I was a runner many years ago.

Not an overly competitive one mind you, but I did manage to complete a few half marathons before my knees started to gently suggest that I take up cycling.

I used to run at night. 10:00 PM or later usually. In North Kildonan, where I grew up, I could easily cover 10 km without seeing a single person. I would listen to music on my dad’s first-generation iPod and slip into a reverie set to the rhythm of my shoes hitting the pavement.

Three years ago today I was on the road again.

Not running, driving. In fact, I was driving one big loop around the entire city. We had just launched our very first product in Vita Health and I was making the rounds introducing myself to the store managers and planting the idea of booking sampling days in the not too distant future.

We couldn’t book those demos right away of course because the Covid-19 pandemic had landed in Manitoba. Not only were we prohibited from handing out the tasty kofta samples we had prepared, we were barely even allowed to leave our homes.

When I was out visiting the stores, it was just me on the road along with the occasional semi-truck.

It felt a lot like it did when I was running late at night. Peaceful and calm, but also eerily quiet. Little did I know that the streets would be periodically barren many times over the next few years as the pandemic stretched on and our original marketing strategy would need to be postponed again, and again, and again.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about hitting this three-year anniversary of our product launch.

On one hand, I’d like to think there’s cause for celebration here.
Getting a food start-up off the ground is hard. Doing it during a pandemic is harder. We have survived where brands that were launched by billion-dollar companies have died.

That’s probably worth commemorating with a burger party. 

painting of a people eating hamburgers at a party

On the other hand, our business has pivoted so much in the past three years that it barely resembles the one from 36 months ago.

Our core mission has stayed the same. Make good food using fewer resources in order to save the planet.

But we are executing on that mission completely differently. Instead of selling through conventional grocery stores, most of our sales are direct to consumer, either through our online shop or Bump Burger restaurant. We make almost all of our product in-house as opposed to contracting out production to a giant company like we did when we first started.

And our next steps are an even greater departure from the original plan.

Maybe I’m feeling torn because there was no definitive date where our company changed from business model A to business model B. It was a gradual shift. There is no anniversary to mark in the calendar.

Or maybe it’s because I have it in my head that celebrations happen at a finish line. One that still feels very far away.

Or maybe I’m just afraid that if I let down my guard and toast to success, the world will take that opportunity to punch me in the gut, again. (Seriously, I could have done without Silicon Valley Bank collapsing, which has made pitching to investors infinitely more difficult.)

But maybe what I should be celebrating is the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past three years. That my company will always be adapting and changing. That there is no finish line in business. And probably the most important lesson, that it’s ok for the punches to knock me down from time to time, what’s important is making sure they never knock me out.

Yeah, I think I’ll risk it and toast to that.

Written by James Battershill

More stories

A Jack-o'-lantern treat! A twist on stuffed peppers.

A Jack-o'-lantern treat! A twist on stuffed peppers.

Happy Father's Day

My company, Juno, was officially established in June 2019. My son George was born two months later in August, so I became a new dad and new business owner at roughly the same time.

There are actually a lot of interesting parallels between new fatherhood and first-time entrepreneurship.