Ep 9: Changes in consumer behaviour

15 November 2021

The Alberta School of Business recently spoke with Chris Lerohl, ‘12 MBA, and Heather Thomson about the current landscape of consumer behaviour in Canada, the rapid digitization of businesses and the rise of e-commerce, the global supply chain, the movement to shop local and insights into the world of entrepreneurship.




Chris Lerohl, ‘12 MBA, is the CEO and co-founder of Uproot Collective, a marketplace for emerging food brands, space for entrepreneurs to brainstorm and collaborate and a manufacturing facility for scaling up.

Heather Thomson is the executive director of the School of Retailing in the Alberta School of Business. This past year, the School of Retailing partnered with the City of Edmonton on Making Edmonton Digital, an initiative where bachelor of commerce students provided support for local entrepreneurs to shift their businesses online.


Brea ElfordDigital Communications Associate, Alberta School of Business

November 15th, 2021  38 minute listen

Podcast Episode Transcript

Brea Elford 00:10

Today I'm joined by Chris Lerohl and Heather Thompson. Chris is an MBA graduate and the CEO and co-founder at Root Collective, Heather is the Executive Director of the School of Retailing here at the university. So, thank you guys, both for joining me today. Feel free to jump in at any point during the conversation. 

But Heather, I thought we can start with you. There have been some changes to consumer behavior over the past 18 months driven in part by the current public health crisis and the economic downturn. Can you speak to the current consumer landscape in Canada, and perhaps what is driving our behaviour?

Heather 00:45

I think that, for the last two years since the pandemic started, the change that we saw was the change that was going to happen anyways. It was just happening a lot faster. And I think as a consumer, we've always had this luxury of choice. It wasn't this, we no longer were beholden to what was in our local community in terms of consuming goods or services. And so that was already shifting then when the pandemic happened. And we had to shift to consuming things online. It changed everything. 

Like a recent study I’d just heard said that before the pandemic, about 55% of Boomers were doing the majority of their shopping online. And now it's something like 83% of Boomers. So it's anyone born between 1946-1964 that is doing shopping online. So this is a fundamental shift in how we consume goods and services. I think the cool thing is that it's allowing for the really innovative retailers to do well. And as a consumer, this just benefits us. And I think there's a little bit of a misconception that, okay, we're all shopping online now, the physical brick and mortar is dying. That's really not the case. 

Brick and mortar is growing, it's doing well. I think when we saw the first wave of restrictions ease, and we saw the lineups at HomeSense and Chapters, it just goes to show that we're social creatures, we still like to get out and do some shopping, whether it's recreational or otherwise. So I think the biggest shift is that we have more choice as a consumer. And we were seeing the stale distribution-based retailers leave the market. And I actually don't think that that is necessarily a bad thing.

Brea Elford 02:38

Chris, do you have anything to add from your perspective?

Chris 02:42

Yeah, I agree. I think from our take, we just see it was an acceleration of e-commerce and, I know for our business, we had always intended to do one and put [an online store] in place. But it forced us kind of into that position to make ours right away and to really focus on it. 

And I don't think it's where their customers are just going to stop buying online. I think there's been some fundamental shifts and, with e-commerce, there's other aspects of the business or of the consumer marketplace that have come out that benefit consumers. So it's hard for that to all reverse.

Brea Elford 03:20

So with that being said Chris: Uproot. When you first came on the scene, it was a major disrupter in Edmonton. What has been the consumer appetite for your E-commerce platform like Uproot? As a marketplace for brands and entrepreneurs, can you speak to its growth since its launch? Where it's going?

Chris 03:38

Yeah, yeah, it's been phenomenal. And maybe just even stepping back a little bit for those who might not know Uproot. But really what we are is a platform to acquire and grow emerging brands–food brands. And so we have everything from the manufacturing, the production, the distribution, all of that kind of capability to now the direct-to-consumer side. 

And actually, before the pandemic hit, we were actually really focused on more of the wholesale side and getting into the existing retailers. And we had really invested all of our infrastructure and putting in food safety programs, and building capacity and all of that. And like I said, we had always had this idea for e-commerce. I think South Island pies, one of our brands, had a small kind of online piece to it. 

