Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rebecca Wolfe, Co-Founder of Mandy's Salads, located in Montreal, QC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Mandy's is a gourmet salad restaurant with 9 locations in Montreal and Toronto. Our mission is to serve incredible, fresh, quality salads in a vibrant space where people feel welcome as if they were eating at a friend's house.
When we're in locations, we see so many familiar faces, people who have been eating at Mandy's since the very beginning. And we love seeing so many new faces. I'll never forget when we opened our Crescent location, and we realized men also love salads! When you have a salad restaurant in the back of a women's clothing store, you don't get a lot of men coming in. So when we finally had our own space, we saw a whole new demographic of people coming into the restaurant, which was so great to see.
Tell us about yourself
I was living in New York in the late 90s, and there were salad bars on every corner, and I was eating them every night with my friends. After the semester, I moved back to Montreal, and I missed being able to eat something healthy for lunch and dinner; we just had nothing like it! My boyfriend at the time (now husband) had a clothing shop in Westmount, and it had a space in the back where he wanted to serve paninis and Italian coffee. I convinced him that we should open a salad cafe back there, similar to what I had seen in New York, that Mandy would create a delicious menu for it, and that we'd run it together. Shockingly, he agreed. I then had to convince Mandy to quit her teaching job and embark on this crazy salad journey with me.
At the end of 2013, our lease was up at the clothing store. We felt like it was time to get our own space, so with a loan from our mother, we bought our first street-facing location a block away from the store. The day we opened, we had our brother sit at our old location and redirect customers to the new one. And within 48 hours of opening the doors, there were line-ups outside! It was within a week, and we were just like, 'Oh my god, it worked.' It's almost two decades after we opened in the back of Mimi & Coco and I still pinch myself at what Mandy and I have built together. I think what still motivates me each day is getting to wake up and continue doing what we love and that we get to do it together.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There have been a lot of accomplishments over the years, and we have our salad dressings sold in grocery stores across Canada, opened multiple locations in Montreal and Toronto, and put out two best-selling cookbooks. But I'd say one of our biggest accomplishments has been building a successful business, which in return has allowed us to give back to our community, offer people healthy & filling food options, and hopefully encourage and inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner, I think, is managing people. And not only managing people but also hiring the right people who you trust and who have the same values as you do. And making sure that those values are translated to over 450 employees. When we interview people that we want to have to join our team, we try to look for energy to see whether they're good people; that's the most important thing. Everything else is trainable.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- There's never a right time to start something. You can always find a million reasons not to do something, but if you believe in it, then just do it. And if you fail along the way, you'll learn something from it so you're never really failing.
- If you have a small group of people who love what you're doing, chances are you're doing something right! So just keep at it.
- Be patient! It can take a long time to create success. So be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, and believe in what you're doing, and it'll happen.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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