Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Martina Ondrasekova, co-owner of Smartbite Snacks, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Our business is called Smartbite Snacks. When I say our, I mean my parents and me. Our tiny but mighty fam team is passionate about making snacks that not only taste good but are also good for you. We make our products from just a handful of high-quality and whole food ingredients that are easy to pronounce and are readily available in your own kitchen cupboard.
Speaking of good, Smartbite Snacks was built on the premise of using our own business for good as an engine of change. We’ve been supporting Canadian food banks such as the Greater Vancouver Food Bank or the Foodbank of Waterloo Region since our early days until now. We also care about our second mama, mama Nature. That’s why in 2020, we partnered with another Canadian company TreeEra and together with other CommuniTree members. We are on a mission to plant one billion trees.
And who are our customers? A 6-year-old who snacks on her Smartbite crackers during lunchtime, an 18-year-old who is doing his meal prep for the upcoming week, a busy mom who needs a quick little something to get that energy boost, or a 75-year-old who eats his Smartbite crispbreads as bread replacement. Our customer base is very diverse, and I absolutely love it.
Tell us about yourself
I always liked to get my hands dirty and never sat still. If I missed a certain thing, be it a pastry I used to buy back home in Europe or a missing part in my vintage camera I just thrifted, I tried to make it or obtain it myself. Proactivity was always my forte. I must have gotten it from my parents. Upon immigrating to Canada in 2006, our family was not able to find natural thin style rice crackers we used to snack on back home. So, we decided to make them. It hasn’t been easy, and there were so many setbacks. There was one short period where we almost gave up on our business. When things get extra hard, we lean on each other, and we remind ourselves why we do what we do. Our reminder are our customers. I have a Google doc packed with customers’ positive comments, and we revisit it each time we need extra motivation. Some of our customers have been with us for years. They are a family at this point and also our biggest cheerleaders.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There are quite a few, such as making it nationally to grocery chains such as Whole Foods or winning a National Nutrition Bronze Award as Best New Company. But for me personally one of our biggest accomplishments was to be here for our customers in the moments of need. Asking for help can be beyond difficult, and I am so thankful our family business not only survived the pandemic but was also able to give away products to families who lost one or both income sources.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
It can get pretty isolating and lonely. Entrepreneurship is often glamorized, but there are long hours, 7-day work weeks, and last-minute surprises boosted with a heavy dose of stress and uncertainty. Your business becomes your life. The majority of your friends do not understand your struggles, and sometimes you question why you chose the road less traveled. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to find or create your community of like-minded biz owners who can relate and can cheer you on.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Tip 1: Things don't have to be perfect before you start. Getting something basic out there—even something you think is ugly—is more important than waiting to perfect it. Don't think you have to get it right the first time. Nobody does. We certainly did not. Be comfortable putting something half-assed out into the world to see how people respond to it. The point is that you want to launch something that others really want, not just what you think is a brilliant idea.
Tip 2: Patience is the key. Success doesn't happen overnight. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but very few people have the patience, grit, and stamina to make it a reality.
Tip 3: Get used to falling down because, a SPOILER ALERT, you will fall down A LOT. I don't like to use the word "failure" because, to me, it feels so bleak and final. I look at all setbacks as falling down. When something doesn't go the way you planned, it's falling down. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and you try again. YOU GOT THIS!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Life is short. If you were waiting for a sign, here it comes. If you are still sitting on that business idea you’ve been contemplating for the past year or two, if you always wanted to try bouldering/snowboarding/you name it but are scared to try if you are dying to tell your best friend that you love them, do not overthink it and go for it NOW. But also remember to care to the point of cost, whether it’s in business or in your relationships. The moment something gets to a point where it costs you your peace, your happiness, your dignity, your self-esteem, and your sanity, it’s okay to declare bankruptcy. No one has the emotional currency for that.
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.