Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food distribution but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Paul Sawtell, owner and founder of 100km Foods, located in Toronto, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
100km Foods is an award-winning local food distribution company, founded in 2008. Think of 100km Foods as the wheels on the road between field and fork and sales and marketing arm for small and medium sized farmers and artisans in Ontario. Pre-Pandemic our customers were the top Chefs and restaurants in Southern Ontario. Now, we also deliver the same amazing products from Ontario producers that are used in top restaurants to home cooks through The Market @ 100km Foods home delivery. At 100km Foods, we want you to know where your food comes from!
Tell us about yourself
My 27 year old pharmaceutical-sales-rep-self sat in my car on a morning in late September 2007 unable move. I was frozen and I could not get myself motivated to get out of my car and go and try to convince another Doctor to prescribe more of the medicines I was promoting. I had just gotten back from a two month volunteering trip in Uganda and I realized in that moment I needed to make some drastic changes.
The way that I was earning my living was discordant with my personal values and it all came to a head in that moment. So I quit my high paying pharmaceutical sales job, took a 1 year contract working for the government in public health and then left that position to travel in South and Southeast Asia for 7 months. Upon returning, I had a singular focus: I wanted a job that was in line with my personal values, a job that I could be proud top say I did instead of mutter inaudibly under my breath. It was fall 2007 and my partner I attended an evening seminar called The Politics of Local Food.
It was a panel discussion between Chefs and Farmers, each wanting to work with each other but for a myriad of reasons, were unable to make that direct connection work. From this expressed need, my partner and I saw the opportunity to reverse engineer our dream jobs! (entrepreneurship, on its best days, is just that) We could be that missing piece between chef and farmer, and utilize our professional sales experience to help make that connection.
How hard could it be? (tongue firmly in cheek) That evening, 100km Foods was born and we have dedicated the past 13 years of our lives to creating a better local food economy that supports local farmers and artisans and provides chefs with the best products that Ontario has to offer.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Sticking with it. Perseverance. Fighting through all the challenges, trying, failing, trying again. It is not often talked about but I think perseverance (and perhaps a strong stomach) is one of the most underappreciated attributes and necessities to be a successful entrepreneur.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
It can be lonely. We used to have great friends at our previous jobs, went out for drinks together, went to their weddings, even went on vacations together. Our relationships at work are by necessity, different now. We still work with amazing people who I care for deeply but at the end of the day, you don't have anyone to turn to when things are really tough, dark or seemingly impossible, except yourself.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
1 - Find an idea or business that you care about, and do that. Don't do it because you think it will make you a lot of money. That is not satisfying or rewarding and won't get you through the tough days, of which there will be many.
2 - Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with people who have those weaknesses as strengths.
3 - Reconcile your books monthly and know your numbers. You can't fix things that you don't know are broken.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Entrepreneurship can be the most rewarding job there is. You get to do so many different things, learn about yourself and what you are capable of, but most of all you get to create something new, that hopefully leaves the world in a better place than you found it. It's not easy, and there are immense challenges and stress at times but you learn that you can get knocked down and get back up and take that first step forward again, because sometimes that is the only thing there is to do.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.