Food for thought: How my co-op at a local eatery led to multimillion-dollar success

By Katherine Murphy, General Manager, Nourish Kitchen & Café,  BCom ‘13

Katherine Murphy (left) and Hayley Rosenberg with a signature dish, “CultivateSharing,” made up of local harvest produce, cultured cashew cheese, beet pâté, herb pesto, buckwheat seed bread and house crackers. Delicious! 

Katherine Murphy (left) and Hayley Rosenberg with a signature dish, “CultivateSharing,” made up of local harvest produce, cultured cashew cheese, beet pâté, herb pesto, buckwheat seed bread and house crackers. Delicious! 

When I was first looking for my original co-op job before entering the BCom program at the University of Victoria, I was searching for a restaurant placement, with the idea of finding a business that was small and still in the start-up phase. My secret vision was to help grow the business as well as become involved in the creation of food culture in Victoria. Food has always been the cornerstone of my family and the main way we created connections, taught values and fostered a family environment.

 During that time, by sheer serendipity I met Hayley Rosenberg, the owner of Nourish. Nourish was located at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific in Saanich, had seven tables, casual counter service and a four-burner electric range.  It had been open eight months. With values that echoed my own, Nourish was involved in the local community, harvested some of the vegetables grown on site at the garden centre and was very much in the start-up phase. It was a perfect fit!

Launched with no capital investment, growing Nourish as a business has taken creativity, problem solving and a huge amount of determination every step of the way. From day one I was invited to be part of that growth. My first eight months were intensive and full time.

I began my first semester at Gustavson after those eight months and I remember looking around my class and wondering if anyone else knew just how relevant the course content was. I know for a fact that without my prior involvement in Nourish I would not have taken nearly as much value from my courses. 

Over the winter break, Hayley and I spent each day working our way through the marketing plan, a class assignment I had been given by Professor David Boag. We literally wrote the first official draft of the business plan based on that outline. The business plan allowed us to formulate our vision enough to re-open the following spring with the concept for the restaurant that Nourish has now become.

We now have two bustling locations, one in downtown Victoria and one still situated at the Horticulture Centre in Saanich. The Garden restaurant still has a four-burner stove, but has grown to 50 seats, offers full service,  and regularly sees 150 guests for Sunday brunch. Our inner harbour location sits in a beautiful three-story heritage home where we hope to host workshops and conferences, as well as fill our open and airy dining room with happy people. We have 35 employees between the two locations and I have been fortunate enough to grow with this ever-changing and exceptional business. (If you haven’t heard of us, visit Nourish visit  to get a sense of just how far we’ve come.)

At 25, I find myself the general manager of a multimillion-dollar small local business. Throughout my time at Gustavson, the single most valuable part of my education was the hands-on experience that I gained through my co-ops. There is no doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to be a part of this business from the beginning I would be in a very different stage of life now. 

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria.    Photo Credit: UVic Photo Services.