What tactics are mothers using to make their kids eat vegetables these days? Well, for the rising tide of mom entrepreneurs, they’re creating businesses that hide vegetables in gluten-free cookies. Now that is a an authentic Vancouver entrepreneur.
Who are you? Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
My name is Catherine Anderson and I own two small food manufacturing businesses. We make gluten free cookies that have hidden vegetables in them under our Hidden Garden Foods brand. We also make a variety of gourmet condiments, dressings and specialty foods under our Trugs Gourmet brand.
I started Hidden Garden after having my two daughters and realizing how hard is it to get some kids to eat vegetables. I thought that if I could develop a product that tasted good, was a convenient snack and packed some sneaky vegetables as a bonus then that would be really appealing to people. I took over Trugs Gourmet around the same time as a way to gain a foot hold in the food business and provide a platform to launch Hidden Garden.
How do you balance running two companies and two kids? Any advice you’d give to other moms looking to take the entrepreneurial plunge?
I would say go for it! In many ways work-life balance has been easier to achieve since starting my business because I control my time. That’s incredibly valuable and I think one of the main reasons you see so many women launching businesses these days.
How has Vancouver’s rising start-up community played a role in the development of Hidden Garden Foods?
I’ve been lucky to get a lot of advice from other more established entrepreneurs which has been really helpful. There are also a number of organizations out there that support small businesses and have helped me to navigate the steep learning curve that I faced, such as Small Business BC and the BC Food Processors Association.
What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
People don’t eat enough vegetables, so we sneak them into cookies that taste really good.
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
I always wanted to run my own business, it just took me a while to have enough guts to try and do it. I had a well-paying job as a corporate lawyer, which was hard to leave without any assurance the business would be successful.
What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
I’m going to cheat in answering this question and say that I find every entrepreneur inspirational. It takes a special person to put everything on the line to try and build something meaningful that will create jobs and economic benefits for the community.
What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
Tamara Taggart at CTV News. Our best customers are busy parents, just like Tamara. I bet that if Tamara liked our cookies and was willing to help spread the word about them, it would be enough to persuade many others in the city to try them as well.
If you could tell your younger self something what would it be?
I think most of us deep down know the career path that we were meant to follow. Every minute that I’ve spent building my business has been fun for me and hasn’t felt even remotely like work. I just wish I had started down this path sooner.
What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
The most valuable resource is other people who have already succeeded at what you’re trying to do or who are part of the industry that you’re trying to break into. So many people have shared their time with me and gems of advice that have impacted the foundation that I’ve laid for my business and I’m really grateful for that.
What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Make sure you have access to enough capital to launch your business. So many people give up early on because they don’t have the resources to support the business until it becomes cash flow positive. Unfortunately for me, food manufacturing is an overhead intensive business, which is a real killer in the early years when you’re building a brand from the ground up. If you can set up your business in a way that costs are more variable than fixed, you’ll have a better chance at succeeding over the long term.
*End of interview*
Catherine is doing some really great things and it’s wonderful to see how looking our for her kids inspired Hidden Garden Foods. The last month I have taken some time to scope out some new types of people in new industries and this was a perfect one to kick it off with! I’ll admit I have also been quite busy starting to launch a startup child of my own, Tangoo. Glad to be back, let’s get things rolling again.
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.