Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ravina Johal, co-owner of Black Sage Butcher Ltd., located in Oliver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a small, independent butcher shop focused on providing locally sourced, naturally and ethically-raised quality meats and ready-to-eat foods. Our customers range from young families to retirees, whether they're foodies looking for a special cut or someone looking for classic but quality cuts. We mainly serve the South Okanagan; however, we have regular customers from as far as Victoria and Kelowna.
Tell us about yourself
My husband Matt and I moved from Vancouver to seek a better quality of life and draw on the growing potential of this abundant region and welcoming community. We were especially inspired by Oliver's perfect intersection of quality food and wine. We recognized a gap in the market, one which we could naturally fill given Matt's decades of experience working in kitchens and his more recent work at some of Vancouver's reputable butcher shops. In fact, we met at a butcher shop where he worked, and I shopped regularly!
Matt's passion for food and culinary skills are complemented by my project management and marketing experience. Together we make a really great team.
The thing that keeps us going is a focus on the bigger goals we share for the future. We know we're building something to last, a business that can sustain us through to retirement and beyond.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm really proud of how quickly we've built such a strong reputation. We've been in business for less than three years. We've already been named "Best Place to Buy Meat in the South Okanagan" 2 years in a row via the Penticton Western News' Reader Poll (Fall 2020 & Fall 2021), even beating out well-established businesses. We couldn't have done it without the support of our loyal customers!
It's that success that has enabled us to purchase a commercial building in downtown Oliver, which we'll be relocating to in Spring 2022. With twice the space, we'll be able to pursue new ideas and opportunities - we can't wait to get in there!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Learning to accept you can't make everyone happy. As a small business owner, you put so much of yourself into what you do. It's a real struggle not to take everything personally when you care so much. But with time, you realize that's not a sustainable mindset, and not everyone is meant to be your customer. It's a journey, for sure.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Start small and lay a strong foundation before growing at a rate you can manage. This isn't only about your product offerings or scope, but even about what you take on financially. It's easier to get business loans, support, etc., when you have a bit of a track record to prove what you're doing is worth investing in.
- Make sure you set and maintain healthy boundaries between your work and personal life; otherwise, you'll burn out fast. This is a practice we're regularly tweaking, and it's not always easy, but we're getting better.
- Be gentle with yourself (I'm saying this more for me than anyone). We're new to owning a brick-and-mortar business, and there's a lot to learn. That makes it exciting, but it also means there are a lot of mistakes made too. And that's okay; it's inevitable.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Being a business owner is a lot harder than I expected; I was pretty naïve about how much it would take over our lives. But the reward is pretty great too. The autonomy you have as a business owner is invaluable. It certainly makes some of the challenges worthwhile.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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