Celebrating Women Food Entrepreneurs

Celebrating_Women_Food_Entrepreneurs

WFIM presented a panel of four courageous women who are tackling the monumental task of running a food business. During an evening of networking and product sampling, we learned about their experiences, challenges and successes in building their food brands.

Our Panelists:

Carolyn Plummer, Founder and Co-owner of Grass Roots Kitchen and the Energy Spheres brand.
CEnergy_Spheres_logoarolyn is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). She turned her passion for crafting healthy, allergy-friendly snacks for loved ones with food allergies and intolerances into a commercial business. As a proud mom and advocate to two teenage boys with autism spectrum disorder, Grass Roots Kitchen mentors and creates employment opportunities for young adults with autism. Carolyn lives in Toronto with her partner in life and business, her boys and two rather large house cats.

 

 

 

Carrie Darmaga, founder and CEO of Health Addict Inc., and owner of the Fru-V® brand.

Fru-V_logoThrough her career journey as a Child and Youth Counsellor and a Registered Massage Therapist, Fru-V® was born. After starting the breakfast club at Rogers Public School, Carrie finally took the plunge to start this new business as a way to give back to the community. Launching Fru-V® smoothie kits in Longo’s and Vince’s Market, Carrie is giving a portion of the proceeds to the Breakfast Club of Canada.

 

Amal Soliman, Founder and Owner of Nubia Food and Beverage Inc. and Nuba Tisane.
Amal Nuba_logogrew up drinking hibiscus tea in her home country of Egypt and saw an opportunity to reinvent the beverage for the Canadian market. With a Ph.D. in Agriculture Sciences and background in food processing, Amal founded Nubia and makes Nuba Tisane with premium quality dried hibiscus flowers she imports from Egypt.

 

 

Simi Kular, Co-Owner of Jaswant’s Kitchen.

JasJaswants_Kitchen_logowant’s Kitchen produces all natural Indian spice blends. They are are all hand-crafted and produced in Canada. We source great quality whole and ground spices. The whole spices are inspected, sifted, dry-roasted and then ground. We then blend the various ground spices together in the right proportions to make the Jaswant’s Kitchen signature spice blends.

 

 

 

Our Moderator:

 

Birgit Blain, President, Birgit Blain & Associates Inc.

Birgit_Blain_logo

As founder and president of a packaged foods consulting firm, Birgit Blain and her team transform food into retail-ready products. Her experience includes 17 years with Loblaw Companies, where she managed a $9 million President’s Choice® portfolio. Birgit also writes for Food in Canada magazine and is the author of The Food Biz Blog. Through her depth of food industry knowledge, Birgit helps food business owners think strategically, make better decisions and mitigate risks.

 

 

Some people start a food business because of their love of food, the drive to help others, or for the money (lots of laughs from both the panel and the audience on that reason). Why did our panelists start up?   Jaswant’s Kitchen was founded to teach Simi how to cook authentic Indian cuisine;  Simi wants to inspire people to cook. Sharing a piece of her home with her neighbours inspired Amal to share her product with everyone. Carolyn was baking, and putting everything into chocolate to get her kids to eat; as a holistic nutritionist, her goal is to help people with autism through her business. Carrie was looking for a product that wasn’t on the market, and decided to create it herself.

What challenges do the entrepreneurs face?  Carrie had no connections in the food industry, and had to learn everything from scratch.   Finding a co-packer was a challenge for Amal, so she started production herself.  Simi’s challenge was maintaining product quality, so Jaswant’s Kitchen also produces on their own at FoodStarter. Carolyn struggled with finding the right packaging to increase the shelf life of her product.

Wins keep us motivated. Carolyln’s big win was having Whole Foods find her product at a market. She wasn’t present that day, and the teenager managing her booth didn’t think to get the person’s business card, so she was thankful that he made the call to her! Entrepreneurs can be very hard on themselves, so Carrie knows the importance of celebrating at each step. A win for Amal is that hibiscus is a top trend for 2018.

When asked would they do it again? Carrie commented that “ignorance is bliss” (but she didn’t say no!). Carolyn would do it differently, with a lot more money.

Here’s some advice from these entrepreneurs, if you’re thinking of throwing your hat into the food processing arena:
Simi – always be innovating; be willing to trust & let go (delegate & build a good team) Carolyn – manage your life
Amal – believe in your product; don’t take it personally.
Carrie – you don’t have to do it all now
Birgit – have a business plan, and don’t quit your day job!

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Networking Skills Development

[net-wur-king]

noun
A supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest

verb (used without object)
To cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position

networking_infographic

 

1. Be prepared

Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings.

Have a 30 second “elevator” speech to introduce yourself that you know inside and out.
The most important part of the introduction beside your name and possibly your title/area of interest in business, etc. (the first sentence) is the second sentence which is reflected to “what makes you memorable/what is the one thing you want to be known for”. This will help the person you are networking remember you and increases the possibility that they could help you in the near future if an opportunity arises.

Hello, my name is XXXX, and I am an experienced XXXXX (insert your area(s) of expertise such as product developer, account manager, etc. and any positions on volunteer boards you may hold). I am best known for XXXXX ( Insert one statement about what you stand for (if you can) or what your (work/life/career) passion is. As a result, I am currently looking for XXXXX (whatever you would like to achieve such as networking goal for the event).

Be able to articulate what you are looking for, and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and no immediate answer comes to mind. Also remember that the people in the room may not be the people who can help you, but they may know people to introduce you to that could be of assistance.

Research the topic of the meeting/presentation so that you can carry on a conversation about it, how it affects you/your business etc. It can be an ice breaker to get the networking conversation started.

Body language counts: Smile, look people in the eyes. Have a firm handshake. Stand/sit tall.

2. During Networking events

Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.

Sit with people you don’t know. When you sit with people you do not know you are forced to meet people and focus on the topic. Try to join a group of people that also look like they don’t know each other. Groups from the same company etc. may be more focussed on their own needs than networking with others.

Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.

Have lots of business cards available to hand out. At an event, have one pocket filled with your own business cards and the other pocket empty to put new cards into.

Become known as a resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.

Be ready to introduce people to others that may be able to help them.

3. After the event

Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.

Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.

Do it all again: To network successfully, takes practice.

 

Contributors: Sanja Kivac, Jane Mangat, Tina Parise, Barbara Onyskow, Carol Zweig, Donna Messor
“10 Tips for Successful Business Networking” by Stephanie Speisman (www.businessknowhow.com)