Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Chef Quest Atkinson, founder of QUEST XO Chocolate, located in Toronto, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
QUEST XO is a chocolaterie based in Toronto. We've become kind of Infamous for our sassy chocolate (anyone see that toilet paper gift?!), sustainably sourced cocoa, award-winning flavours (umm hello Citrus Poppy Seed Bar), beautiful packaging (seems to be a common mention on Google reviews, and hand-written love notes.
We loooooove serving people in the GTA with unique chocolate experiences that encourage play and curiosity. Not to mention, we're pretty good at making people on the receiving end feel pretty darn special through the whole experience - from unboxing to post eats deep sighs.
Tell us about yourself
I'm Quest, the quirky personality and the proud founder of QUEST XO. There's deep thought and purpose behind everything we do for this business. And real talk - given my decades-long struggle with anxiety and depression, I started this small chocolate business with the hope of creating joyful moments for others. Let me explain...
Though I started this business before the pandemic hit, I was acutely aware that there were a lot of us struggling with mental health challenges, mostly silently. Then the pandemic hit, and honestly, who hasn't struggled in some capacity?!
Back in 2019, with my newly gained chocolatiering skills in hand, I purposed to start a small batch chocolate business that would intentionally be used as a platform to love on others. And best of all, I get to use chocolate as the vehicle to deliver the message. Pretty sweet, huh!
So it's worth saying, great time and care are put into each bespoke order, handcrafted in the truest sense and with the thought of you in mind. Every detail is accounted for to give you the best chocolate experience that is sure to make you feel special and valued.
It's all done with delightful affection. Why? Because I truly believe that you deserve to feel so, very loved! Not to mention, it gives me heaps of purpose too! :)
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Getting featured on Breakfast Television in our first year? That was cool, but nope. Winning a chocolate award? Also, a cool flex, but not a chance.
Experiencing incredible growth in spite of the pandemic? I'm not going to lie, it's been amazing, but this doesn't even hold a candle up to …..
We get to have a positive impact on people's lives on a daily basis. There are countless stories of people saying that they were "still smiling big" well after their chocolate was gobbled up. Or the guys who've reached out to say that they struggle [with mental health] too. And hands down, that frequent buyer who showed us a picture of her fridge sprawling with our love notes and told us that, "Every morning I wake up and look at this fridge to feel encouraged and inspired." The memory of that message is a tear-jerker EVERY TIME!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There is no shortage of challenges that entrepreneurs are up against. Like for example, our minds are always turning thinking about fixing this or the next thing - it's really hard to come by a true sense of rest.
Then there's the worry about whether you're able to continue pushing forward given the resources you have access to - honestly, this pandemic has been a mean beast.
In addition to all of this, my perfectionism, anxiety, and depression bring additional challenges to the table. In fact, I have to be careful when I think, play, plan, make, and all the things in between; otherwise, my mental health can quickly become the framework by which I operate my business from.
To put things in perspective, if I allow my mental health challenges to colour my day, I can easily get discouraged, down, worried, and my creativity gets exceeding stifled. It becomes counter-productive, and I start to work against myself rather than experiencing the joys of working for myself.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
EMBODY YOUR WHY. You might have heard it said before, but it's worth mentioning again, "People don't buy your product. They buy your story." Knowing your 'why' and ensuring your business is aligned with it is the best possible thing you can do for your business. It keeps you anchored and helps you to remain true to the people you're serving. **Tip: Read Simon Sinek's 'Start with Why.'
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH A TRIBE. Not long ago, I posted some encouragement to other entrepreneurs on social media. With a few years of entrepreneurship under my cape now, I've begun to realize that the advice for business owners is plenty, but rarely will people talk about what is really lasting. You can have no shortage of capital, skill, technology, creativity, equipment, human resources, but if you haven't surrounded yourself with a tribe, you won't last the distance. Your tribe is the person/people who believe in you, pull out the gold in you, call you out on your mistakes with love, and who cheer you on from behind regardless.
GIVE YOURSELF MARGIN. You know that space along the edge of a ruled sheet of paper? It's there for a reason. It allows room to think, reflect, breathe. If your mind and time are incessantly flooded by all sorts of thoughts and to-dos, then you sever the opportunity to be working from a place of peace and rest. And if thinking about it honestly, who would ever say no to the life that peace and rest offer? **Tip: This is a practice and will take some time to develop. Take a peek at 'Give Yourself Margin' by Stacie Bloomfield.
And #sorrynotsorry I have a 4th tip to offer
FIND YOUR ZONE OF GENIUS. I suppose you can consider this your happy place which will undoubtedly lead you to your niche. Your zone of genius (ZOG) is the cross-section between 1) what energizes you, 2) your innate talents, and 3) what you're skilled in. Research shows that if you can be working within your ZOG for 20% of your workweek, it'll energize your other work and give you some seriously inspired vibes. **Tip: Do research on a zone of genius/genius zone - there are some well-rated books on the topic as well. Also, give 'How To Ikigai' by Tim Tamashiro a read. I can almost guarantee that your eyes will be open in wonder the entire time.
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.
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.