An air-tight mission. These days, it is not enough to be in business simply to make money: If you’re not doing something for the good of the people, animals or the planet, no one is going to really notice or care about you or your brand. Have a mission that is a force for good, for a positive change of some kind and remind yourself of it every day, and make sure your team have it running through their blood too. You cannot reiterate your mission and vision to your team enough. Make it your raison d’etre and it will help you roll out of bed at 5am and get on with your day-to-day tasks because you are a super hero who has to save the world!
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ed and Natasha Tatton, the animal rights advocates and passionate environmentalists who founded BReD: a 100% plant-based organic sourdough bakery that sources fine ingredients locally with an ever-changing seasonal menu in Whistler, BC, Canada.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Originally from Kent in the UK, Ed was brought up in the countryside while Natasha grew up in South-east London, in an out of foster care. Ed and Natasha met when they were both studying in Canterbury, UK in 2003. They travelled the world for a few years, working in Australia and New Zealand, and eventually moved to Canada in 2013 to snowboard for a season. Ed worked as the sous chef in a farm-to-table restaurant in Whistler, BC and Natasha pursued a career as an English teacher while dipping in and out of hospitality jobs to supplement her income. They fell in love with BC and got married there in 2017.
Can you share with us the story of the “ah ha” moment that led to the creation of the food brand you are leading?
While taking some shoulder-season leave and working on Vancouver Island farms in the summer of 2014, Ed started a sourdough culture that he took with him back to the restaurant he worked at, and implemented a bread programme for them.
At the same time, they had started yoga classes and Ed would bake bread at home for their teacher, Tina James of Loka Yoga. All the yogis would smell the freshly baked bread and would soon ask when they would be able to get some bread.
Ed asked his employer if he could rent their kitchen once a week and sell bread to his friends. At first, he was concerned as to whether he could sell thirty loaves but he did, and before long Ed was selling over 150 loaves every Thursday to the community. It was pre-ordered through Facebook with a cash-only pick-up. Eventually, Ed was turning people away because he couldn’t meet demand and people began asking when he was going to open a bakery of his own.
Meanwhile, Natasha had been volunteering her time with a local environmental group (AWARE Whistler), and wanted to do something that would have a bigger impact, so the couple decided to go into business together and open a farm-to-table plant-based bakery with an emphasis on organic, locally-sourced and seasonal ingredients.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Initially, Natasha thought she would be more behind-the-scenes in terms of her role in the bakery, and Ed would essentially run the place while Natasha continued to teach English for a living. Once they started building out the kitchen, it soon become clear that Ed would not be able to make bread and manage the front-of-house team on his own. Natasha had to quit her career and go all-in, hook, line and sinker.
If you want to start a successful business, you have to be prepared to give up everything: your job, your social life, eight hours of sleep, home-cooked meals, the list goes on. In a way though, ignorance is bliss: If you could know how hard you would have to work to get a business off the ground, you might never end up going ahead with the crazy idea!
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a food line? What can be done to avoid those errors?
It’s easy to dream of owning your own business, but you have to have extensive experience in the industry. Ed has worked in kitchens for more than twenty years, since the age of thirteen. A lot of food and beverage businesses fail: the statistics are quite frightening and that had put Ed off opening his own restaurant for years. Building a restaurant requires many components: fresh ingredients, a comprehensive wine list, a capable team both front and back-of-house, so with that comes a ton of expensive equipment, such as refrigeration, storage room and on-going training. Then there are hidden costs such as insurance, linen, cleaning and maintenance.
The smartest thing to do is keep it simple. Start with a basic concept that you can build on rather than expecting to go from zero to hero overnight. Ed started with bread only, and now he and his wife have a bakery with small baked goods, such as cinnamon buns; deli items like house-marinated olive and hummus; grocery items such as house-milled flour; and a full specialty coffee selection; the bakery is always trying new things and expanding its offerings.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Test the market: make the product at home and give it to friends and family. Ask them for honest feedback. Make it again and take it to people you don’t know to try — they will be more honest and indicative of how it will perform once you take it to market. You have to have a good product before you do anything else.
Remember to factor in your time when you cost out a product: Too many start-up entrepreneurs don’t pay themselves. They don’t account for their time when making or selling products. How much is your time worth? If you can’t pay yourself, it is not a viable business.
Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?
Try not to procrastinate because someone else will beat you to it, but start simple because it is easy to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of starting a business. For example, before renting a brick and mortar, consider a farmer’s market or even a pop-up space. This will give you a taste of what it takes to run operations once you have perfected your product.
