Kelowna couple used pandemic shutdown to rebrand and expand their vegan bakery
When Kelowna couple Jaide Hatfield and Joel Murga were forced to shut-down their vegan, gluten-free baking company due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they were hit with the same challenges facing many other small businesses, including issues specific to theirs.
"Because of the way our business was set up we weren’t eligible for any of the government loans," Hatfield said.
She explained that because they didn't have payroll, they didn't qualify (they do most of the labour themselves). Although the rules changed recently, Hatfield said they still couldn't quite meet the criteria.
"Your expenses have to equal out $40,000 for the year and that’s non-deferrable expenses," she said. "We were just under what we needed for eligibility."
The pair decided to take advantage of the extra time on their hands to revamp their website, set up online ordering and change their name from Jaide & Joel’s Baking Co. to True North Bakehouse.
"It let us really focus on what we wanted to do with our company," she said.
While they eventually secured a loan through Community Futures, a government funded program supporting small businesses, they set their sights on another project.
"We have been wanting to get into retail stores for a while now," Hatfield said.
During the shutdown period, they finally had the time to make this a reality.
"We have been lucky enough to work with Peter from Your Independent Grocer."
Their vegan and gluten-free Hearty Loaf, White Loaf and plain bagels will be available starting Friday.
"We're very proud of our bread, we worked very hard on it," Hatfield said. She credits her partner Murga as the mastermind behind their carefully crafted bread recipes.
"The process took me about six months, just to craft a recipe that could cook," Murga said. "Then another two months to get the look just right."
He estimates they spent around a thousand dollars on ingredients, just testing different recipes and trying to get it right.
"Because gluten-free vegan bread making is such a chemistry-based field... it’s not like you can just go in and throw stuff together and it’ll work," he said.
Murga applies his background as a medicinal biochemistry and molecular biology student to creating food that works.
"I really used a lot that I learned from those classes and labs in the bread," he said.
The pair launched their business in 2018, and distribute their baking to Nature's Fare and Pulp Fiction in Kelowna, and the Eat Good Market in Vernon.
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