Erin Maynes is the CEO and co-founder of FoodiePages.ca. You can follow her on Twitter at @FoodiePages or visit FoodiePages.ca to discover and buy artisan food directly from the best foodmakers across Canada.
What is FoodiePages.ca, and what was the inspiration behind founding the company?
FoodiePages.ca is an online marketplace that people can visit to buy the best food directly from artisan food producers across Canada. We launched in August 2012 and currently have over 50 vendors from every province in Canada selling over 500 delicious products and sharing their best food preparation ideas, recipes and stories.
Over the years, I've become increasingly interested in understanding where my food comes from, and that's led me to prefer purchasing from small-scale local producers whenever I can. I'd just much rather buy direct from the specialist who can explain everything I want to know about the product. As a result, I often buy at markets, but it's not always easy to access the food I want; markets have limited hours and are often seasonal. Sometimes I find one that's further away and then it's really hard to access. Based on my own experiences, I realized an online marketplace, where producers could communicate the same stories and messages they tell me at the market, would be ideal.
Did you know throughout your studies at Queen's that you wanted to merge your two passions of business and food, or was that a career direction that arose during the course of your degree?
I've always loved seeking out and trying new foods, but when I finished university and started working in the marketing department of a large restaurant company, I approached this interest from a different angle. I spent the next several years in brand marketing and research where I looked at trends in the food and restaurant industry, compared them to insights from analyzing our own business results, and developed strategies and tactics to drive business growth. However, it was this experience that helped me realize that the culinary world is truly one of the most creative and fast-paced industries out there. It's always changing, and I wanted to be part of that change--creating something of unique value in that space.
Did you gather any kind of field-specific work experience while you were doing your commerce degree that helped you get a foothold in your industry upon graduation?
I didn't have any field-specific work experience that was relevant to the food or restaurant industry, which goes to show that the wonderful thing about business is that you can apply the principles you learn across multiple industries.
After graduating you moved straight in brand management. What is brand management, and how has your experience in this field helped you in establishing FoodiePages.ca?
The bonds between brands and their customers are more tenuous than ever. Size and brand awareness are no longer guarantees of a competitive advantage. Today, technology is enabling a decentralization where you have a lot of smaller brands selling direct to niche audiences. If you look at the consumer brands that have performed best in recent years, they have all maintained relevance in culture. This idea has remained core to the development of Foodie Pages, which is all about discovering and buying from the best Canadian foodmakers. My team--as the stewards of the brand--act as careful curators, always ensuring that the product offerings and information on FoodiePages.ca are relevant and useful to our Foodie customers.
Setting up your own business must present quite a learning curve. In the first three months of business, what have been the more significant lessons that you've learned?
1. Adaptability to change, and flexibility, are key. The faster you learn to be comfortable with chaos and ambiguity, the better.
2. An openness and curiosity to learn from anyone, anywhere, often leads to new and unexpected opportunities.
3. It's all about people: how you build a team, motivate them and challenge them, and how comfortable you feel being challenged.
How do you see FoodiePages.ca developing over the course of the next year or two?
We want to list 100 top food producers by the end of the year and about 200 by our first anniversary. It's important to us that we represent producers from all regions of Canada. We also have plans to launch new product categories as the year unfolds. Interesting and informative content is also a goal of ours – we'll feature recipes from our producers and, in a few months, video. We've got lots of exciting plans to keep visitors coming back!