This week I am sharing a conversation I had with Ryan Oickle from Gratify.
Gratify supplies our shop with the most delicious vegan- gluten free snacks and is relatively new on main street, opening for business around the same time our coffee shop opened in 2019.
Ryan and his wife Connie have worked hard to bring Penticton dessert options that you can binge on – Guilt Free!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today Ryan, like I mentioned to you before, I am writing these blogs as a way to market my business online but also to get to know the other local businesses we work with in Penticton. I am not sure how many people are reading these, but I enjoy doing them.
Yah people are interested about what is happening locally – especially on our main street here.
Yeah you are right, I think here there is a real interest in supporting local, I was going to ask you about your experience starting your business in Penticton. You and your wife Connie opened up around the same time I did.
We opened the shop mid 2019
I was like, October 2018 so a bit earlier then you but then I wasn’t really selling coffee I was just roasting it I didn’t have the shop until mid-2019 the same as you.
Yah I guess you weren’t really on my radar before I could walk into the shop. So I guess our shop opened April 2019. This month (October, 2020) was actually our three year anniversary, because we started as just a proof of concepts. Connie was working as a server at Dream Cafe. So they let us just kind of make some orders and just do a proof of concept. So it was just cheesecakes that we did just to see if there was a market for it. And then when we had our first Thanksgiving in October we made a ton of cheesecakes and stuff. We started looking for a place and I think by mid- November, we had like a rental space at a commercial kitchen. So we had the back of a commercial kitchen and we officially become a business, that was all done on made to order or work based on preorders so we were kind of just slowly grinding at it just to make sure we didn’t lose our shirts.
You didn’t just commit to something just wildly.
Yes especially because of the expensive ingredients
Yeah, well, everybody seems to really like your stuff. We can’t keep it on the shelf.
I love it.
Yah it’s been great
It’s funny too, because a lot of my friends that would never be the type of people to be health conscious they look at your stuff like a delicious snack. The fact it’s vegan gluten free is just like, Oh, okay. Like, surprise!, it’s just really good.
Yah that’s the consensus, I don’t think we would get by if everything was just made with potato starch and tapioca flour, you can make gluten free vegan stuff but – a lot of it you don’t really feel satisfied from and that was never our intention from the start
So Connie is like the one… Connie’s background is in nutrition?
Yeah so she is a registered holistic nutritionist, she took a while throughout the years, just consulting, but not really having that as a career. She always made these raw treats that were coincidently gluten free and stuff like that, and just kind of within the same realm of what Gratify makes now. So yeah it was just an idea to see if there is a market for these snacks.
So you guys came to Penticton? you’re not from here. Are you?
Connie is originally from here, but I am from New Brunswick, and then came to BC to work in Engineering and moved to Kelowna and quit engineering
So Connie is a homegrown one. It’s funny how many people have come back to Penticton or moved back to start businesses
That’s right you grew up here too didn’t you?
Yeah. I grew up in Penticton, too.. And then I left for like, well I left when I was 16. I just came back a couple years ago now., I totally came back to get my mom’s help to do this coffee thing.
So your mom is Shauna,
Yeah, she is the one that gets the Gratify order. She still does deliveries and helps me with whatever.
So your mom works part time?
She is retired but my partner in the business. So yah you know what it’s like when you start a business you just do everything. She is the everything person so yeah, she’s just not so keen on actually making coffees but I have made her do it a few times. So when you guys were working at Dream Cafe, it was just kind of like this idea. You had to see if people would like to buy these snacks and get into it or, I guess Connie probably wanted to do if she went and studied that it was probably something she had in the back of her mind, right ?
I don’t think she ever decided she wanted to be an entrepreneur, because you know with the consulting and stuff there is a lot of putting yourself out there and stuff that you can’t really shy away from in entrepreneurship. But over the years she has been changed by entrepreneurship it has given her, well both of us so much confidence. When we started I had an interest in marketing, I was an entrepreneur so I kind of was doing that side of things and she was full time the face of the company making everything. It was a slow transition instead of just well like you…
Hahaha – Yah I just threw down.
You got guts
Well really I moved downtown because my, my mom’s partner is a part owner of the building there. So that’s a big convenient move. I never really wanted to have a coffee shop, I just wanted to import coffee. I always thought I would stay in Honduras, I was just going to bring the coffee and sell it. But I went like basically across Canada trying to sell the first container of coffee and I couldn’t. So then I was here with a container of coffee that I couldn’t sell. So what do I do? I was like, well, I can’t sell it. The only way I can sell is if I roast it. So I better you know, figure out that next thing. And so that’s when my mom stepped up to help me and I moved back to Penticton.
