In 2018, Marissa Bergeron decided to become her own boss.
Her business, Eat the Dishes, offers a zero waste, vegan alternative to traditional food trucks. The eclectic menu ranges from creamy soups, to chili, ice cream and hot chocolate – all served in freshly baked, naturally seasoned edible bread cups.
“My mom is a fabulous cook and she taught me from a young age to get experimental in the kitchen. I now try to ‘veganize’ things for fun and I love when people come up to me and tell me they loved their food,” Marissa said.
“Sometimes, they don’t even realize the dish they just ate was vegan and they’re in awe when they find out.”
Inspired to Make a Difference
While jetting around the world for eight years in the aviation industry, Marissa loved to visit new cities and explore their food truck culture. However, the mountains of waste inherent in this industry soon became a problem she couldn’t be a part of. She began brainstorming a way to do it differently.
“I didn’t want to be part of the problem any longer. I wanted to be part of the solution in some way,” she explains.
“So, I came back to Canada and started to really understand there was room for improvement in the food industry. I discovered this incubator program through Radius SFU and they basically helped me put my idea on paper and turn it into a viable business.”
After moving back to Surrey in March of 2018, Marissa began to tackle the administrative side of opening her own business. Like any new entrepreneur, she had to create a business plan, identify her target market and refine her product. There were also regulations that needed to be accounted for.
“When it comes to the food industry, there are so many permits and so many hoops you have to jump through. Discovering what I needed to do to get approval for these was the hardest barrier to entry I faced. The early days were a bit of a blur. I had the challenge of finding a kitchen, getting all the right permits and seeing the health inspector.
“I really learned that starting a business isn’t linear. You really have to be loose and be able to pivot. Be open to a lot of feedback from a lot of people.”
Leaning on Supports
Owning your own business means calling the shots and making the big decisions yourself. Some entrepreneurs can feel alone in this endeavour. That’s why it pays to surround yourself with a support network, something Marissa realized early on.
“I run a lot of my business decisions past my brother. He works at Goldman Sachs and is really business savvy. My dad is a small business owner himself, so I run ideas through him as well. When it comes to the product, my mom is the one who tests and tastes all my recipes to make sure they pass the test!
“Outside of my family, my support network is all young, vegan entrepreneurs who are in the same industry and dealing with many of the same issues I am. When I’m having a crisis, I can look to my network and maybe they’ve already been through it.”
Do Your Homework
With a year of operation under her belt, Marissa and Eat the Dishes continue to go from strength to strength. For those looking to follow in her footsteps and start their own business, Marissa has the following advice to share.
“Do your homework. It’s important to fully grasp how big an undertaking it is. Knowing what kind of permits and paperwork are required to start will ensure you aren’t slowed down later.
“Sign up for as many free, or almost free, seminars you can find on opening a small business. I attended some Small Business BC seminars, as well as Futurpreneur, Radius SFU and others specific to the food business. They not only shed light on the hurdles you may face, they are also a great place to network and start building a support group of like-minded entrepreneurs.”
Follow Marissa’s Lead
Ready to follow Marissa’s example and start your own business? Small Business BC’s is here to help you at every stage of the process. Our range of seminars and one-on-one advisory sessions are designed to help entrepreneurs start and grow resilient businesses.