Who are you, and what do you do?

I spend my days supporting women entrepreneurs and raising my two little kiddos. I’m also an author and a self-designated foodie. I care a lot about gender equity and the world being better for the next generation.


CEO of the Forum, how did you get involved?

I learned a hack in university that volunteering will get you into events you can’t afford as a student, and by volunteering, you can start learning and building a community. So, I volunteered at The Forum’s Gala for several years.  I knew the chair because she had been a chair at an organization that I had started many years before called Young Women in Business. When I got the phone call to join The Forum, I was five months pregnant with my second baby, but I was excited to step into the role and support the growth of this organization. My daughter Gracie came to her first keynote when she was two weeks old, and it’s been a fast and fun journey since then.


What do you love most about empowering and educating women entrepreneurs?

That’s an interesting question. I have a visceral reaction when I hear the word ’empowering’ someone. The entrepreneurs that we work with are incredible. They don’t need anyone else to empower them. What we do, and I love this, is connect a community of entrepreneurs with other entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. It’s a platform that provides education and resources that busy entrepreneurs don’t have the time to tap into.  


How are women entrepreneurs different?

Women entrepreneurs do business differently. They think about integrating social impact. How to run a business that has a positive impact on their communities. They think more about how they treat their teams and what purpose they want to serve.  Being in that space is where I think businesses should be going. I’m glad we can be a part of trying to shift that narrative. 


How would you like to see the role of women change?

Women are able to lead and thrive. To lead and thrive in ways that deeply honour the values that they bring and in ways that work for them. All of these old narratives and stereotypes around women’s entrepreneurship and running a business. I want all of those to be thrown out the window. Instead, let’s make a world where women can thrive and create systems that actually support them and aren’t stacked against them. 


You’re a mom of two, a CEO, and an influencer to all of these women. How do you keep balance in your life?

It’s definitely not a day-to-day thing. I try to look at it from a macro view and ask myself how am I with my time and energy honouring what is important, and how am I showing up for that?  I go through periods where absolutely one of those balls fully gets dropped, whether it be friendships or showing up in community or family. It’s never an equal scale. The day-to-day balance piece doesn’t resonate with me, but I do deeply resonate with showing up for meaningful interactions no matter how long or short. 


What do you do to nourish yourself in life and nutritionally?

That’s a good question, because post two children, I eat a lot of leftover sandwich bits here and there! I think for me, nourishment is about getting back to basics. I think about what I can add that is effortless and has a high ROI (return on investment). An example of that is being in nature. Swimming in nature, or getting in the forest, help me go from zero to a hundred. It’s totally transformative. I also try to integrate as much nutrition as I can into what I eat, even if that’s just tossing in some greens. I’m a big smoothie person.  I just chug them down and then get to tick that box. 


What do you look for in a snack? 

Deliciousness! One of the things I love about Chiwis is they’ve got crunch, and they make my mouth salivate which is satisfying. They’re not something I’m inhaling because I feel like I actually have to interact with them. I love the interaction with food that engages your senses versus some foods or snacks like those puffy Cheetos, which are delicious but are the equivalent of slightly flavoured air. So I look for satisfaction, which for me is engaging of the senses.


What is something that most people don’t know about you?

For a period of six months, I ran a business with my husband that was a local food distribution business and we delivered curated baskets from the farmer’s market. We were volunteering at a local farmer’s market for four years with an amazing local farm run by the Forstbauer family. We had so many friends that said they really wanted to come to farmer’s markets but they didn’t have the time and they wished they delivered. We thought that since we’re here every weekend and we know the vendors well, so we did that for a six-month period. At one point we realized we either needed to scale and get into trucks and distribution or not. At that moment in our lives, we didn’t feel that it was the right step. Since then there have been so many food delivery companies that have come forward so we’ve often had this moment of thought that maybe we should have stuck with it, but I do believe that at the moment you have to listen to your gut, and if it was going to be we would have felt a visceral reaction. I am a very intuitive and gut-driven person even though I have a financial background and crunch numbers, but I really try to listen to what my intuition is telling me and I’m glad we did that. 


What callout can we put out to our community to support you or the entrepreneurs you are working with at The Forum?