So what is the biggest part of your business the wholesale part?
Now probably the biggest part of my business is selling coffee in the store. But well, it’s probably even like the wholesale roasted and the stuff in the store. And then now I just kind of want to focus on my online business and, and just as a result of … I guess having a presence, I have had more sales with the wholesale selling green coffee. So that was what I wanted to sell originally., It’s like a bit of an old man’s club. You got to get your foot in the door. And, and, and be there. And then people are kind of like, Alright, let’s try this out. So yeah, I’m shipping another container of coffee now. So it’s kind of exciting, it’s working out. I think with everything happening, it’s almost like you just have to have enough support to stay alive long enough. You know, that’s what is really making it work for me is the help of my family and also being in Penticton, because I can make my friends buy my coffee no matter what.
Yah it’s good to have that option.
I never really wanted to have a coffee shop, I originally wanted to do something to support these farmers that I was working with in Honduras and it kind of turned into this, because I think the answer to the problem is, or in order for me to ensure that they get a fair price, I have to actually create the product. There wasn’t really a space for me to be a middleman and I, I feel like, that’s the important part of my business– making sure these guys get paid fairly. I know from other people that we work with, like Celine and David from Maison Mulnati, they’re creating a product that’s healthy and focus on what that means for the consumers. I think Gratify is quite similar. I think it’s important to us what our product stands for.
Yes that is the underlying principal behind us, you can only check so many boxes at the beginning. It would be awesome to be using locally supplied ingredients, or at least ingredients that you’ve sourced, but for us, it was always just like, “let’s just do something that checks the boxes that no one else does” we are health conscious first, that’s the number one priority and coincidentally we fit all these secondary boxes that are a priority for people.. So you get a lot of people that come in and say, I can never eat anything because I’m celiac, or I can just choose to be gluten free. And that’s one idea. And then the dairy is a priority for some people. At the end of the day, it’s just the underlying principle that you don’t have to eat what’s on the grocery store shelves if you don’t want to. When you get something from the grocery store, it’s going to be lower in price because the lowest common denominator ingredients are funneled into that you’ve got the corn syrup and the corn derivatives and the soy… and everything that is mass produced and proven time and time again to hurt us generationally it is just like a disease. So yes, we don’t serve a huge population that’s really going to make a dent in the overall picture but it is more of just existing is a symbol of change – it’s a grass roots movement.
Yeah, I like that just existing as a symbol of change. It is about telling the people they have an option really giving people an option.
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Yah they didn’t know it existed before – the funny thing is that you hear “ oh I eat desserts but I can’t eat too much” – but this you can and your body will thrive from it there is a lot of calories, but it’s the kind of calories that can actually feed you to have a sharper mind and still maintain a fit body
My baby’s been growing on your granola bars.
I think you know you have a successful product is when all the things that you want to do that make it kind of like this beneficial thing, they are secondary to the just the enjoyment of the product.
It is like – “oh this is a great cup of coffee. Oh, the farmers got paid…. Great”. First it has to be just the convenience or like, what the consumer wants in the moment.
For sure, yeah and that is one thing you learn about in the beginning it is all about the customer and you need to be solving a problem for them.
No, it’s true. Yeah. you can’t, preach or impose things. That is a big thing that I’ve noticed is how we don’t realize how much leverage we have with what we buy or the choices we make with what we buy and what it means. And you’re right, if you buy from certain grocery stores or certain main chain food producers – It’s just like this whole chain of exploitation that you support. And, it’s nice that people are starting to pay attention to where their food comes from and how important is it that they have better options? If you just don’t have any options, you’re busy, you’re just going to buy that that thing that’s available.
Yah I agree and that is another point, you know everything has kind of become corporate. So we’re not the goal, I guess, is not that every, every dessert or every snack that people have is from Gratify. The goal is that there’s artisan food and artisan products will never kind of go away as long as there’s people that are fighting for that. You can always get something that’s corporate, and it’ll always kind of be there but just having that other option there is something you have to fight for, even if sometimes it seems impractical
Like stock other people’s like products in your store?
Yeah, that was going to be a bigger aspect of our business, it is something that we planned but it’s a small space.
It’s interesting in Penticton because of all the breweries we have in town – they are all friendly with each other. It’s kind of like this nice thing It’s like, we’re not competition we are the alternative.
Yeah, I couldn’t believe it, my buddy works for Bad Tattoo and it is great how symbiotic they all are
I guess they all share a passion. And I guess like being around beer all day probably makes you in a good mood to just be jolly and friendly.
That is another question I had for you, because you and Connie are just getting back from a holiday. I get to take a break from my business now because I’m pregnant and I have an excuse but like it was hard. It has been hard to put in the hours, it’s hard to not be exhausted and it’s hard to not like hate your business you know, at some point I hated looking at anything to do with it you know? But how have you guys managed? I mean even through like the pandemic and all these new challenges, you still have to be cheerful and make your posts and make your product and you know deal with your customers.
It’s crazy – for me I think it’s beyond any sort of financial or business success it’s actually just forced me to become a better version of who I always wanted to be and it’s always just a constant battle too because I’m not a very personable and years ago I wouldn’t have been able to run this business the way I’ve run it because for me it’s like I am moody and it’s hard for me to be nice to everyone, it is really humbling. And to get back at it, well it is like moving this huge boulder and we are just starting slowly rolling.
I do I love being closed sometimes, over the pandemic and then even just recently in the middle of August we just kind of shut down for a week when everything got a bit overwhelming but, you know I’m really happy now because I have good staff and I don’t have to you know, I’m not there like night and day. I never wanted to do retail. I’ve never worked in food service. I’ve never done anything like that. because I’m like, awkward I bite my nails. I’m not… well I’m just like kind of the slob. I’m not like the presentable one. So when I just had to be the barista, I really felt uncomfortable – What am I doing? It was totally a test to learn about myself. I had to tell myself I can do this, people do this all the time – why can’t I do this? Okay, I’m doing this! But yeah, it is an interesting thing that you have to learn about yourself when you force yourself to do all the components of business.
Yes that is why it is so important to step out of it sometimes because it isn’t just about the business succeeding because ultimately I don’t know if we’ll both be doing it for the rest of our lives in this capacity so there’s going to be mistakes made so that you learn. You can get better and if someone threw us the amount of orders or whatever that we get these days back a year ago or whatever it would have all fallen apart because I wouldn’t had the systems in place to deal with it or the patience or resilience…
Hahaha you would have just said no, and turned down orders…
Well yah, what would happen to you if your orders would double all of a sudden? Would you have the shipping capacity….
Yeah, my mom would quit! It has been fun to watch the business grow and change and I guess that’s the satisfying thing but having a business is still exhausting sometimes and well you and Connie you guys …. well how old is your daughter?
So you guys started a business did all this – had a kid just at the same time?
Yah she was due a few months after we opened the shop so…
It was a little stressful
Yah busy year. We have had really good staff throughout so it has been manageable, you just have to learn to prioritize not compromise, you know come home for dinner every day and there are always going to be things left undone.
Yeah, you can’t be perfect. I think that’s another component of supporting local – having an understanding that well – what we expect from a product sometimes is like really unattainable for a small businesses. We need to be able to make mistakes and, you know, if you’re relying just on a small amount of people, there’s going to be bad days, you know, so..
Yah for sure I love our Gratify community. They have really made an effort to make it feel like a community. The people that do support us time and time again, they are really lenient about that stuff. And you know, I might be sold out to something twice in a row that they come and I try to be apologetic. They really want it in there and they are still patient about it.
Yeah I have been having problems with my orders that are paid online, like my subscription orders. It was such a hassle going back and forth messaging people, but everyone was so patient with me. It was almost nice to have like a guinea pig community that is understanding…
Yah what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger so you have to get those kinks worked out.
Yeah, and you just have to, like, own it and say, Sorry, and be like, whoops.
Ahhhh that happens so much for me forgetting or missing an order it is the worst, you just have to stand there and be like, sorry your next cake is free
Yeah, it’s like somebody’s birthday party cake. And you missed it. Yeah. That would be bad. Yeah. So like, you guys are just getting into Thanksgiving. I guess it’s going to be wild for you doing more pumpkin cheesecakes and that kind of stuff.
Yah it gets really crazy and then its Christmas.
Yeah. be interesting to see what happens this year. We’re doing better this year than we did last year. And, I mean, it’s, you know, with all things considered, it’s slow growth, but it’s still moving and it’s nice. because I think a big reason for that is being in this town and the local people that really keep us going.
I was curious about that, so September did it slow down much or at all?
Not really maybe a little bit in some random drink sales, but not overall. I was worried, but it’s going good. So you’re just nervous to announce you’re open again because you’re going to get slammed?
Yeah pretty much.
Not a bad problem.
Thanks for reading our Blog and supporting your local alternatives! We agree with Gratify that just existing is a symbol of change we are proud of – for our industries and also our town.