KELOWNA - The Okanagan has long been known as a home to many talented artists — here in Kelowna, galleries are always full of the work of painters, sculptors and crafters.
However, what many don’t realize is that the valley is also home to many specialty bakers who have taken their passion for vegan and gluten-free treats from their home kitchen to sell in the community. In Kelowna, some of these hobbyist bakers turned small business entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they got their start at Souk.
“If they’re selling products, they have to be working out of an approved kitchen,” says owner of Souk Market Betty Cherkaoui. “That’s what happens in this kitchen. People are starting their businesses here.”
Betty supports start-up food businesses by providing an approved kitchen they can rent and sell their products in the attached store. The store carries local, grab and go style food that caters to those with dietary restrictions and allergies.
“These people come in to start their business,” Cherkaoui explains. “If [the kitchen] wasn’t there, they wouldn’t be able to do it. They come in, and have all been very successful.”
One of these new business owners is Trish Woodman, owner of Trish’s Treats.
"I started making vegan baking for myself, that was last September,” explains Trish.
"I started posting some of my new recipes on Instagram and had people asking are you selling these, where can I get them and I thought there might actually be a market for that here in Kelowna.”
Trish got certified through Interior Health and found Souk market, where she was able to bake goods she could sell.
"I started selling to coffee shops and doing markets and things like that in November of last year,” she said. “Then it just took off.”
Trish sells her goods in 11 locations in Kelowna, plus locations in West Kelowna and at Big White Ski Resort.
Trish is grateful for how far she’s come in such a short time.
"I had a corporate job for 27 and a half years and I was able to finally quit that job,” she said. “To be able to [bake] full-time and live my passion, I just get really emotional when I think about it because it’s really exciting for me to be part of this community.”
Jaide Hatfield and Joel Murga also use the Souk kitchen for their business, Jaide & Joel's Baking Co. In April 2018, they began making vegan and gluten-free baking for farmer’s markets. After finding some success there, they wanted to expand a little more.
“We tried more products, tried different things, and eventually we got to donuts and that seemed to be the most popular,” explains Jaide.
"We were kind of nervous because we wanted to grow more, but we didn’t know how,” recalls Joel. “We decided to take on whole-saleing...we started with Pulp Fiction.”
Before the couple met Betty, they were using a community kitchen in East Kelowna Hall, having to make repeated trips back and forth into town. Located on Osprey Avenue, Souk Market is much more central.
The turning point for Jaide and Joel was snagging their biggest client, Nature’s Fare. Currently, they deliver to all four locations across the Okanagan. Then, they partnered with Farm Bound, a local company that compiles food packages with fruit, vegetables and more and ships them out all around the province.
"People are ordering our donuts, and they can get it in Prince George,” said Joel.
“It allows us to go much farther with our donuts. People from all over B.C. can get [them], which is fantastic, adds Jaide.
Joel is a part-time student, but planning to take a year off. He was previously in school for a bachelor of science. Although he is devoting all his time to baking, he said his education didn’t go to waste. Joel explains that all the recipe tweaking and experimenting comes down to chemistry, science.
“It took us about five to four months to figure out the cinnamon buns.”
Jaide has a part-time job working from home, but focuses mostly on baking. “This is pretty much our full-time job” she said.
When asked about the mission behind their business, Joel explained his own experience growing up.
"I had IBS, Crohn’s, and celiac disease, so being able to offer this kind of stuff to kids [with restrictions]...it just makes me feel so happy. It really just warms my heart.”
There are several other self-starter businesses that cook out of the Souk kitchen, including Little Tokyo, Tasties Kitchen, Soma Cidery, Las Mexicanas and many more.
To find what food is sold from Souk Market, click here.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 801-9235 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.