Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with RJ Taylor, owner of Springhills Fish, located in Hanover, ON, Canada.

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

Springhills is a second-generation fish farming business in Ontario.
We raise rainbow trout, coho salmon, and Arctic char at several farms in Grey County. We hatch the majority of juvenile trout (called fingerlings!) that other Ontario farms grow out. And we also process our own fish and deliver it directly to over 1,500 homes a month across the province!

At our small-scale farms, we focus on ethical and humane growing methods with our fish. That means they get plenty of freshwaters, low densities, enrichment activities, and sustainable diets. We're the only land-based farms in Ontario eco-certified by Best Aquaculture Practices, which ensures we operate with the fish, environment, and community in mind!

Tell us about yourself

My sister Arlen and I both left the family farm when we turned 18 years old and swore we would never be fish farmers. She went to do international development in Angola and Iraq. I led science outreach initiatives for several large research centers in the city. As the family business grew to include a few more farms and customers, there started to be room for her to bring her expertise in operations and animal health expertise and my background in communication, sales, and finance. Since coming back five years ago, I haven't regretted it for a second. Farmers are some of the most progressive and eco-focused people I know!

Both Arlen and I just want to keep growing the business and have fun along the way. Arlen's motivated by the animals and fish health, her husband Mike by building and tinkering, and me by getting to grow and talk about sustainable food. We have an incredible team of 24 staff, many of which are married or related, that work hard and play hard with us!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

When the pandemic started, we were worried that we'd lose the farm because of how disrupted the seafood industry was. In those first months of lockdown, our team came together and started cutting trout and delivering it to our neighbors. Two years later, we have a whole new processing plant; we've diversified with new types of fish, started partnerships with other farmers and fishers, and now deliver to more than 1,500 homes and stores a month across the province and growing.

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

The ultimate autonomy to make all your own decisions is both a blessing and a curse. When you're trying to climb the corporate ladder, the path ahead is a lot more established, and it's easier to find mentors to guide the way. As a business owner, there is no path, and you have to figure it all out for yourself. Mentors who truly understand your situation are few, and there's nobody to give you a gold star. Not only that, you have dozens of families relying on you to make the right decisions. You really have to cultivate the ability to listen to your gut and not get buried in all the conflicting advice that so many people have. Be ready to take opportunities when they come, be prepared to work hard, and trust your team.

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

  1. Don't be afraid of being totally transparent with your team about everything that's going on. That transparency is part of our secret sauce at Springhills, and I don't think we'd be half as successful without it!
  2. Work hard, but set boundaries. If you don't make any time to daydream (what we call "shower thoughts" around here!), you're never going to be one step ahead of the competition.
  3. Have fun. If you're not having fun with your job, customers, vendors, and staff... what's the point?

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; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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