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

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     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.

Healing Waters

by Carol Crenna

Chelsea Kanstrup (BCom ’12) is in for the long haul. Three years ago, Kanstrup started with the privately -funded charity Mercy Ships as a cooperative student. After graduating, her dedication and passion were recognised and she was hired as director of Donor Relations.  

In fact, working in non-profit management was one of her goals when choosing UVic’s BCom program. Business Class caught up with Kanstrup to find out about Mercy Ships and why she decided to embark on the voyage.

What Does This Organization Do?

Mercy Ships is a privately-funded charity that sends hospital ships with medical teams to impoverished countries to provide free medical care, physician training, and community support. It has 16 global offices including Mercy Ships Canada, based in Victoria. Its Africa Mercy is the world’s largest charity hospital ship, staffed by 1,600 volunteers from around the world.  

How Has It Made a Difference?

In existence for 35 years, Mercy Ships has treated 572,000 patients in 54 countries, conducted 67,000 surgeries, delivered services to over 2.42 million, valued at over $1 billion. It serves people free-of-charge without regard for race or religion.

Why Was It Launched?

Mercy Ships was started by an American Christian group to serve the estimated one billion people who lack basic healthcare, particularly in Africa, where 50 percent of the population has no access to a doctor. The organization deemed that a ship is the most efficient platform to deliver a state-of-the-art hospital because 75 per cent of the world’s population lives within 150 kilometres of a port city.

What Results Have You Seen?

When in Congo, I saw a blind mother being led by her young daughter to the ship to have cataract surgery. After surgery, she regained her sight, which resulted in her daughter attending school, no longer having to care for her mother, and her mother getting a job to support the family and become a better community member.

I witnessed one-on-one training. In Congo, a doctor from Togo came for cataract surgery training. Before the instruction, it took him 20 minutes to do each surgery; he performed 400 surgeries per year (in 2010). After training, he could complete the procedure in 10 minutes, and this year he performed 2,000 cataract surgeries. He now voluntarily teaches other surgeons.

What Are You Working On?

My third-party fundraising work includes bake sales, discount coupon books, and collaborating with restaurants that donate money from a menu item purchased — small outlets that have added up to substantial funding over time. We also organize campus networks at 11 universities across Canada with hundreds of student volunteers.

Africa Mercy is heading to Cotonou, Benin, where volunteers plan to do over 2,300 surgeries, treat 18,000 at dental and eye clinics, and train 160 Beninois healthcare professionals.

Why Is Philanthropy Important?

It was instilled in me not to take for granted that I was born a woman within a supportive family within a supportive community within a supportive country. It’s not just right to be philanthropic and help others; it makes you feel good.

What appeals to you about working for Mercy Ships?

I love Mercy Ship’s mission; helping so many individuals in need through surgeries is amazing, yet educating individuals increases the capacity of our efforts, and works to stop the need itself. 

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

The Meal Deal: A new social enterprise is providing innovative hunger relief

by Carol Crenna 

Taking their parents’ dictum “Don’t waste food on your plate; there is someone less fortunate” to heart, Derek Juno (BCom ’11), Jeremy Bryant and Andrew Hall (BCom ’11) left their lucrative jobs to launch Mealshare, a social enterprise that partners with restaurants to help feed the homeless.

“At age 24, we considered whether we wanted to continue our current careers for the next 20 years or try something unique that’s in keeping with our values,” says Hall. “We considered opening a restaurant and giving away unused perishable food, but our expertise is in creating partnerships, not running a restaurant.”

Mealshare makes it easy for the public to give not just spare change to a homeless person for food, but a hot, nourishing meal. When dining at a restaurant, you simply choose a Mealshare - branded menu item and the restaurant then provides a meal to someone in need. The innovative concept, which combines corporate social responsibility with the “buy-one-get-one-free” model, has Mealshare covering the food costs of the charities’ donated meals.

