A young Manitoban who started cooking up mustard recipes at home and three years later is selling it across Canada says a favourite quote helped muster her courage to start — and keep going.
“It’s ‘anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve,” says Carly Minish-Wytinck. The quote is from J.K. Rowling.
“I mean, I make mustard for a living,” she told a rural entrepreneur conference where she was keynote speaker October 23.
Originally from Minitonas, Minish-Wytinck is founder of Smak Dab Mustard, a family-owned business that created a line of culinary mustards now sold in 75 retail stores in Manitoba, used in 20 restaurants and sold to another 25 outlets across the country.
Her product has earned prizes at the Great Manitoba Food Fight and she was recently a Rising Star award from Food and Beverage Manitoba.
It might make being successful look effortless, but as she told the 9th annual Take the Leap conference in October, it is anything but.
Originally from Minitonas, it was a love of food fostered by a family that cooked and ate together that made her decide to pursue Red Seal chef training while friends from high school headed to university to earn degrees as engineers and teachers, she said.
“It’s not easy going against the grain at a young age,” she said. “But it was natural to follow something to be passionate about.”
She worked at Fusion Grill in Winnipeg after earning her chef’s credentials and it was there she started to see something missing from Manitoba’s kitchens — locally made mustard — which she also knew made good food great.
That prompted her to cook up a batch — flavoured with ingredients such as beer, honey and maple syrup and give out as gifts to family and friends, who raved about it and urged her to try selling it.
Minish-Wytinck mulled that over for a bit, but was keen to try, chose her catchy business name and eventually took a few dozen jars in 2014 to St. Norbert’s Farmers’ Market.
“I was incredibly nervous but told myself I had to go for it,” she told the Dauphin gathering. “I’ll never forget my first sale. And at the end of that first day we’d sold almost half of what we brought. I was over the moon with excitement.”
Smak Dab Mustards are all made with local ingredients at the Swan River Food Processing Centre in a family-owned business.
Her key advice to conference-goers was to set doubt aside when you have a really good business idea.
She wouldn’t have built Smak Dab Mustard stirring pots of mustard at home and listening too much to uncertainty about going forward, she said. Instead, she made doubt work for her.
“Doubt makes you dive into the heart of your fears,” she said. “Doubt gives you opportunities to do things right.”
The theme of the 2017 Take the Leap conference was rallying your resources. Minish-Wytinck said its key to pull together a team to help start up on the right note.
Recognize early what you’re good at and like to do — and where other people can best help you, she said. As soon as she could she hired professionals to handle her accounting and help her with a website blog posts and photography.
Finding a mentor is critically important too, she said.
“Find someone you trust and someone you can really learn from.”
The Swan River Food Processing Centre, opened in 2012, is a smaller version of the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie.
She sought help from organizations such as Futurpreneur Canada, a national non-profit organization dedicated to growing the economy one entrepreneur at a time, and the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba.
Yet, it all boils down to willingness to take the leap yourself, she said. What’s behind Smak Dab Mustard is always reminding herself why she’s doing this, she said.
“In my case it’s about relishing the excitement of turning good into great and wanting people to have a strengthened relationship with food,” she said. “I feel very strongly about supporting local food, and the local small-business community. It starts with supporting and collaborating with each other.”
Take the Leap is sponsored in part by Manitoba Agriculture with the goal of fostering new and creative business ventures that support rural communities, create employment and meet local needs.