In honour of Women’s History Month 2021, we are celebrating the contributions of modern businesswomen in the food and drink industry.
In this blog post, we feature four women-led, Vancouver-based businesses who demonstrate passion, innovation and drive as their success continues to unfold.
Alia, Luv the Grub
This local Vancouver social business is spreading the love to people and the planet with its range of chutneys and spreads. Luv the Grub rescues produce from going into landfill and turns it into spreads through a paid employment training program for newcomer refugees.
While much progress has been made in narrowing the gender gap and seeing more female representation in business, Alia, Founder of Luv the Grub, says women are still being held back by their representation as the primary child caretaker. “This can be difficult to balance alongside running and pursuing a business. There is less representation of women being entrepreneurs in society as well as within their families, which might hold women back from aspiring to be one”, she says.
For Alia, being comfortable stepping outside of day-to-day operations and having a team she can rely on is one of the most important lessons she’s learned in her business journey. This helps her to focus on growth and the next stage of the business.
“It's often very difficult to do this as it’s hard to leave something you've built to others, but if you don't you won't be able to empower your team and focus on the next stages. Allowing your team to make mistakes, ask questions, empowering them is all part of building a great team.”
When it comes to advice she’d offer other women who are thinking about pursuing a business, her advice is simple: just start. “Don't overthink it, don't second guess your instinct...just start. Take baby steps and get your idea outside of your head and into the world as soon as you have the instinct and desire to do so.
“People have great business ideas all the time but starting and pursuing them and waiting before everything is perfect before launching their idea, telling others about it is something I find as a common inhibitor.”
Kula Kitchen (‘kula’ means ‘eat in Swahili) provides Afro-vegan nutrition to plant-forward and plant-curious customers in a united community. Through their warm collaboration and inspirational voice, they help their community feel nourished and empowered.
For Asha, it’s important that resources and mentorship at the early stages of launching a business are made more accessible for women. “With additional funding to support female entrepreneurs at the early stage of business, we will see more sustained businesses over 5-10 years”, she says.
Although a successful entrepreneur, Asha says she learns important business lessons through making mistakes (“without regrets”). “I have learned that it's important to connect to other producers both within and out of your industry. Having the right people at the table with you is key to stay motivated, bounce ideas, and access support.
“My other takeaway is setting a foundation for how you want to work is crucial including the people you work with. Lastly, nourish your partnerships and relationships with your community.”
Her advice for other budding female entrepreneurs is to “focus on the problem you are solving, does it align with your values? Don't be afraid to take the next steps, you will make mistakes and that is OK.”
With a passion for baking and gifting baked treats to friends and family,TreatsBySabby started off as a hobby. Now specializing in custom cakes, treats and gift items for celebrations and events, TreatsBySabby launched during the pandemic, where Sabby, its founder, “baked 10 times more”.
“I find women to be iconic and extremely special. There is so much we can do as we are so hardworking and passionate about whatever we decide to commit to”, says Sabby. “The one major factor holding us back is the act of taking that very first step and finding the right balance between our full-time jobs and other family responsibilities.”
The most important lesson Sabby has learnt since launching her business is the importance of asking questions in areas she’s unsure about. “I have also learnt the art of saying yes or no to opportunities as they present themselves.”
For women who want to take a business idea further but aren’t sure where to start, Sabby advises just taking the first step. “Even if this means selling a product or service to your friend or relative, the purpose of starting is not always to make a profit but to learn.
“There is so much to learn about yourself and your business. The journey takes some time.”
Kindred Cultures began as a kitchen project in 2018, when mom-of-two Lyndsay made it her mission to research eczema relief for her youngest son. Finding that prescriptions and hospital visits weren’t improving his condition, Lyndsay began learning about probiotics and gut health. This was how she discovered kefir, which drastically improved her son’s eczema.
The company now produces probiotic-rich water kefir and infuses it with organic fruits and botanicals to produce a beverage that’s low in sugar and calories.
“We are amazed to see so many incredible female business owners paving a new business landscape”, Lyndsay says. However, she believes that funding remains one of the greatest obstacles for female business owners. “Female founded businesses revive far less funding from banking institutions and investor pools. We are always excited to see new financial support programs emerging for women in business.”
On her business journey, Lyndsay says she had to learn to trust herself to make good business decisions. “The industry can feel very overwhelming and the internal processes can feel mysterious. We have continued to look within ourselves for how we can blend our mission and values with the industry that we work in.”
“Starting a business requires a unique blend of grit, tenacity and naïveté. You must be relentlessly positive and willing to solve the myriad of problems that will come up. Reaching deeply into your network is a great way to find the resources you will need, from mentor support to financial opportunities. Women’s enterprise centre, The Forum, Small Business BC and other organizations are ready to help you succeed!”