Small businesses across the country have come a long way to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic. Although no easy feat, many motivated business owners are facing adversity and feeling optimistic about the future. Among Canadians who embody entrepreneurial resilience is Josie Corbeil, co-founder of évoilà5, Quebec’s premier meal kit service. as of this month CB In entrepreneur-dwelling, Corbeil’s entrepreneurial spirit is an example of hard work — and smart work — paying off.
Since its launch in 2013, évoilà5 has opened twelve boutiques across the province, providing customers with curated, ready-to-make and nutrition-approved meals for busy weeks and bigger appetites. In conversation with Mike Bonner, Head of Business Banking at BMO, Corbeil discusses creating the right business plan, shaping up to competitors, and staying resilient amidst unprecedented challenges.
Have you always been interested in entrepreneurship?
There were signs of my entrepreneurial brilliance from a very early age, when I would charge my friends over to watch my gymnastics routines. In some ways it has always been a part of my nature. I remember writing in my high school yearbook that my dreams were to compete in the Olympics, which I was fortunate enough to accomplish with my volleyball career in 1996, and to become a woman in the business, which A dream I am thrilled to be living today.
How did the concept of évoilà5 come about?
Yiannis, my husband, co-founder of the business and a visionary with franchise experience, has always been a brilliant cook. His father was a renowned chef in Greece and he grew up around sumptuous cuisine. Despite friends always telling us that we should open a restaurant together, things didn’t go well. Having been a competitive athlete for my entire life, I have always known the importance of eating right to take care of myself. But with two young kids, it became easier as a parent to be generous towards food and rely on frozen lasagna, pizza, or other quick and less-nutritious recipes. Immediately, it became clear that there was a problem here, and we began brainstorming a solution. That’s why, at évoilà5, we focus on providing our customers with five healthy, delicious meals to pick up and enjoy stress-free. Most importantly, the ingredients are fresh, healthy and affordable.
Was there an “aha” moment that inspired you to pursue this venture?
My husband would sometimes give me fun business ideas but we always put them off. I guess because we knew how much these meal kits could make a difference in our lives, we couldn’t possibly be alone. Once I began to envision how this idea might serve others, I knew it was worth pursuing.
How have you remained resilient amidst the challenges brought on by the pandemic?
One thing that has always been very important to us in building évoilà5 is to be flexible. When the pandemic struck, every day was an adjustment. Luckily, we have an amazing team that understands the importance of this flexibility. What was hardest for us was access to the supplies we relied on to prepare our ready-to-cook orders. Thank God our loyalty to our suppliers and partners paid off in the way that they were so loyal to us during this difficult time. Working hard is very important, but it is also important that you be smart about how you manage your business. Our community of suppliers, customers and partners such as BMO really showed up to support each other during this extraordinary time.
How was your experience finding support during this time?
Our business still maintained great demand during the pandemic and during the lockdown as people didn’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time outside buying groceries. While our sales continued, a lot was changing. When it comes to managing the business and the changes we face, BMO is always there for us and provides a great sense of support to make a difference. Their commercial banking solutions provided an assurance that when there was work to be done, we had the tools we needed to be successful.
What do you consider to be the most important component in building a successful business plan?
Make sure you are passionate about what you are doing. It is also important that your product meets a need in the market. In our business plan, which was pages and pages long, we tested our approach with several possible scenarios and challenges we might face down the road. That way, we were certain that our model was secure and adaptable. It is also important that once you are ready to get your business off the ground, you set yourself up with the right financial tools to manage everything that comes with owning your business. Huh.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a business owner within a competitive and growing industry?
We opened in 2013 when there was virtually no competition in this area. Since then, we have definitely seen an increase in meal kit services and delivery services which has got us thinking, Should we be worried about this? But we stayed focused on our plan and the success that we’ve had. Since we don’t offer delivery, the personal conversations we’ve had with our customers hold a lot of value compared to the companies that just started popping up. What was very important to us at this point in time was staying true to ourselves and our vision.
How do you manage pressure, workload and stress?
I certainly experienced my fair share of stress as an athlete, but running a business creates a whole new kind of stress. I stay very close to my family and my team which keeps me grounded. Its all about balance. When we first started, it was hard to do when we had to put in so many extra hours to get going. But now that we’ve created a routine and set an example, it’s a balance we practice every day.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting their journey today?
I would not recommend anyone to start a business if their only interest is to make money. You should start a business if you are passionate about what you are doing and are determined to see your idea a reality. The rest will follow.