Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in furniture's but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kevin Jakiela and Conner Tidd, founders of Just Vertical, located in Toronto, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Just Vertical builds furniture that feeds you. We are a Canadian (Toronto based) company, that started out of the University of Toronto. Our line of indoor gardens are a fusion of the cutting edge science of vertical farming and mid-century modern design that allow anyone to grow their own food at home, all year long.
All their gardens come with built-in grow lights and watering systems so setting up is as easy as plugging in the system and putting in the provided plant pods (just like a Nespresso). Bringing fresh, nutritious sustainable food to your home, while eliminating food waste, being 95-99% more energy and water efficient. Our customers range from urban and suburban residential users, as well as schools, restaurants, offices and commercial/public buildings.
Tell us about yourself
Just Vertical was originally conceived over a lunch meeting between two Master of Science students at the University of Toronto, Conner Tidd and Kevin Jakiela. Conner was working in stakeholder management for Bayer CropScience when the deal to buy Monsanto was announced. Kevin had just come back from pioneering indoor growing research in the Canadian Arctic, as well as teaching indigenous youth in remote arctic communities, and saw firsthand how cutting-edge plant science and hardware could be used to grow in any environment.
This birthed the idea of Just Vertical: to provide vertical hydroponic growing systems that fit seamlessly into an urban living space. The team consists of a diverse background of expertise, experience, skills and perspectives to position the company for success. We primarily come from a plant science, engineering, manufacturing and business development background. This positions us well for making a product line that looks great and is productive at growing food in homes, all year round.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
One of our biggest accomplishments as business owners was for us to build a company that drives social and environmental impact, and stands for more than just making a profit. Just Vertical is an impact driven sustainability company. Our mission is derived from a triple bottom line approach, where the cornerstones of sustainability: economic benefit, social benefit and environmental benefit, are entrenched into daily decision-making habits and long-term planning goals.
This is a passion project where we can drive significant change in the world. At the end of the day, what we are most proud of us in the impact that we have managed to have already. If we didn’t sell another system or grow another plant, we are happy to say we have already saved over 2 million liters of water, grown over 10,000 pounds of fresh local food, and eliminated over 100 million miles of food transport. Together, we can build on these numbers and create the necessary impact for a growing world, with everchanging challenges.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things and biggest hurdles that comes with being a business owner is the fact there are always constant and new problems and challenges needing to be solved. No matter the stage or size of the business, there are new challenges that arise, and the ability to think quickly on your feet is a skill that is in constant development.
Getting familiar with the notion that "the work is never done", and it is up to you as a leader to get it done, as the onus is placed on your shoulders. We overcome these challenges by relying on guidance and advice from our mentors and advisers as well as hard work and "learning the ropes" of what is needed to achieve our end goals with our partners and team members. Utilizing our time more efficiently throughout the workday and prioritizing tasks with greatest importance really helped in achieving our goals.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
1. I would recommend to start a business with someone else. Doing this journey alone, with no support lines would make things even more difficult than they already are.
2. Address a problem and need for a solution first. Create a product or service that addresses that problem and build your business plan/case around that.
3. Make sure there is passion that fuels your internal fire to start this business. If you do not care and passionate about what you are doing/creating, why should anyone else be.
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.