But when the pandemic actually hit retail, we were bringing in new products. And at that point in time, we had really invested heavily to, like, build that increasing infrastructure. And so we were burning money on a monthly basis. And it was life or death for us at that point to change or die. 

We had soft launched a little store, because we had always realized that there wasn't really this store that focused on kind of premium local, amazing products with like, founder stories and all of that. And so we were already going down that path. And then we were able to flip it online. And in about 24 hours, once the lockdown happened, it just blew up overnight. Like we were seeing it was the entrepreneur stream where you were going through like 100-150% growth week over week, kind of thing. 

And really we went from not having a direct to consumer channel to doing, I think this year, this trailing 12 months, is right around like 1.7 million. So the growth was explosive. And if you want validation for a marketplace for it, or is there a market for it, those numbers are it. And not just on the consumer side, but the vendor side as well. And so when we first started, when we soft launched our store back in January, before the pandemic, I think we had like two or three other brands in our store. And as soon as we flipped online, we started reaching out to all these other vendors. Obviously, having Honest Dumplings and South Island Pies and Natural Kitchen Delights, we were in the farmers markets in the scene. We knew a lot of food companies. So we started to reach out to them to get them in. Everybody at that time lost all their kind of like... farmers markets really declined in sales and shows were canceled. Everybody was really looking for a way to sell their goods. And we were reaching out and brought in maybe 30, 40 brands pretty quick in about a month or a month and a half. And now it's really shifted. And it's shifted to the point that now we have a lineup of 30 or 40 companies that come in to Uproot at any time. So there's absolutely both the need from the vendor side and the consumer side. 

And I think that, where I kind of mentioned earlier about the other benefits that come from this to consumers and both to vendors, is that the existing retail channel is kind of-- the way the infrastructure is set up, it's very difficult to bring in like seasonal flavors, limited editions that have fluidity and SKUs and all of that kind of stuff. And E-commerce allows that. So our customers really are able to get the best innovation, and the best of new products. And then we're able to take the risk on new things because you don't have to find a spot on a shelf for it, you can just put it in the back and sell it through the e-com. And it allows that greater flexibility, I think, for the vendor and for the e-com and then the consumers benefit from that as a result.

Brea Elford 07:45

And you also have a brick and mortar store frack downtown Edmonton.

Chris 07:50

Yeah, so we have kind of the omni channel solution. So at our current facility here you can do pickups or you can go shop as well. During the early days of the pandemic, we shut it down. We didn't make it available for consumers because we were like, that was right in the middle of like the lock downs kind of thing, in the early days. But now we have all of the risk mitigation kind of measures in place to have it open.

Brea Elford 08:11

So Heather, you're very familiar with helping businesses shift and pivot. Do you think that, like Chris was saying, there's a consumer desire that's driving the need for companies to create a digital presence?

Heather 8:26

It's not even a desire, it’s a necessity at this point. You can't really be in business without a digital presence. A couple years ago, I would have said, if you have phenomenal physical experience, you should be okay. And that's true to a certain point. But I would really recommend businesses, whether you are a dentist, a restaurants a bookstore, that you have one point of digital presence. Chris used the word omni channel, and I think that's just running business now. I wonder if in a couple years we’re going to use the term omni channel. It's just not binary anymore. 

And I think it's interesting to see that that is 100% consumer driven and businesses have to adapt to it. And if they're not prepared to adapt, they will go out of business. And so where we came up with Making Edmonton Digital- it was a partnership with the City of Edmonton. And we used a little bit of support from Digital Mainstreet. And so the students were tasked with helping businesses that signed up for this free program to build some sort of digital presence. And the intention was to help these businesses that are really good at what they do, whether they're a restaurant or cook, a baker, a lawyer, whatever they are- they're good at their craft. And we would build them some sort of digital presence. So website, e-commerce site, social media, an Etsy account, Pinterest account, whatever that looks like, on how best we could promote their business. I think the bottom line, and hopefully this doesn't sound too crass, was just for them to make more money. It came out of need. And that was kind of our response to the pandemic when businesses were shutting their doors down. And then we saw this really, really hit hard, in January, after another lockdown after the holidays. 

