| January 20, 2021
Choosing to start a new business during COVID-19 might seem like a challenge – but for Vancouver-based Oat Of The Ordinary, it’s turned out to be a recipe for success.
Before the pandemic, Chara Krangle – like many – was traveling frequently for work. A nutritionist by trade, Krangle wanted to ensure she was getting a nutritious breakfast on the go, so she’d mix up some flavoured quick oats to take with her on early flights: “You can get hot water anywhere,” she explains. She began showing off her creations on social and got great feedback from friends and family.
That was the seed that bloomed into Oat Of The Ordinary at the beginning of 2020, when Krangle approached her friend Vanessa Nicola about starting a business.
The two began researching their idea, and found even the most health-conscious people in their age group and demo were still buying sugary instant oatmeal packages – “not because it’s healthy, but because it’s convenient. It was a constant theme we ran into,” Nicola says.
They began developing instant recipes that married nutrition with flavour and convenience. “We wanted to create a meal that was so satiating you could take on whatever the day throws at you,” Krangle says.
Every ingredient, from flax seeds and chia powder to coconut sugar and freeze-dried berries, was chosen with the goal of making a tasty, affordable product that’s still nutritious and low in sugar. “We came to the conclusion that people need it to taste amazing,” Nicola says.
When COVID arrived, both Krangle and Nicola had hours cut at their other jobs, which lit a fire under them to ensure the concept and product were as viable as possible.
“COVID was so interesting for us – it created a lot of space and time for us,” Krangle says. “I think we were both looking for our forever jobs, something we could put energy into and excel in.
“For the most part I think we’re just too excited about this product to let anything get in our way, even a pandemic,” she adds.
To help the project get off the ground, they signed on with Futurpreneur in the spring of 2020. “We thought, ‘If we’re going to do this, we have to do it right,’” says Vanessa.
Futurpreneur connected them with a business development manager – who, Krangle says, proved to be “an incredible source of support” – along with necessary funding, mentorship and resources.
The Futurpreneur application process prompted them to take a closer look at their business model and trajectory. So did the emergence of new COVID-19-related trends in shopping and consumer behaviour, including increases in grocery spending and reliance on e-commerce. They also noticed a growing desire to buy local among Canadian shoppers, and an appetite among U.S. shoppers for organic, healthy products.
“I don’t know if before, people would have thought about shopping for oatmeal online – but now, people need to be taking care of their health more than ever.”
And though COVID has prompted many on-the-go consumers to stay put, Krangle notes that shoppers are still embracing the product: “The idea that all you have to do is pour it [into a bowl] and you have this healthy breakfast – it sets the tone for the day. People feel so empowered to eat healthy, to exercise.”
The business hasn’t taken the path they initially predicted – promotion is happening online instead of at trade show sample booths, and they’re considering introducing larger packages for stay-at-home diners instead of focusing on an on-the-go client base. But Nicola and Krangle say they’re heartened by the growing camaraderie they’re seeing between local entrepreneurs – and are excited for Oat Of The Ordinary’s future.
“It’s been a new experience for us – but it’s been a blessing to be able to grow the business the way we want to,” Krangle says.
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