“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”- Mark Twain.
Opportunity. Entrepreneurs live by it, especially if they want to succeed. There is an art to the right moment, but sometimes people get so caught up in thinking and waiting (and waiting and waiting), that the genius idea they had, was taken and executed by someone else. If you have a passion and you see that there is an opportunity in your community or in global markets, GO GET IT.
The founders of The Blended Berry, Stephanie and Bill Martin, saw the opportunity for their company in their community. “We had been brainstorming for a few weeks and when I tried my first ever açai bowl on a trip to NYC, I immediately knew this was what we needed to do. I researched it, and nobody else in Ottawa was selling bowls, so we would be the first!” said Stephanie. In the fall of 2015, Blended Berry was launched by the young entrepreneurs. The brand offers a variety of fast healthy foods that have kept their customers coming back continuously since their launch.
Despite their current popularity in the North American markets, açai bowls have been around for longer than you would think. The delicious and fresh treat originated in Brazil and is mainly made from frozen and mashed açai palm fruit and is commonly combined with granola, bananas and other fruits. Blended Berry sells these bowls, but also a variety of other smoothies on their food truck. Healthy fast food is becoming increasingly popular, but there was a gap that needed to be filled in the Ottawa region. “We both love enjoying the festivals and events in the city, but finding healthy food on the go always seemed to be the issue, so this was perfect,” Stephanie said.
Setting up a new business with a unique product, as much as it provides a competitive advantage, it can also be quite scary because there isn’t much to compare it to. Not having much to compare, Stephanie and Bill were unsure how their product would perform in Ottawa but were pleasantly surprised by the popularity. “In less than a year, many other businesses have added them [açai bowls] to their menu, which presents its own challenges with increased competition—but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?” The opportunity they took to start this business, as successful as it has become, it presented a few challenges in the beginning stages. “I think the best thing is to understand that plans change, and be ready to adapt and adapt FAST!” Stephanie shared.
Funding can be a big issue for many entrepreneurs, but once it’s acquired, it’s not the only challenge they could face. Marketing is not everyone’s second nature. It’s one thing to sell your product when you are face to face with the person, but to convince people to come try your product through advertising and other marketing initiatives, can prove to be difficult. Having been such a new concept in Ottawa, no one necessarily knew what açai bowls were or how they tasted. “Thank goodness for social media! We were able to start posting pictures along with giving out samples in the street and soon enough they started to take off” Stephanie said. She also highlighted the importance of presentation with her product because customers took the time out of their day to drive to their food truck just to get a bowl and take a picture for Instagram. “Our customers were doing the advertising for us! How fantastic!” she added.
The founders of Blended Berry also believe in a healthy work environment. Both coming from business school and working various jobs throughout their lives, they understand the importance and how it can determine the success of your company. “We are not a big operation and we are from the perfect bosses, but we have loyal staff who genuinely like for working for us”, she said. “I have worked for both cohesive and toxic teams and I am very proud that we have built the former”.
If you are an entrepreneur reading this or you are ready to become one, as you can see, making it happen is possible. Besides seizing the opportunity when you have it, take this advice from our entrepreneurs at the Blended Berry: “My best advice is just to start. Start anywhere, but start somewhere! There are a million things to do to get a business up and running and it can seem overwhelming especially at first when nothing is real or tangible. It’s very tempting to want to do everything in perfect order and with no waste, but only hindsight will give you the benefit of the perfect method. Eventually things will begin to come together and you’ll see the way out of the forest. But if you really need a starting checklist, start with a business plan template and work it one section at a time.”
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Written by: Sara Pivato, Social Media and Content Intern, Futurpreneur Canada