Write a business plan and be frugal with your projections: It is better to exceed your expectations than not make the cut.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
Our expertise is in food and beverage and we would not hire a consultant. Do your market research and get feedback from your target market. The customers will let you know if you’re going wrong.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
If you have a product that is easy to scale, such as a dry food that can sit on a supermarket shelf for weeks or months on end, then a venture capitalist may be able to give you a smaller slice of a big pie than you could get on your own. Our business is artisan and cannot be outsourced to a manufacturer. We opt for quality over quantity so for us, bootstrapping will deliver a more favourable return. Our business is scalable but not overnight: It will take time for us to train and trust others to make sourdough to the same standard as Ed does before we relinquish full control to our staff and open more locations.
Can you share thoughts from your experience about how to file a patent, how to source good raw ingredients, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer or distributor?
As far as sourcing goes, this is where inside-industry knowledge comes in. Ed had already built up rapport and relationships with local farmers and distributors through his previous job as a sous chef in a local bistro.
Also, networking is key: use social networks such as LinkedIn and forums for entrepreneurs to make new connections with suppliers and manufacturers. Find out who your competitors source from, and ask the suppliers for a catalog/price list.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
There is no substitute for this. You HAVE to get some work experience in the area you choose to go into. Nothing will give you a batter insight than working in the field, and it will give you more credibility to potential investors.
Not everyone will like your product, no matter how great it is. When people critique you, it is very difficult not to take it personally. The negative comments have a much bigger impact than the positive ones, unfortunately. Not everyone will like you either. The more attention you attract, the more people there are who might love you, but the amount of people who dislike you will increase proportionately too. You have to get over that and stay focused on your mission.
There is no question that we are living in unprecedented times of political turmoil, civil unrest, an era of pandemics and natural disasters; becoming ever-dependent on technology which updates and goes in and out of fashion too quickly.
Take this in your stride and accept that you will have to learn to do things you don’t like — if you don’t, the next new kid on the block will take you down. Try to see it as a programme of self-development: It’s good for the brain to learn new things and not get stuck in its ways. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, paying someone who knows what they’re doing will save you lots of time and headaches too.
An air-tight mission
These days, it is not enough to be in business simply to make money: If you’re not doing something for the good of the people, animals or the planet, no one is going to really notice or care about you or your brand. Have a mission that is a force for good, for a positive change of some kind and remind yourself of it every day, and make sure your team have it running through their blood too. You cannot reiterate your mission and vision to your team enough. Make it your raison d’etre and it will help you roll out of bed at 5am and get on with your day-to-day tasks because you are a super hero who has to save the world!
More than anything else, people love consistency. You can lose customers in a heartbeat if they return to your product and it is not as good as last time. Be sure to check the quality as much as you can, and always be working on how you can make it better and better.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Every successful product has to solve a problem. You need to find out what is missing and fill the void. The trick is creating someone people don’t even know they need until they get it, and then they want it over and over again.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
The more coffees we sell, the more trees we plant which sequester carbon, regenerate soil and allow farmers to feed themselves and their communities. The more baked goods we sell, the more we support our local organic farmers and our local economy, whilst keeping a low carbon footprint of our supply chain. By selling out every day, we not only maximize our profit margins but achieve zero food waste.
Because we are a profitable business, we have been able to fund training programs for our staff members, helping them develop professionally, guaranteeing a consistently high quality product. The staff and customers also have a solid rapport, which has been of extra value since people are not able to socialize as freely these days in the wake of the pandemic — our customers appreciate a friendly face and personal service during these challenging times.
Our community has been very grateful that we have survived Covid-19 and enabled them to keep eating our healthy sourdough, which is more digestible than most of the commercial breads you find in grocery stores. When people buy from us, they reduce their plastic consumption as all our packaging is compostable.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement that we are most passionate about is, without doubt, veganism. This is a compassionate lifestyle that ensures the least harm possible to animals, the planet and public health. Ed is a living example of reversing heart disease through a wholefoods vegan diet — he had a stent fitted in his twenties as his aorta was shrinking. He came off his medication within three months of converting to a plant-based diet. It is the only diet proven to be beneficial for heart health, according to cardiologists Dr Esseltyne (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, 2007), Dr Greger (How Not to Die, 2015 & How Not to Diet, 2019) and Dr Joel Fuhrman (Eat to Live, 2003); as well as many other doctors who work in the field of nutrition.
The resources used in animal agriculture are completely unsustainable and are pilgaging the earth at an astronomical scale. We are passionate about growing your own food too: Sprouting seeds at home is a low-budget solution to a lack of access to highly nutritional vegetables wherever you live.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Matthew Kenney is someone who we would love to sit down with and talk to. A former hunter and now pioneer of vegan cuisine, Matthew has openend up dozens of amazing restaurants, including fine-dining eateries, and continues to promote plant-based cuisine through his online cookery school. He is an inspiration to us talk “plantpreneurship”.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.