Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Julie Bednarski, the Founder and CEO of The Healthy Crunch Company, an artisanal kale chip company based in the GTA. I love Julie’s business! Kale is a superfood that I swear by and consume daily through smoothies, salads or, well, her chips. There’s certainly a wellness revolution happening right now and the leaders of it are the creators of one of the most important aspects of our lives – what we consume. Food is fuel and putting the right “gas” in our vehicle (i.e. our body) is a major part of what determines our output to the world.
We caught up with Julie Bednarski to find out what inspires her and what advice she would share with other young professionals…
– Julian Brass, founder, Notable
1. Describe what you do?
My name is Julie Bednarski and I am the Founder and CEO of The Healthy Crunch Company, an artisanal kale chip company based in the GTA. At The Healthy Crunch Company, we make North America’s first and only certified tree nut-free and peanut-free kale chips that are super delicious and crunchy. What makes our products unique and different from our competition is the large size of our kale chips, and big flavor and crunch. We like to say our “BIG kale chips are BIG on flavor, BIG on crunch, BIG on love, but the way we make them is small, in small batches.” We use all certified organic ingredients in our recipes, and air-dry slowly, so no nutrients are lost. No frying, oven baking, or cooking here, just super crunchy deliciousness.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
From a young age, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and knew that one day I would create my own business. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so I feel that entrepreneurship runs in my blood. As a registered dietitian and trained chef, my inspiration for The Healthy Crunch Company was seeing that there was a lack of high-quality snacks in the marketplace that I could eat. Throughout my years working in the food industry, I have become very ingredient conscious. I have also found that many snack foods on the market have ingredients that I do not want to consume or taste poorly. I love to travel and I’m always on the go, so finding a portable, easy to eat snack was difficult.
I have always loved kale chips, but could never find a good kale chip that met all my snacking needs for being full of flavor, super crunchy, and healthy, so I created my own kale chips. I love re-creating recipes to make them either healthier or taste better. I often say that I am a “mad scientist” in the kitchen, as I love researching and developing new recipes. After many attempts of developing my own kale chip recipes, the idea for starting my own kale chip snack company developed and here I am.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Getting our Healthy Crunch Kale chips into Starbucks locations in the Toronto and Vancouver area was definitely a milestone in my career. When I first started my business two years ago, I never thought getting my product into Starbucks would even be an idea. But then I realized anything is possible.
4. Where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years, and 20 years?
I have definitely learned over the years to expect the unexpected where life and work will take me. Within the next five years, I would like The Healthy Crunch Company to be a leader in the snack food category within the North American marketplace. We are excited to expand our distribution of our kale chips across North America into every major grocery store and foodservice. We are also developing two new kale chip flavours – Cucumber Dill and Hello Jalapeno that will be launching into the market in January 2017. Within the next ten years, I would like to have multiple manufacturing facilities within North America to process our products, as well as develop new healthy food brands.
Within the next ten years, I would like to expand my personal brand to help educate and inspire others to live their best day every. I would love to write a book about my journey and to share help tips and recipes. Starting a family is definitely somewhere in the middle of continuing all my career aspirations. Beyond ten years, it’s hard to see what life has in store for me!
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Two pieces of advice that I like to share with young professional is:
1) Go slow to go fast. As a young professional, I always found myself rushing to complete tasks or wanting my career to move faster than I expected. My mentor always says “Go slow to go fast.” Things happen at different times, we have to embrace the process of our work and what we do to ensure that we do not make mistakes and establish a plan for the long-term. It’s much harder to fix mistakes after the fact than to methodically go through a process.
2) Find out what you are truly passionate about and find a way to turn it into your career. The work you do should be something that you are truly passionate about, and that gets you excited to wake up each morning. If the work you are currently doing does not excite you or seems boring, then change what you do. Life is too short to do something you are not passionate about.
6. Do you support any charities?
I love many charities and the causes they support. At The Healthy Crunch Company, we are working to develop our own foundation that will give back to communities to help with nutrition education, breakfast programs, and helping to provide access to healthy foods for those less fortunate.
