,” says Bryan. “Being really stubborn and believing in yourself is important.”
And while some might think starting a business in a small market like Terrace B.C. would be the biggest challenge of all, Bryan feels the opposite.
“There are advantages to living in smaller, more isolated communities,” he says. “Northerners are very proud of where they live, and when they enjoy a locally produced product like our coffee, they are really quick to support and promote it to their friends.”
Overall, he says his experience starting a business in Northern B.C. has been “really good.” Not only has White Goat received tremendous support from their local community, they also had the chance to take part in the ThriveNorth Business Challenge where White Goat won the award for “Best New Business (29-39)”.
“ThriveNorth has helped us in many ways,” says Bryan. “Through the initial business planning workshop, by providing mentorship, support, and advice and by providing the opportunity to participate in the Business Challenge. We were super excited and appreciative to win “Best New Business (29-39)” at the Business Challenge this year, but even if we didn’t win, the exposure and learning opportunities of going through the event were invaluable.”
Bryan and Aleksa have accomplished a lot in less than a year with White Goat Coffee Roasters and it’s clear that their business has a bright future. For any aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start their own business, they have the following piece of advice:
“Believe in yourself and be true to your company’s values. As long as you are doing what you are genuinely passionate about – growth will come with time.”
Written By: Jasmine Williams, Social Media and Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada