When I moved up to Prince George from Vancouver, I had recently left my job in Retail Operations for a fast-paced women’s clothing company. Although I was ready for an industry change, I wasn’t sure what I wanted my next career to look like and the word “startup” hadn’t crossed my mind.
Shortly after moving, I was fortunate to get a job with a digital marketing startup. Having worked 12 hour days for the past four years in a structured, high-intensity work environment, it was an adjustment getting used to working for a company that believed in work/life balance and flexible work schedules, allowed me to drive my own development, and supported me to take on my own projects (more on that below), but it was an adjustment I was certainly willing to get used to!
With this new lifestyle, I was able to start exploring my new home and discover my next career path.
Getting to know Prince George
Coming from Vancouver I was worried that the restaurants wouldn’t live up to my expectations. However, not only were there already some amazing, established restaurants like The Copper Pig BBQ, Cimo Mediterranean Grill, and Play Grounds Café (the list goes on!), within the first 12 months of living here Kask, Betulla Burning, and CrossRoads Brewing opened. I felt like I had moved to Prince George at the beginning of a very exciting time for the city.
Discovering my startup niche
Among all these amazing businesses I couldn’t help but feel there were still some things missing…like cold-pressed juice and quality whole-food smoothies. As one result of my ongoing health journey, I had been making juice and smoothies at home for years but loved having the option to stop and buy one when I didn’t have the time or the ingredients on-hand at home. Realizing that this option was missing for me in Prince George, I began to wonder if other people were feeling the same thing. I couldn’t get this thought out of my head, so my partner and I decided to test the waters.
Launching Col Juicery
Our plan was to start small, and in March 2017, we launched our own cold-pressed juice company called Col Juicery at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) Farmers’ Market and the downtown Prince George Farmers’ Market. We were blown away by the community support for our initiative and the excitement about our product and had to quickly think about how to grow this opportunity alongside our full-time jobs Luckily, the lower cost of living in Prince George allowed us to more-easily take on start-up costs, and with my flexible work schedule I was able to work around markets and events.
Growing our business
Throughout the year, we continued to grow, attending such events as The Little Bean Market and The Makers Pop Up, popped up at Chinook Yoga Studio and Gibson’s Landing Athletics, and even spent a day in nearby Mackenzie at the Mackenzie Community Market. We also began selling our product through Play Grounds Café and Degrees Coffee Co. (UNBC) something we hadn’t imaged would be a possibility for us so soon!
Putting down roots
With momentum and awareness growing, we realized it was time to take some significant next steps. While exploring our options, we were excited to discover an opportunity with the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre (NSC) and put forward a proposal. In true startup fashion, we experienced some delays but are excited to announce that we have now opened our first Col Juice and Smoothie Bar at the NSC!
Looking to the future
Opening a business was not something I had always dreamed of doing or really could have predicted for myself, but seeing the unique combination of a gap in the marketplace, our educational backgrounds in business, an incredibly supportive community, and a time of growth and opportunity for Prince George, it was hard to not go for it!
We are excited to continue to grow with this community by our side and to see where this adventure goes.
Do you have a great idea for a start-up? Share it with us via Facebook or Twitter @MoveUpPG. And if you’re looking for resources for startups Startup PG and Innovation Central Society are great organizations to contact.