January is already a tough month for most retailers. And most businesses, in fact. And then we just saw a lot of businesses not not reopen their doors. So with our students, we're hoping to just provide more access points to the business so they can survive these different, I guess, variables that are being thrown at them. But I cannot stress this enough. If you have a business and you don't have a digital presence, even a Google profile, I don't think you're going to survive.

Brea Elford 10:47

Chris, maybe you can offer your perspective on this as well. What are some specific ways that businesses can capitalize? You mentioned a Google profile?

Chris 10:58

Yeah, I think I think for sure you have to have social media, you have to have Google, you have to have a basic website. Like all those things are part of it today in that customers are doing the research and wanting to know the story. I think you have to be able to communicate your story and your brand values and all that in today's world. Like you need that purpose piece. I think within the food industry it's particularly challenging because of the infrastructure that's often required. So it's hard, and this is where Uproot comes in. I guess it's hard for someone who, say, has a frozen product, to do a direct to consumer channel. Because you have that frozen product and then how do you ship it? And how do you deliver it? And how do you get it to the door? You can't just use regular mail or, if you're trying to, you're using dry ice and you're putting it in a box and it's costing you $30 to ship something. Just the cost of shipping is prohibitive in that way. 

So that's really what Uproot is trying to change. We're managing all that infrastructure and all that and we see ourselves evolving into this like Amazon-type platform where a company can then come to us similar to setting up on Etsy, you set up an Uproot and then you have the ability to grow your brand within our channel. And with that you get all that distribution you get all of those kind of pieces taken care of for you. Because I think the food industry in particular has that added difficulty and, even for us like we now have, like I think we can reach 85% of the population of Alberta, we hit everywhere from Grande Prairie to Medicine Hat. And all of that's done with like frozen vans. And if it was just selling dumplings or just pies or just the chocolate like it wouldn't work, just economically. And so I think there will... you have to have a digital presence, but I think we're gonna see more and more of these type of consolidation plays to help bring that leverage of the economies of scale together.

Brea Elford 13:00

So I mean, we've spoken about this already, but it really seems like there is a prioritization or a shift to local small products over these larger Superstore-type brands. Heather, is there any truth to that trend? Do you think that trend will continue as we move out of the pandemic?

Heather 13:24

Absolutely. I think that was the best silver lining of the pandemic is this focus on supporting local. And I think it's kind of like when there's like a big snowstorm, everybody gets together, we shovel out, and we have enthusiasm. But when you get the seventh snowstorm, that enthusiasm starts to wane a little bit. And I think we started to do that a little bit with “Shop Local”. But there was enough momentum, that I think people built some pretty cool habits about supporting their local economy. If not at least understanding the importance of keeping the money in your local community and how much stays in your local community versus supporting, especially like an American retailer or something like that. 

The other thing that we're seeing that's, I think, top of mind right now and forgive me, because I have just been talking about it, I feel like for three weeks, is the supply chain crunch. This will be really interesting, happy to get Chris's perspective on what's next for the supply chain. But this could create quite a bit of a pickle, not just for the holiday season, but well into 2022. And supporting local is going to be even more important. And now it's you know, it was always about, I think benefiting both consumer and business owner with the shop local now I think it's gonna really, really benefit the consumer. 

Because a couple things. One, they have a little bit more of an accurate inventory system because they can control more variables. It also won't be as expensive because they don't have to worry about all of the different costs associated with getting product from overseas to Canada. I have just heard that, you know, typically a shipping container will range anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 if you're a company. Some companies are paying $20,000 right now for a shipping container. And so we're seeing this perfect storm: we've got the economy restarting, we have a labor shortage, and we have these big companies paying lots of money and creating a run on products. 

So, they're hoarding. So you've got the big companies that can afford it are hoarding the products, whereas the small to medium sized businesses can't play ball. And I've heard some businesses will get their Christmas stock in February. They were promised they were going to get it now. Nope. They're essentially... their shipper has kind of tossed them overboard, excuse the pun, and said, ‘Well, someone is paying triple what you're paying me,’ and they just can't compete. And it's really unfortunate. 

The good news is that a lot of local retailers will actually have some inventory that they didn't move through over the last little while. So I think supporting your local economy is going to be very advantageous for the consumer. And I hope it stays. I think the nice thing is that we're learning ‘Oh, I didn't know that restaurant had that, I didn't know you guys did that, I didn't know you guys carry that’. And I think as consumers we are happy to pay that premium–if there is one, sometimes there isn't. Sometimes, especially right now, it might even be cheaper to support local. So I think this is... I really just hope that we're not even going to see this as a trend quote unquote anymore. I think it's going to be this is the normal, this is this is my default, because we're getting so good at figuring out what's in my backyard. How do I support them? And how do I just keep money in my economy?

Chris 16:46

Yeah, I would agree with all of that. And when you look at local food and the support for it... like we started the Farmers Market eight years ago and I've never seen as much support for local food as we are now. And, definitely, it ebbs and flows. I'm sure over time, and I think local isn't enough to be like your whole story and your whole brand and your whole future, you need to make sure that you are innovative. Unique. You have a strong value proposition. But with it, the local is a higher priority on the value stack than it's ever been. 

And we for sure see that on the supply chain side. It's really interesting because most of our stuff isn't affected for like our ingredients. And all of our vendors- we haven't had any issue with them running out of stock or shorting us or anything yet but we are seeing some price changes. Like where some vendors are having to come in a little bit higher- like meat for example. The price of meat has just gone up phenomenally over the last year and a half so that's affecting people's prices. But it's also really interesting for someone like us because we have Honest Dumplings and South Island Pies and Natural Kitchen Delights and we're in this really unique position right now from a supply chain and cost perspective. Like we still do get packaging from overseas, and then they're like, ‘Oh, they're sending out a notice and letting everybody know it's gonna go up 5%.’ It's like, okay, it's gonna go up 5%...how does that affect us? 

Well, we finally got to scale where we can do Rotogravure Printing, which is like mass printing, and you buy 16,500 units of it. And those cost 19 cents. When, a year ago, when we were buying packaging, we were doing digital print, and digital print costs, like 80 cents a bag. So we're actually kind of still better now than we were a year ago. And even if all of our prices go up, 10% or 15 or 20% over the next year, or two, or three, or whatever that looks like, we're probably still ahead of the game on our cost of goods. 

And so we're actually in this bit of a, I guess– a sneak peak, we're actually going to be coming out in a few weeks from now or in December, with some price adjustments on our Honest Dumplings, actually making it more affordable. And we've seen so much savings with our economies of scale, and our better supply chain today than when we were smaller, that we're actually going to pass that on to customers. And instead of this whole world where everything's going up in cost, we're actually able to start driving some economies of scale and lower our price.

Heather 19:29

See, support local.

Brea 19:35

And it's delicious.

Heather 19:35

And I think, Chris, I think you're hitting on something that's so important that I kind of I've got some flack for saying this before. But a bit of an issue with the “Shop Local” campaign, when it comes from a place of negging the consumer like, ‘you have a responsibility to shop local’. And it kind of gave the business owner a little bit of a pass to be innovative. If you can't berate people to shop local, you can't, youneed to give them a reason to shop local. And I think you just hit the nail on the head. It's like, ‘Hey, I could be in New Zealand. It doesn't matter. My stuff is so good’. It's just like it's a huge benefit. And like win-win that I am in your own backyard, because, like Brea said, it's delicious.

Chris 20:15

So yeah, and you know what, on that front, it's like I've always...because obviously I'm in the local food scene, and our business has been able to put a million dollars back into companies since Covid started and all of that. And so obviously, I care about this, but just as at a consumer level, even like me personally, it's like I love supporting local. But I wouldn't buy an inferior product just because it's local. 

It has to be comparable or better. And I think that as much as you have this conversation around like local becoming more prominent, consumers aren't going to buy worse products that are local, they’ve got to be comparable or better. And I think that's where, and if you look at Honest Dumplings, and you look at its branding, and its packaging, and the story or even Uproot, we rarely ever mentioned local, and we don't want to be pegged as we play the local card. But it's like- we think what we're doing is valuable enough and has enough innovation, that it doesn't have to just ride on that local train, we can ride on our innovation, we can ride on our quality of product, and then add in the stack the local card.

