Riding retail trend to success

It began as a Regina mother’s frustration at being unable to find organic produce to feed her family.

Today, Body Fuel Organics is a growing business,delivering organic and locally sourced food through a subscription service and Regina store.

Consumers can request a produce bin of goods stocked according to value and the food currently in season, or they can customize it to suit their personal tastes.

Company founder Lana VanDijk, who grew up on a farm in Cupar, Sask., said the business was founded out of necessity.

“I was a mom that was on a mission; I wanted my kids to be healthy.”

In 2005, when she couldn’t find organic produce, she took matters into her own hands. Through family and friends, she learned of others in a similar situation and that presented an opportunity.

“The whole ordering and having a predictable order every week was what came to mind and it just grew from there,” VanDijk said.

She caught the rising retail trend of customized subscription boxes, which enables consumers to order a box of goods delivered to their door regularly for almost anything they want, including wine, makeup, do-it-yourself crafts and food.

The operation began as a hobby in VanDijk’s basement. She hadn’t promoted the business and didn’t have a delivery service, but by the end of the first year, she had 50 customers.

At this point, she reached out to the Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan.

“I started to work with the professionals there who taught me how to make a business plan and I also got my first loan through them,” said VanDijk.

By October 2006, her basement full of food evolved into an organic produce and grocery store.

The company recently moved into a 5,000 sq. foot grocery store, which is open seven days a week and delivers to more than 14 communities around southern Saskatchewan.

The bin service has more than 500 regular customers, who can have their bin delivered to their door or pick it up at the store.

“We have everything from dairy to supplements to meat that we source locally,” VanDijk said.

“I’ve gone from having probably one to two suppliers to now having the ability to purchase from 10, so availability of organic has in-creased. However, I am finding that the price has gone up.”

Nicole Davis, owner-operator of Daybreak Mill in Estevan, Sask., has been providing products to Body Fuel Organics for a year.

“We sell them a few different cereals, flours. We sell them popcorn, our granola mix, kind of a variety of things,” she said. “It has definitely given us a wider customer base in Regina and then they deliver to a few different cities as well, so its helped us to definitely reach more people that way… .”

Starting a business from scratch isn’t easy. Initially, the overhead was minimal because VanDijk operated from her home, but she soon discovered handling food came with special requirements.

“As soon as you order food you need a GST number and an inspection by the health department. Immediately, we were renovating our house,” said VanDijk.

It cost $10,000 to meet health regulations.

Other costs included incorporation and insurance, as well as various equipment and supplies.

Marketing is important for the company to grow. VanDijk now makes room in her budget for it and recently asked a local communications company to help with a direct marketing strategy.

VanDijk hopes her retail store will one day become a chain across Canada. She said having clear goals has helped with her success.

“Know what you want to achieve. There has to be a why behind what you do and you have to be very clear with that.”

The subscription bins began VanDijk’s business and will continue to offer customers access to fresh organic foods and more.

Her brand is now taking off and she recommends others to be fearless in the entrepreneurial endeavors.

“Be willing to be bold and really to be the face of their brand and not be afraid of being in the public eye,” she said.

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