As part of the partnership agreement with its restaurants, Mealshare completes all marketing including designing, printing and delivering collateral material, event promotions, and traditional and social media campaigns. The resulting promotion and community relations can translate into financial and community profile gains for the restaurant.

Three years ago, Hall, formerly a tech strategy consultant, and Juno, a retail development manager, completed their BCom specializing in Entrepreneurship from UVic and now share these tasks in Vancouver for the BC market. Bryant, an accountant and UAlberta BCom grad living in Edmonton, directs operations in Alberta.

Launched in late 2013, Mealshare today “shares” approximately 8,000 meals per month—1,000 each in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton, and 4,000 internationally (half of the meals are distributed through a Third World charity). By summer this number is expected to double with six new restaurant partners already slated in BC and Alberta.

Mealshare currently works with 40 restaurants: 15 in Victoria, 12 in Calgary, eight in Vancouver and five in Edmonton. The non-profit organization chooses non-denominational, solution-oriented charity partners. “Someone comes in the door for a meal, but then has the opportunity to get job training, counselling or just a shower to help get their life back on a better track,” explains Hall. “If we help support meal costs, charities can spend more time and money on these initiatives.”

For example, The Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre found that after only seven months, Mealshare’s donation covers a day’s worth of meals and made a significant difference in its fundraising budget. 

“Approximately one-million Canadians get food support each month and eight-million Canadians dine out each day. If we can turn some of that dining out into helping out, there is an incredible opportunity ahead of us.”

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

   
PS…Mealshare is also now in Toronto!

Whale of A Time: Katherine Douglas jumps onboard to protect our marine life

By Geoffrey Boyd

Seeing a juvenile humpback whale breach off the coast of Oregon, or multiple blue whales offshore in Nova Scotia would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. However, for Katherine Douglas breaching whales are just another part of her job. Watching whales, dolphins and sea turtles, shooting stars and sunsets—hardly a typical desk job. 

 When Douglas graduated from the Gustavson School of Business in 2007 she never imagined her degree would take her to the open ocean as a marine mammal observer and passive acoustic monitor.

 After graduation she accepted a position as a marketing and events manager for a technology association in Seattle, Washington. “It was a wonderful position and I gained a lot of knowledge, however, I decided to take a little time off to travel before I jumped into the next thing.”

 In 2010 a good friend introduced Douglas to the idea of becoming a marine mammal observer, a position she previously never knew existed.

In 2012 she jumped at the opportunity with RPS Group—an international consultancy firm providing advice on oil and gas exploration and environmental management—and hasn’t looked back since. “I have always been passionate about our oceans and animals in general, so I thought it would be a great experience short term while I decided what was next,” she says. But short term has since shifted to long term as Douglas has no plans to leave.

Working with people from all over the world, Douglas typically conducts her work on oil and gas exploration vessels for four- to six-week contracts. Her job has taken her through the Pacific Northwest, the Atlantic Northeast and the Gulf of Mexico.

While on board she is responsible for visual and acoustical monitoring of marine mammals and sea turtles. During daylight hours this entails scanning the water for telltale signs of marine mammal life, such as ruffles on the water or the blow of a whale when surfacing for air.

She also conducts acoustic monitoring during low-visibility hours using a hydrophone cable towed behind the vessel. Pamguard software allows Douglas to identify and analyze low-frequency animal vocalizations as well as both high- and low-frequency echolocation clicks. Using this information, she can then estimate the position and range of particular whale or dolphin species and inform the crew of the correct procedures.

Douglas’s work is fueled by her love of the oceans and animals. For her, social responsibility plays a large part as well. “There is an unbelievable amount of noise being emitted into our oceans today,” she says. “Commercial and cruise ship traffic, military sonar, and oil and gas exploration account for a large amount of this.”

 In the case of oil and gas exploration, large “air gun arrays” shoot pressurized air towards the ocean floor to map geological structures, emitting extreme bursts of sound. These bursts are often of the same frequency range as the natural communication frequencies of marine animals. This can seriously disrupt the animals’ communication, causing disorientation or worse.  