Heather 21:25

I love it. I think that's a really, really great point. And I think even... you’re giving me a lot to think about right now. Because I actually am wondering about that local element. And in a way you never want to pigeonhole yourself. You don't want to be special just for this market. Because that is cool for this market, and as a Canadian, probably to a certain point. But you're right. I think that it could be limiting if that's the big thing. 

Chris 21:51

When I look at consumers and like part of the story that we're telling now, too, it's like, we love them. It's like we got a product from Calgary or from Vancouver, or from Toronto, and we're adding more from like across Canada all the time. But it's like the little local hidden gem of Calgary that all the Calgary people know and love and they're all excited. Or there's this hidden gem in Edmonton that we all know, like Lingnan like they have their dry spicy chicken like we got them to work. We worked with them to productize it and put it in Uproot. And it's like, that's an amazing product that can hold its own anywhere, but nobody knew about it other than people in Edmonton, it was in that local area. 

So it's like now we are working to bring that amazing product well beyond Edmonton so that the hidden gem in Edmonton can make it into Calgary and vice versa. So it's about taking those exceptional products. And everything in Uproot, like we try and we hold a high standard because we don't want local that isn't that standard and that's our brand and and our customers. Like when the customer doesn't like something like we refund it. And it costs us money. And so if you've got an inferior local product, we don't want it.

Heather 23:04

I completely couldn't, couldn't say it better myself.

Brea Elford 23:09

What about convenience? Yes, when we buy products locally, it has to be just as good if not better, but I also think it has to be convenient for consumers to shop these products. And I think you're doing that, Chris with your e-commerce platform. Can you speak to maybe that aspect?

Chris 23:29

Yeah, yeah. And that's where like another another piece of this where it's like ‘oh, consumers aren't gonna go back,’ is that– if you put it in the right order at Uproot, like, literally, if you went into, I'm going to get these probably 10 or 15 items, you might have had to go to like six farmers markets, three different grocery stores, and then maybe direct to a couple stores to get those products. And so by us bringing that together and consolidating, it's convenient to support local, it's convenient and easy to do it. And you can click through the buttons, you can do a pickup or you can get it delivered. And convenience is, in terms of delivery, is relative like we're in Edmonton right now you get your order, probably within one or two days. in Calgary, you get it every Thursday, Friday, as we get more volume, then we want it to be even more convenient, say in Calgary, but somewhere like Grande Prairie, like they get a delivery once a month. And so, to people in Calgary, who don't even have access to it, it's convenient to get it once a month. 

And I think the way we structure the model isn't the same level of service or convenience across the board for everyone. But in terms of like, product and offering as well, like some of our products, it's like, oh, it's convenient- microwave. And that's all you do. And it's easy. Others are more like a kit, then you’ve got to make it and do it. And, and and obviously, you get different kind of segments in different customers wanting different kinds of things from the products that we carry, or different experiences.

Brea Elford 24:55

So, something that I wanted to touch on, before we wrap up here that I thought was super interesting is that I read, Chris, that you have a new partnership with the Edmonton Airport to create a space that will allow to kind of scale up production with some of these small scale food entrepreneurs. Can you speak to this initiative? And maybe what does something like this mean for the food industry?

Chris 25:20

Yeah, I think if we can, if we can carry out our vision, I think we see the full kind of transformation or disrupting this whole way food companies commercialize. And right now the way it works is like all kinds of tech companies or anything, there's this valley of death. And you probably start in the farmers market, in the food industry, you make some money, it's probably the only time you're making money. As soon as you get into retail, you’ve got facility equipment, staff marketing budget, and you start losing money. And then you need a food safety program. And then you’ve got to do listing fees to get in the grocers, and you get a distributor, you give it more margin, all these kinds of things. And all of this in the food industry: you're really small, or you're the unicorn success story, or you're like the 89% of food comfort food products that fail. And that's the reality of the industry. And so what we said is, is there an alternative way to do this, can we have those systems, processes, capability to be able to take emerging brands with a great founder story and premium quality product, and then help it scale and grow and commercialize it. And so Uproot Foodstore is really our front seat at the door to say, Hey, look at all these amazing products, let's find the winners, the best ones, the ones that consumers love and want. And then we can then work further with them. And ideally, our goal, we are looking to build the next kind of Nestle or Kraft type food conglomerate down the road. And to do that you need this house of brands, this house of products, but we want to do it with and while maintaining the quality and authentic stories and the purpose of all of these brands. Further to that is, we now have the ability and with this facility at EIA and its CFI capabilities, we’ll be able to take what's happening locally here and locally elsewhere, and then rapidly scale it nationally. 