Shop local. Go buy from your local entrepreneurs. If you don’t know any women-owned entrepreneurs, follow The Forum so you can find out more about them. We’re always looking for mentors for our entrepreneurs, so we’re growing our mentorship quite significantly. If anyone is reading this who is an entrepreneur and would like to support an entrepreneur, we have avenues to do that. 

My callout is simply that all of us can support our local entrepreneurs and can choose to vote with our dollars and how we contribute and do that! Be conscious, know where you’re buying from, who’s making your products and your services and support local because it’s all of our shared community together!

www.theforum.ca | @theforum

Who are you, and what do you do? 

I am a marine biologist turned food entrepreneur. I am the founder of Off the Path Provisions, and we make dehydrated vegan meals in compostable packaging. How it works is you add hot water to the heat resistant bag and seal it up, give it a little shake and 15-20 min later, it rehydrates into a Thai green curry, or a fried rice dish, which are perfect for a camping meal, on the go, and at the office. 


So you were a marine biologist and ended up in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) food space. How did that happen?

It all stemmed from a specific backpacking trip to the Wild Side Trail in Tofino. We were there for about a week and packed a bunch of dehydrated meals and snacks. At the end of the week-long trip, there was a whole garbage bag full of meal packaging. Many of us were doing our masters in environmental science and were trying to live sustainably day-to-day. Still, when we went into the backcountry, we’d accumulate all of this waste. We brainstormed on how we could reduce our waste, and from there, I started dehydrating my own meals that I packaged in mason jars. The jars were heavy, so I also used silicone stasher bags. I started sharing them with people on the trails and friends, and people wanted to purchase them, so it spiralled from there to what it is today! It started as a side project, and now I spend all of my time doing it.


What do you love about it?

I love branding and packaging. I’m such a nerd about it. I go to the store, and I’ll literally take photos of packaging I like, and I’ll purchase products because of the branding.I feel like, especially now, there is more of a push for sustainability and people trying to come up with sustainable packaging, and I love seeing that incorporated in the CPG space.


What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to face so far?

A big one for me was overcoming my own insecurities about being an entrepreneur. My training is in science, so I had no business experience and didn’t fully believe in my capabilities to lead the company and see it through to my vision. The more I do it, the more I realize I love the different components of running the business and that not having a business background isn’t unique among entrepreneurs. So ultimately, for me, it was really just getting over myself.


How would you like to see Off the Path grow?

I would love Off The Path to be all about sustainable meals and inclusivity and expand beyond just Asian food. As I grow my team, I’ve hired many people with different cultural backgrounds, and I’m inspired by the different types of foods they eat every day. We’re expanding into Indian dishes as a start. We also have a couple of pasta dishes in the works, and I’m excited to incorporate other types of cuisine. Secondly, we’re mostly selling in the camping and outdoor space, and we’re excited to bring Off The Path to the everyday office and on the go. We already have a lot of people saying they eat our meals when they aren’t camping, so it’s an excellent opportunity to expand into a new market.


What do you do to nourish yourself? (both in life and nutritionally)

I eat Off the Path meals! Starting this business has made me more aware of what I choose to consume, mainly because many of my friends and colleagues are people in the natural goods sector. I’m more aware of what I eat and trying to make healthier choices. The outdoors is a big part of my life, and while the first couple of years after starting the business was sometimes rough because you’re so busy that you sometimes forget the passion or the reason you started the company in the first place. So for me, I’ve realized I need to take time to just go outside, go on a backpacking trip, and remember why I started the company. It helps me connect with my customers, and it also inspires me to continue to do what I do every day. 


What do you look for in a snack?

Flavours, cool packaging, and nutrition! 


What is something that people don’t know about you? 

I love singing. I make a lot of road trips to do trade shows, and I find myself often in the car alone for many hours going to all of these shows. I always play rap songs and memorize all the lyrics to them.


How can people find Off the Path online and learn more about your products?

Our website is the best place to go to check us out at www.offthepathprovisions.com. There you’ll find a store locator where you can find stores across Canada that stock Off the Path meals. 

https://backcountrywok.com/ | @offthepath_provisions

Kara Sam is the CEO & Founder of Bucha Brew, a mom to two boys, a champion of improving the health of others, and a total badass. 