7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Cash flow is always an issue with small businesses and start-ups. My cash flow was an issue when I first started my business. When my business started to grow quickly, the challenge of cash flow got greater. I started to invest in more manufacturing equipment, raw ingredients, packaging, and marketing to ensure we secured large accounts and customers. The issue was that payments for those accounts did not come until 60-90 days after we delivered the order. Hiring staff to fulfill orders and manufacturing the product was also a challenge as much of our capital was going to equipment, packaging, and raw ingredients. I found myself having to do many jobs in our business to offset having to hire staff and save money.
My business still deals with this issue, but I have learned to be better educated on how to manage it. Knowing your numbers and negotiating better terms with vendors has helped me address this issue. We are also getting more efficient with our production and operations help with our cash flow.
9. What does the word notable mean to you?
Notable means to me something that is worthy of mentioning or taking notice of. There are lots of stories to be told, places to go, insight to know, and people to be noticed. Being able to share and inspire others with all this great content is notable.
1. Where is your favorite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
My favorite restaurant in the city is Playa Cabana Cantina in the Junction area. Nothing beats a good margarita, chips, and guacamole. I love the atmosphere, friendly service, and it’s a great spot that always has consistent good drinks and food. It’s hard to find good guacamole in the city other than my own kitchen, but this place definitely does a nice job. It’s definitely a fun place to go for date night!
2. What’s the most visited website on your internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
The most visited website on my browser would be social media sites including Facebook, Instagram, BuzzFeed and of course, Notable. I also love LinkedIn, I use it to connect with like-minded professionals. The most played song on my phone would be anything from Drake! I can’t get enough of him.
3. Who’s the one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
Jamie Oliver. He is the most influential person in the food industry. Not only is he an amazing chef, author and media personality, but is also an outstanding campaigner for improving school dinners and maintaining a balanced diet. I look up to Jamie Oliver and hope to work with him in the future.
4. What’s your favorite country to visit and why?
I love visiting Turkey. A couple of years ago, I decided to take one month off work to explore all that Turkey has to offer. It has so much to explore in terms of food, culture, beaches, architecture, and people. Istanbul was my favorite, as it’s such a large city and each area is so different. The Spice Market was amazing to explore, I particularly enjoyed what the local vendors had to offer. I definitely ate my way through both Western and Eastern Turkey in search of the best baklava.
5. And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Thailand. I have been dreaming of going to Thailand or anywhere in Asia for years. I have never been to Asia and hope to go next year. I love culture shock when I am traveling. The more remote places the more exciting for me!
6. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
I don’t get FOMO these days. The last two years have definitely not left too much time for fun, and working long hours and weeks without a day off, I usually want to relax at home with my two Goldendoodles – Sophie and Charlie. Relaxing at home with a home-cooked meal, glass of wine, watching a movie with my boyfriend, and cuddling with my pups, that’s exciting for me right now!
7. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Travel. I love a quiet getaway anywhere. I love being spontaneous and booking a quick trip. If it’s short, somewhere warm like Turks and Caicos or St. Lucia. If longer, anywhere in the world sounds exciting.
8. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on?
Clothes. I use to love shopping and purchasing the latest fashions on the market. As a business owner now, I wish I would have saved my money to put into my business. All that money I spent on clothes could have been put towards my business. Trends in clothes change. Your style changes with age, and many of the outfits I purchased are sitting in bins in my basement.
9. What’s something you wish you spent more on?
In university, I had a friend who was very knowledgeable about stocks and investments. I learned a little bit about how to invest in stocks to make money and many of the stocks that I had invested in made very profitable earnings. Looking back, I wish I would have invested a great amount of my savings into those stocks!
10. What does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise.
Success for me is all about balance. It is important to have a business that is growing with multi-product brands and with distribution throughout the world. While at the same time having the opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Success is being recognized in the industry as a leader in our category while also having consumers love your products. And of course, being able to travel and see the world while still running my business, is definitely a goal of mine.