Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Brandon Hebor, founder, and CEO of Boreal Greens Co., located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Boreal Greens is transforming the future of food through Controlled Environment Agriculture and Vertical Farming technology. We are an AgTech enterprise that designs and deploys seed-to-sale Vertical Farming solutions with the goal of supporting food security in communities around the world. Our vertical farm in Toronto has been producing greens, herbs, vegetables, and novelty crops for restaurant and retail customers for over a year. We are scaling up our business through collaborative efforts with developers and communities across North America to bring local, sustainable food production systems closer to home.
Tell us about yourself
I came out of University as an Environmental Scientist with a passion for sustainability and an interest in the business. It was not until 2016 that I took the leap into business ownership and entrepreneurship through the co-founding of my first Vertical Farming enterprise, the first of its kind in Canada. The 3-year journey was the most intense and amazing experience of my life. Although the ending of that chapter was unfortunate and disheartening, I knew that I was destined to remain an entrepreneur and persevere to achieve my end goal - supporting the transformation of our food system from global to local.
What motivates me every day is my ethos around food - Food is something that brings the world together; no matter what age, gender, race, or religion, we all need to eat. As one of the fundamental building blocks of human life, the fact that most consumers are so far disconnected from our farms and our farmers inspire me to lead a change in the way we produce and consume food globally. My passion for change is driven by the co-creation of shared value, mutual respect, and holistic connection back to the food we eat and the land and people that support our supply chain. My small part of this global shift targets Indoor and mostly Urban agriculture, where I can use my business as a tool to impact the future of community and city development - where the highest density of consumers and the least amount of farms can be found.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My greatest accomplishment as a business owner has not been the awards and accolades that I have accumulated over the years. My real accomplishment has been impacting the lives of over 3,000 young people through educational programming and hands-on workshops where I have introduced urban youth to the agriculture industry for the first time in their lives. Helping reconnect people to food is my passion and witnessing first-hand the impact I have had on the lives of young people is something I will never forget.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The most difficult part of being a business owner is finding balance. Whether it is a work-life balance or balancing purpose with profits, there are many distractions in the world, and staying focused, aligned, and brutally true to yourself is the key to self-growth, but it sure is tough!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Network - You will not be successful if you build a business based solely on internet data, reports, and articles. Connecting with your customers and stakeholders is the most important starting point.. 15-minute chats are fantastic.
- Identify, Connect and Nurture Relationships - Whether it is with advisors, mentors, customers, or other sectors/industry partners - it takes a village to raise a startup - and having the right people on your side, aligned with your vision and supported by their experience, will help create new opportunities for growth and most importantly help you persevere when the going gets tough.
- You Can Not just do it for the money - Although there is lots of glitz and glamour in the media about entrepreneurship and making millions, the reality is that overnight success takes years of preparation, sacrifice, and unrelenting stress. If you have a core purpose that keeps you grounded, your business becomes an extension of yourself and a tool to drive change in the world. Work hard, and that is when you have the chance to get 'lucky,' but if you are money motivated, your drive will die when the revenues dry up.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Purpose, Vision, and Mission are three things that have helped me to stay aligned and motivated over the past six years. For those aspiring entrepreneurs out there, take your napkin, brainstorm, and put your thoughts into a Business Model Canvas; it will be extremely helpful to structure your ideas into a framework that becomes your business plan.
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.
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