Who are you, and what do you do?

I am currently the founder and CEO of Bucha Brew Kombucha and Arlo Boozy Kombucha.


How did you get started in the kombucha space?

Years ago, I went to Hawaii on a family vacation and started drinking kombucha. My first son was two months old, and I was super tired of drinking water all the time, so when I found kombucha I got addicted super fast. I did a bit of research and learned it is good for digestion, which was good for me because I was always having low-level digestion issues when I was breastfeeding. 

When I came back to Vancouver, there was only a brand from Montreal and a brand from California available, and I thought, how does this not exist locally? So, I started making it in my kitchen, giving it out to friends and family. I was a personal trainer back then, so many of my clients would drink it, and I got excellent feedback. With my husband’s encouragement, I took a really badly labelled bottle into Whole Foods that just said Bucha Brew on it with no other information. Two hours later they emailed me and told me they’d take it but I had to change a few things, including getting a business license and approval from Vancouver Coastal Health, which I did not have. They said the process is usually six weeks, so I had six weeks to turn it into a real company. At that point, it seemed worth it because I had seven stores which were all of the Whole Foods in BC.


What do you love most about the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space?

I like the opportunity to give people better choices. I think there is so much crap on the shelves with poorly made products that have lots of ingredients that people don’t actually need. To be able to offer people better options is one of my favourite things about the CPG space. The second thing would be seeing the innovation come out and the change in the category. When I first started, there was no kombucha category, it was just two random companies on the shelf in the dairy section with milk, which made no sense, but they didn’t know where to put it. Now, seeing how we’ve built the category and being a part of building that was a really cool experience – just to see how you can actually make a change in such a slow-moving industry.


What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to face so far? 

Financing is one of the biggest hurdles. When I went into this, I had no idea what running a company would be like, and we have been very underfunded. We had over 900% growth over the first three years of the business, which is easy to say when starting from nothing. To put it into context, we went from just over $100,000 in our first year to $1,000,000 in three years of business without really understanding how expensive it is to grow that fast. We’ve been really scrappy, which is good, but I think having a little bit more structure and knowledge earlier would have helped set us up for success moving forward into the future. The hard part is I don’t think you can learn that in school. I think that is something you learn from people who have done it before, or by doing it yourself. It’s been an incredible learning experience, super challenging at times, and obviously, we’ve made it through.


What do you see Bucha Brew growing into?

In the next ten years or so, I’d like to bring in people who really know what it takes to make this into a multi-million dollar company. I’d love to see kombucha replace pop on shelves with no pop options because it’s garbage and not helping people. If we can remove that from grocery stores, I’ll feel like it’s a job well done.


What do you do to nourish yourself? (both in life and nutritionally)

Being in nature and tons of mountain biking. Twice a year, I try to take off at least four days and go out of service. Just being off the grid and resetting is essential. The other piece is surrounding myself with a really loving and amazing community that now feels like my family.  I feel their support, love, care, and kindness, and I love seeing them help eachother grow. I think that really nourishes the world. If we have a lot of happy people out there that want to do better, and be better, the world is only going to become a better place. 


What do you look for in a snack?

Something healthy and crunchy with good texture. Really good flavour, I like strong flavours. It’s not like I’m looking to get health benefits from my snacks, but I don’t want the snack to be detrimental to my health.


What is something that people don’t know about you?

I have my Red Seal as a chef! That’s something that most people don’t know about me, and I think it contributes a lot to the flavours in the products that we make.


How can people find Bucha Brew online and learn more about your products?

When you see Bucha Brew on the shelves, turn them, so they look nice even if you don’t want to buy them! Support Arlo. We’re in a bunch of liquor stores across Vancouver. It’s boozy kombucha. I don’t love talking about health when talking about alcohol, but it is definitely a better choice, and it tastes delicious. The mango is yellow because we use real fruit in the drinks and it’s not a clear drink that’s flavoured with mango essence. We just launched our new fun fizzy waters, which are sparkling waters with just a little bit of lime, lemon, and grapefruit kombucha. You can’t actually taste any of the kombucha which is really awesome for people that don’t like the flavour but want some of the benefits from it. Tell your friends! 

www.buchabrew.ca | @buchabrew

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