Irwin Adam: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Irwin Adam, who launched Toronto-based Future Food Studio with a team of engineers, scientists, designers, chefs, and artists to dive directly into the future of food. Here’s what inspired his career and where he sees the project in five years…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
As Principal and Founder of Future Food Studio (formerly I & J Ideations), I lead a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, scientists, designers, chefs, and artists in an exploration of the future of food interaction, engagement, and experience. Whether that means creating edible clouds and exploring the taste of data or opening architected frozen yogurt stands in the Middle East or installing future food workshops at the World Faire site in New York City, every day is a fresh exploration of future food.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
Starting up Future Food Studio was a natural extension of who I am. With a skill set in technology, a passion for food, and an interest in design, the company explores the intersection of these three fundamental facets. The business itself was inspired through the combination of a need to fund ridiculous personal food projects, supportive friends and mentors, and the fortune of finding clients who are willing to push the boundaries of food experience.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part of every day is waking up in the morning and knowing that I have a team to run to with whatever idea has evolved over the course of my sleep. The ability of the studio to bring to life concepts that seem farfetched inspires me every day. I love tinkering in the studio and discovering what the latest findings are of the team – whether technical or beautiful, the stream of creations is endless.

Certainly the business part of the business has been the most challenging. Trained as an engineer and a scientist and far removed from the world of business, it has been a steep learning curve throwing myself into the mix of Fortune 500 companies, business models, financials, investors, CEOs, clients, etc. Though challenging, I’ve embraced this aspect of the business and am building capacity daily on these fronts.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
There’s something fellow entrepreneur friends of mine and I refer to as the entrepreneur’s diet, a combination of nervous energy, being too busy to eat, drinking too much coffee, and insufficient sleep. That being said, a huge shift in balance came after a serious car accident I suffered in the summer of 2014. The accident left me in a body brace and fully dependent on those around me for a couple of months. Being forced to slow down and allow myself to heal has in effect forced balance into my life through meditation, exercise, and nutrition. Still much room to grow, but certainly on track.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I hope to have a portfolio of creative projects, products, and retail products on the market that can sufficiently support a research program dedicated to exploring the future of food.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Making the decision to leave academia and jump full-time into a business that had nothing but blue sky ahead of it was one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken, particularly not knowing if I would be able to pay rent the next month without a steady pay cheque. That being said, I knew the opportunity was one of those now or never moments so I decided to throw myself into it. That was one year ago, and we were three people; now we’ve grown to a team of 14 with active projects globally.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success is the freedom to explore and pursue personal interests while contributing to the world in a meaningful way.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Moving into our combined studio, laboratory, and workshop space. Literally a dream come true. The night I was handed the keys I came to the space and stood with a bottle of champagne in the middle of the empty space with its white walls, wood plank floors, and sixteen foot ceilings and let myself be grateful for the achievement and to dream on the future that was to come.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
The ultimate advice is to quickly learn to trust others and delegate. It is easy to overwhelm yourself with every detail of a growing business, however at one point you do need to release into the process and allow the team that you build to do the work they were hired to do. As a follow up, hire good people. I value character, trustworthiness, and work ethic over skill and experience.

Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Straight to the comfort food. On the most challenging of days it’s a drive due north to United Bakers Dairy Restaurant for pea soup (pretty sure the recipe is 50% butter).

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Exploring/travelling, hiking, cycling, writing, and making coffee.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
Portugal. It remains Europe’s most underrated locale. Fell in love with a close group of friends while travelling there a decade ago, and they remain my Portuguese family today.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
‘Cool guys don’t look at explosions’ – Andy Samberg, Will Ferrell, and JJ Abrams.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Tenure track professorship at a major university researching personalized medicine.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
We run an organization called FEED (Food Education Entrepreneurship and Development), aimed at bringing food thought to high school students and supporting them to start up food businesses of their own.

What to you is notable?
Show don’t tell.

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