Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mark McGuire, Owner of McGuire Chocolate Company, located in Saint Andrews, NB, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We are bean-to-bear chocolate makers crafting world-class chocolate using simple ingredients. Our customers value quality food with clean ingredients. We have a cafe storefront where we make ice cream, baked goods, espresso, and chocolate drinks. We sell our chocolate online through our website, and the bars are also wholesale at about 40 stores scattered around North America.

Tell us about yourself

We are a family business with three generations all working together to build something special that we are all proud of. We started the business to earn a living doing something we're passionate about with people we love. Chocolate is a special food. We don't often think about where cacao comes from or that it is the seed of a fruit. So much effort and care goes into growing, harvesting, fermenting, transporting, storing, roasting, grinding, and tempering. When you taste a chocolate bar made of cacao and cane sugar, yet there are notes of orange or macadamia nut or raisin, you can feel the balance of a simple ingredient list with methodical preparation.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

We could say scaling our factory and making the leap to full-time chocolate makers, winning our first international gold medal for a chocolate bar, or providing full-time employment for professionals in their field. While we're proud of all those things, engaging with our children's development and exposing them to an open environment of curiosity and learning - this is not exactly a business accomplishment but something the business helps facilitate. Plus, all our biggest accomplishments are yet to come, so we try to focus on improving how we do things and growing the business.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Attracting and retaining the right personnel to represent and grow your business. At first, you do everything, and figuring out what to let go of while maintaining consistency in the important areas is a tricky thing. Reconciling what resourcing options are available with the organization's needs often results in massive gaps that ultimately the owners have to fill. For us, this has meant that our business priorities often have to take a back seat to our operational needs because there isn't enough staff in the bakery or cafe. In the summer, it is typical to work over 100 hours/week each, with less than 1 of those hours being in front of a computer.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Take all of your pricing very seriously and ensure all of your labour is included at the rate you would need to pay someone to do your job. Simply copying your competitor's pricing is not sufficient. Know your costs and cost drivers so you can prioritize and understand when feasibility is in question. You can spend a long time slowly depleting cash flow while committing effort to low-margin areas that seem more profitable than they are.
  2. Think about scalability at every step of the way. You can't be everything to everyone. Identify who you are and who your ideal customers are, and stay true to those foundations.
  3. Validate your market and your product/service before making big commitments. Once you're confident in those two things - commit wholeheartedly.

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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