Part of Douglas’s job is to ensure there is minimal disturbance for marine mammals in the vicinity. This is all the more important as many of the animals are endangered species. When a mammal is detected, either by the naked eye or through detection software, photos and detailed field notes are taken to document any behaviour changes and to ensure proper identification. “Mitigation is required if certain animals are within a defined zone around the vessel,” says Douglas. It is in these situations that she communicates with the vessel crew to ensure proper protocols are followed.

 At first glance it would seem Douglas’s choice of degree program doesn’t match her work as a marine mammal observer, but she disagrees. “My degree has been invaluable in both opening doors and giving me the confidence to pursue different paths of interest,” she says. The skills she learned in the Business program allow her to successfully complete her work.

When she adds in her leadership, reporting, advising, training and communication aboard the vessels, the Business program at the Gustavson School of Business was a perfect fit for her work.

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

The Right Fit: BCom grad Kendall Barber finds startup success with Poppy Barley, a made-to-measure boot design company

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Think of a great idea, turn it into a business and spend your days passionately serving that idea—it’s a task on any entrepreneur’s bucket list. Kendall Barber’s (BCom ’05) boot design company, Poppy Barley (poppybarley.com), is undoubtedly a product of this vision. However, it is only after recounting the story of how she came to design handcrafted footwear, that this wide-eyed fashionista suddenly morphs into a seasoned executive, reminding us of the difference between those who simply draft bucket lists, and others who stomp on said bucket to hoist their way to the top. Kendall Barber is in the latter category.

The light bulb moment came shortly after Kendall’s younger sister Justine Barber travelled to Bali last February. When a local shoe store associate casually asked if she wanted to be measured for a custom pair of boots when in-store sizes didn’t fit, she was in awe. Justine returned to Alberta and shared her experience with Kendall, and they began to investigate whether custom-made footwear was something Canadian shoppers might appreciate.

After combing through survey results and focus group data, Kendall and Justine found that over 60 per cent of women struggle to find boots that fit properly. They also learned that a large number of shoe manufacturers that supply the U.S. are based in León, Mexico. The sisters decided it was time for some first-hand research. “We ultimately made the decision to buy plane tickets, go there and figure it out,” says Kendall. “We were two girls from Canada with an idea, looking for a partner who believed in us enough to commit to making some samples.”

Kendall and Justine eventually formed a relationship with a manufacturer willing to work with their requirements, such as using an eco-friendly tannery and monitoring where the materials came from. Environmental concerns have always been important to the sisters, as has maintaining a close connection with suppliers and employees in León. This is what pushes them to make frequent trips south, instead of relying only on email and Skype.

Named after poppy seeds and barleycorns, the original elements used to make made-to-measure footwear, Poppy Barley launched in November 2012. With prices starting from $450, the company strives to supply handmade boots that fit perfectly and are built to last, while providing exceptional customer service.

Poppy Barley has been open for less than a year and Kendall says the experience has been a whirlwind. That said, she is reluctant to take credit for the company’s initial success. “I think that sometimes the founders of companies get too much credit. I feel like there have been so many people that have made Poppy Barley what it is today.”

Some of Kendall’s biggest supporters have been fellow UVic business alumni she has kept in touch with since graduating. Many of these colleagues have been valuable resources while getting Poppy Barley off the ground. Kendall is glad to have chosen the UVic program—smaller class sizes allowed her to form these lasting relationships with her classmates. “I went to school with some amazing people who have gone on to be incredibly successful entrepreneurs,” she says.

Judging from the enthusiasm of Poppy Barley fans, avid followers on social media platforms and the decision to expand the product line in the upcoming months, it is safe to say that Kendall can now count herself as a successful entrepreneur—one who will keep checking off items on her bucket list.

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in Business Class Magazine, a publication of the Gustavson School of Business