It was Summer of 2016. Controlla by Drake was topping the charts and serenading the best season of my life. I had just completed my first year of my undergraduate degree, and the prospect of a 4 month summer made me feel like I was in one of those early 2000’s dowdy college movies. I felt invincible.
I was unsurprisingly ambitious during that period. I had this fear of not doing enough with my at a mere 18 years of age. So clearly, my next move was to kick off a local hummus company in the heart of Northern Ontario. I won’t reveal the climax of this cautionary tale, but the title is very self-explanatory. Take this article as an ode to inexperience, a valuable lesson and an advice piece. I’ll also include testimonies from some of my business partners, (my best friends), to really take a deep dive in the pool of happy ignorance.
I was extremely naive to think I could pull off a profitable business that could replace that sweet summer student employment income. But in my mind, an underpaid, boring student gig sounded just as appealing as stubbing my toe on a coffee table. I greet uncertainty like an old friend, and launch myself into a hummus business, in which I had not perfected the craft, or even knew exactly how to do anything in the bussiness realm.
In those days, I could convince almost anyone into buying into my ridiculous ideas. I think people see behind the veil now.
I started the recipe by soaking the chickpeas overnight, boiling and by peeling every single one of those little bastards. After a long full day of work, I would end up with maybe 20 jars of decent hummus. Yes, jars. Not the most efficient model or use of time, but that was only day 1.
I had bought a small food processor, in which I could blend up to 3 jars of per whirl. It took me approximately 15 minutes to make a batch. We had 3 flavours. They were roasted red pepper, smoked garlic, and mushroom and sage. The thing that made our product special, was the garlic.
My parents had a wood oven outside, so I would smoke the garlic, using small pieces of birch to create a plume of healthy smolder. I thought it could be an ode to the town recognized for its visible air pollution and rich history of deforestation.
My friend’s mom designed the logo, a rustic pastel representation of the Sudbury Smoke Stack and it’s surroundings. We were off and running with so much excitement.
We were so excited to grow up and become adults. We dressed up in our prom suits from the previous year and met at a restaurant to talk business between “partners”. This was essentially an excuse to wear our formal gear. We also wanted to feel like bigshots, as I pulled out my decripit velcro wallet filled with expired library cards and Cineplex gift cards to pay.
“I thought we were serious about it, but I also thought they would laugh us out of the building. We quickly realized that we did not know what we were doing, but also that no one knows what the f*ck they are doing.” mentioned Trevor Volway, one of my partners in the company.
We launched an Instagram page, a website, and ordered stickers. We had a jarring system, production line (in my kitchen with my tiny food processor.) We had lined up meetings with retailers, sold to many friends and family and most importantly, we had sweaters.
This detail is important because it taught me a valuable lesson about merchandise, spending, cost, cashflow. These sweaters put us under.
We gave them away like bibles. I think the idea of a person choosing to wear our logo on their upper body clouded our reason. They were extremely expensive to make and triggered the downfall of the Hometown Hummus empire.
We closed shop not long after that. That was at the end of the summer. Our efforts did not bear fruit. But something changed when I receive a call from the President of Enactus Laurentian, Alexie Beaulieu in August of 2017. We were back in a big way.
PART 2 coming soon.