And so all of that whether it's a pure acquisition, or it's co-packing or other services that we can offer. All of that will vary to, I guess, on the company and the opportunity. But I think we have this ability... what we're creating is this new way so that consumers will ultimately benefit with greater variety, better food safety, better quality, more innovation. And we're trying to take how do you get that Lingnan that now we got to Alberta, how do we take that nationally? And that's what we want to do and that's what really this next facility is about.

Brea Elford 27:55

So I guess, lastly, I mean, it's nearly impossible to predict the future... but what consumer trends do we think will continue as we kind of move out of this pandemic? Using the word trend lately. Heather?

Heather 28:10

Digital. I want it, you know, this. I think Chris has also said something that's really quite interesting about this, like convenience. And I, that word is a bit of a tricky one. But I don't know if that's a trend. But as consumers, I think, I think we've become quite the picky pair. Like we, we are a bit spoiled now. And I, you know, as a consumer, it's great, because the market has to respond to this if they want to remain competitive and in business. And so I think as a consumer, we want it to be convenient. We want it to be special, we want it to be personalized, we want everything, we want it to look good. 

And I think Chris is actually... digital platforms are a really good example of this. Because it looks really good. It's super simple, it's quick, it's effective. And I expect no less, as a consumer. Like this should be it, otherwise, I'm going to exit out and go somewhere else. And so in terms of what's next, I think it's a tall order for businesses to remain competitive. But I think that there's a lot of money to be made. And I think that, as a consumer, we're just going to benefit from that. And it's good, I am so excited to see what's gonna take place in the next three to five years and beyond. 

I noticed a lot of doom and gloom. And business- it's been hard hit by the pandemic, and it certainly has. But I do think from this, we are gonna start to see some cool innovation that we haven't even seen yet. And especially as we get into AI and data, and as we move into the technology that–especially in Canada or even North America–we just can't appreciate what's coming at us. All we have to do is look at China and what they're up to. And it's like overwhelming, it's exciting. It's kind of scary. All the things that they're working on, to make us spend our money even more effectively. So I think it's an exciting time. And I think that's what we can look forward to is just more convenience, better products, and just 

having a better selection. Wherever you want to spend our money. 

Chris 30:32

I love that. And I think the pickiness piece is something that really resonates with me, because I think it's, it's rather than from us, like, looking at us as consumers being picky. It's like, which is one and the same. But it's that specialization or that design for them. And I think when we look at say, like Netflix, and how that changes the movie industry, and that they can go down a hyper localized segment and produce content, because they're big enough. And they have this platform that they can develop content for one specific group within their audience, that that audience gets a better experience. It gets a product that's custom tailored for them. That's where we see things going. 

And that's where Uproot is is really trying to drive is, is taking the data, taking the analytics, looking at our consumers, what do they want, predicting that, making limited edition runs or making things, products that are specifically tailored to those specializations. And so you don't have to, we don't have to make something, the way the grocery industry is designed, where you commoditize it, you make it for everyone, you take out all the flavor you do whatever you have to do to to get the price point down, everybody will buy it. Yeah, don't have to do that. We could make a perfect product for a specific segment, and then target them and make profit on that. And the consumer ultimately wins out because they're getting a better experience.

Heather 31:56

Oh my gosh, okay, great. Do we have time for it? Because yeah, I can make a bumper sticker or tattoo it would be “do not be everything for everyone”. It's a race to the bottom. And when when you build your model on that it's not going to work, right? Like, you're not Tylenol, and you can't be everything to everyone. I think you hit the nail on the head, you're gonna have a better product because you're allowed to be more specialized. And that specialized product, even though you started off with like a certain idea of who your consumer would be, it expands and it's a domino effect. And I can't stress that enough like you cannot be everything to everyone. I guess there's the thesis of the podcast!

