Colin Swala, founder of Ontario based brand B.A.R.E CREATIONS, embarked on a venture with a problem and solution in mind. He noticed that people were skipping important meals and tended to grab unhealthy snacks on the go, which means that important nutrition was missing from their diets leading to low energy and many of the symptoms we associate with stress. Since then, Colin has joined the Venturepark Labs Food Incubator at our commercial kitchen in North York, ON, has launched his brand successfully into retailers, and joined forces with a co-packer to maximize his product potential. We sat down with Colin to learn more about the steps he took to make it happen and how he overcame challenges along the way.
Venturepark Labs: Describe B.A.R.E Creations!
Colin Swala: We manufacture a granola bar/bite mix with added protein and health boosters. We wanted to make a functional health food that was convenient and cost effective. There aren't many other mixes like ours in the market to begin with, but our mixes are protein boosted with Pea and Brown Rice protein to ensure a complete protein profile and each sku has a specific ingredient added for additional health benefits.
VL: How did you get your start as a founder?
CS: I have been an entrepreneur for over 15 years starting as a health professional (chiropractor), then shifted to become a consultant for health professionals. I then embarked on this journey with BARE Creations. This business was something completely brand new to me so there has been quite a bit of learning, but I figured out early on that I was going to need help and thank god for places like Venturepark who helped guide me through the manufacturing process which was essential for us in getting our first orders out the door.
VL: Congratulations on the launch of your product into retailers! What steps did you take to help your product hit grocer shelves?
CS: We were fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Loblaws quite early since we launched. After many trips around town to small retailers, and loads of emails, my messages finally got in front of the right people who loved our product and believed it filled a gap in the products offered in their program. These people were Grey Jay Distribution and they are responsible for the Ontario Made program for Loblaws. They pitched our product on our behalf and Loblaws accepted! We spent 3 years in development, including package design and website development and ended up with something that represented us well. I think all of that played a part in why we have made it to where we are today so soon.
VL: What has your experience been like at Venturepark Labs?
CS: Venturepark has been incredible. Eric and his team in Toronto are superstars and were always so helpful in navigating us through our packaging days. The equipment available at the facility allowed us to do some big orders in a very short time and honestly, I have no idea how we would have been able to access equipment like that without using a co-packer. As a start-up in the food manufacturing business, options are really limited I've learned because typically the production runs are small and co-packers aren't really opening up their doors. So, to be able to have access to equipment typically exclusive to co-packers I was thrilled and it allowed us to get our orders out fast and efficiently.
VL: What did you need to take into consideration during your search for the right co-packer?
CS: I would suggest finding a co-packer that is confident enough to show you around the facility. Many we met along the way wouldn't allow us to take a tour of the facility while in production to observe. That gave me weird vibes. What were they trying to hide? We landed on one (that happens to be 5 minutes from my house - bonus!!) that is amazing. They'll do smaller orders and the first day there they took me on a tour around the whole building.
VL: Have there been any challenges or obstacles in your business that you've had to overcome?
CS: Nope. None. Not sure why everyone else is having so many challenges....... joking obviously. Starting up any business there are going to be challenges and obstacles. And especially in a business that I had zero experience with. I started without even knowing someone in the business so really, it's always been an uphill battle. However, the work is inspiring and when you're inspired by the work you do, you'll endure all challenges/obstacles and keep pushing on. The more we grow, the bigger the challenges become and that's just how it goes. The toughest parts have been regarding regulations, pricing, costing, finding suppliers, and finding co-packers. The best thing to do is find a consultant to help you navigate through that. Doesn't mean you won't hit some hurdles but at least you can have some assistance leaping over them.
VL: What tips or advice do you have for someone who's thinking of getting into the packaged food industry?
CS: The journey is very exciting but be prepared that things won't happen over night. You have to be able to endure the marathon and just like running a marathon for the first time you may think about giving up. Just know that is normal but those who keep their eye on the light ahead will have many amazing milestones. We are very fresh in our journey, and we're looking ahead to both the hurdles and milestones, but also try to enjoy and celebrate all that comes our way. No matter what happens, I've learned so much and you can't put a price on the knowledge obtained from life university.
Dr. Colin Swala is a chiropractor, new father, partner and a founding member of a Family Health Advocacy which is a natural health blog and natural health practitioner directory providing a simple connection to family health centers around the world.
He is also the founder of B.A.R.E Creations, a line of delicious granola snack mixes that can be quickly prepared to make bites or snack bars with no baking.!