In Canada, 6 in 10 small businesses are classified as financially unhealthy. This is often due to issues like high inflation (59%), supply chain problems (49%), and workforce shortages (39%).
However, even in the face of these challenges, growth and financial resilience are possible.
Take the story of Jade Herrmann, a small business owner in British Columbia, and owner of the vegan yogurt company Yoggu! Just a few years ago, Jade’s yogurt production was just a small kitchen project in her home. Yet, Jade’s passion for plant-based food and her commitment to progress drove her business forward.
Today, Yoggu! can be found at major retailers like Save On Foods across Canada. Yoggu!’s success was further acknowledged when they received two awards by BC Food & Beverage—Emerging Business & Woman Entrepreneur of The Year in 2022. What began as a small-scale kitchen project has grown into a fully self-manufactured product line with a national footprint. Jade embodies the spirit of passion and resilience that motivates entrepreneurs all over Canada.
Read on to hear how Yoggu! overcame small business hurdles and made a name for itself in the Canadian food space.
The making of Yoggu!
Yoggu! was born shortly after Jade moved back from Paris. Jade had spent her time in France eating decadent French yogurt, but soon after returning to Vancouver, Jade decided to go fully plant-based. A long-time vegetarian at the time, she had always been passionate about animal welfare, the mind-gut connection, and the power of natural foods.
Yet, vegan options for traditional yogurt products were limited, and often filled with unnatural ingredients that concerned Jade.
Dissatisfied with the vegan yogurt on the shelves, she took matters into her own hands. She went to a nearby grocer and purchased an abundance of coconuts. She then cracked them open one by one for their coconut meat—the foundational ingredient behind Yoggu!’s first signature recipe.
From kitchen to commissary.
Jade’s vegan yogurt business quickly out-grew her kitchen, and she moved production over to a commissary. The commissary was able to facilitate larger-scale production and allowed Jade to expand her distribution.
Yet, as interest in Yoggu! grew, so too did the challenges of running a small business. Jade says she was outgrowing her commissary spaces every six months. On top of that, her original Yoggu! recipe was expensive and labour-intensive, especially the time spent cracking open coconuts one by one. Cash flow was tight and it seemed like a distant dream to make the leap into a larger production space.
In our interview with Jade on Instagram Live, she recounts a day when she was dropping off Yoggu! jars to The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant. “People were lined up around the block, but what I didn’t realize is a lot of them were actually waiting for Yoggu!”
She says, “I remember dropping it off and being in shock. Then [the manager] Linh, called and asked if I could drop more off!”
She describes this as a pivotal moment, giving her the encouragement she needed to take the next steps.
“Having a financial partner that is as invested in your success as you are is key.” – Jade Herrmann
Big dreams meet business realities.
Jade’s resourcefulness and perseverance kept her business afloat. She spent much of her time researching how she could retain the same quality of her product while lowering costs, and eventually adapted her fresh coconut recipe to use organic coconut cream. This allowed her to make her yogurt more affordable, and get into more grocery stores, without sacrificing the taste.
Still, Jade realized to further scale up her small business, she needed help. She had tapped her personal capital dry and while she had the sales to show that her product was popular, cash flow was tight. She wanted to find a bigger space and better production facility. Not to mention, secure the financial means to grow her business both nationally and internationally.
Jade knew self-manufacturing was the way forward for Yoggu! Co-packing, which is another option for food businesses looking to grow, brought risks of cross-contamination—a big no-no for a vegan product.
That said, self-manufacturing is no walk in the park, either. Yoggu! would need a large facility, expensive machines, and staff to run the place. She needed a loan, and an ongoing relationship with a financial institution.
Choosing the right financial partner.
For Yoggu!, finding a financial partner that shared its values was paramount. Sustainability, social responsibility, and inclusion are all core values at Yoggu! and Jade was looking for a partner that walked the walk. So, she turned to Vancity for a loan.
After presenting her business plan, and meeting with Vancity advisors who were impressed at her road to profitability, the loan was accepted. Today, Yoggu! operates out of its own 12,500 sq ft self-manufacturing facility in Coquitlam, BC.
While this growth has been positive, Jade says self-manufacturing is costly and the extra capital investment from Vancity was more than necessary. Raising capital is challenging for many small businesses, but Jade emphasizes the importance of having clear goals and demonstrating your appetite for growth.
“The reason we were able to get a loan is that we had been so scrappy for years prior,” she says. “We were such a lean team, we reinvested every dollar back into the business, but we also showed growth and a path to profitability.”
Jade encourages other entrepreneurs to never give up on their dreams: “Running a business is no easy feat, and financially speaking, that can cause a lot of stress for any business owner.”
But, she says, having a financial partner that is as invested in your success as you are is key. “I think about my relationship with Vancity and how it’s been fostered over the past few years. We were really able to build out our facility because of Vancity.”
Building small business resilience.
Yoggu! now employs five people and has moved from local Vancouver stores to large grocery chains across Canada. Jade says she plans to expand nationally and hopefully grow internationally down the road. She credits the relationship with Vancity for creating a strong foundation.
“Having that support means so much. Now we have the ability to grow and scale and have a path that can take us through the next five years.”
For Jade, this small business success story proves that when you focus on your goals, build relationships with partners who share your values, and commit to constant learning, you can make your small business dreams come true.
Credit unions like Vancity are empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs. We’re here to help your small business thrive by achieving your goals as defined by you. Whether you’re looking for checking and savings accounts, mortgages, business loans, or investment advice—credit unions offer many of the same products and services as conventional banks, with some unique benefits.
Learn more about how Vancity can support your small business at Small Business Startup Foundations.