Brea Elford 32:45

Yeah, that's anything. I mean, we can carry on as long as you guys want, but is there anything else that you want to discuss or bring up?

Chris 32:51

Yeah, I guess I'm just excited about the future. I think there's just so much opportunity and I think what the fast tracking to digitization into e-commerce is, is really going to change the game in the way. Like I think consumers will benefit by better products and more tailored and, like, I'm excited by it all. And I think our opportunity is massive as we scale and grow and it's all thanks to to customers supporting us this entire time. And for us we were able to take our Honest Dumplings following and drive them in Uproot, and then expose them to this other world of all these amazing products. And I think we, as much as our consumers, are jazzed and excited about the future. And like we, all of us here, like we get to try the products before anybody else does. And I can tell you, it's exciting times and I think food innovation, there's no shortage of it. And it's just a matter of, how do we connect it and scale it and make it more accessible and convenient for customers to get.

Heather 34:01

Yeah. I think, you know what’s interesting is that, as you're saying this, I think it'd be a cool–not to like you're busy and not to make work, but take it or leave it–but I think it'd be actually quite cool to hear, or even see like, top five failures from Chris because I think it's an important dialogue around how you have tried something and you just fail faster. Because, I think what we're seeing as a consumer is like, ‘Wow, look how successful it is. Your site's good. It's quick. You're doing it’. What we’re not seeing is...I think, and I'm not an entrepreneur in that way, and I think that's something that people just don't completely appreciate just how your day is not a nine to five. Right? Like, at every–especially, oh my gosh, especially over the last year and a half, two years–you're like ‘hey, I'm doing this’ and everyone in the world and the government is like ‘no, you're not’. 

Chris 35:04

Yeah, like we definitely got some scars over the last year and a half. And like even just from when we first launched the e-com when the lockdown first happened, like there were still flus right? Like normal flus and colds. And like we were, like, just the amount of staff we had. And it was interesting, because everybody, like everybody, including ourselves, like you have this anxiety of society and what's happening and all this. And then my business is just exploding. And I'm like, ‘Well, this is amazing!’ You're just in this dichotomy. And then and then I'm, and I have a couple young kids and I'm working like 13, 14, 15, 16 hour days, because I don't have any staff. Because...everybody's working from home because they're sick, or they're not working from home because we're manufacturer. They're just not here. So we're worried about stocking out a product and we're like, I'm packing orders, fulfilling orders. We don't have any systems, any processes. We're on the wrong e-commerce platform. And we ended up having to flip it all like six months in and the difficulties of that. Yeah, there's just a million things to eat. Even managing cash flow with this kind of growth, like, like we've been lucky. All of our vendors in the community that we're in have been very supportive. But like, we have had late payments and that's happened. We're finally, really only in the last six months, are we actually profitable for the first time. So there's the stress and anxiety in the story... there's a billion I don't know if I could find only six.

Heather 36:41

To name a few! But I think that is the actual other podcast because I think that I appreciate your honesty, because this is what people need to hear, especially even like our students, right? Like, this is a really cool, honest insight into the world of an entrepreneur. And yeah, I think, to piggyback, I would agree with Chris. I'm excited for the future. I've already said that. And so I think it's going to be fun. And I'm in like a quick little plug is that our students are not done when helping businesses get a digital platform. So stay tuned for more on that. Some exciting updates coming to help more local businesses.

Chris 37:28

Yeah, and if you guys are doing something like that too, like we would love to give you any input from our experience over the last year and a half too. And to share like some of the apps and the tools and stuff that we use. Like we're now on the Shopify platform and we know it inside and out and which apps and that kind of thing. Would be more than happy to share kind of our best practices with your students and the companies you're working with for sure.

Heather 37:58

For sure. I'll be taking you up on that. So I appreciate it.

Brea Elford 38:02

I love it, you guys. Thank you. Thank you so much. So if there's nothing else. I mean, like I said, you guys are really vibing. We could probably talk for a lot longer. I'm conscious of the time, so we will wrap it up here. So thank you both for speaking and enjoy the weekend.

Chris 38:19

Yeah. Thanks so much for having us!

Heather 38:21

Yes, thank you so much. 

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