By Carolyn Harris
This post is the first in a series of interviews with owners of local vegan businesses. To receive updates every time there is a new blog post, you can follow the NCVA blog by entering your e-mail in the sidebar to the right.
Jo is the owner of Little Jo Berry’s, a vegan café that serves treats, lunches, and coffee on Wellington St. West in Ottawa. When she was 17, she made the switch to a vegan lifestyle. Trained in specialty baking and having had experience working at Auntie Loo’s Treats, she opened Little Jo Berry’s in 2016. Here’s what she had to say about her experience being a vegan business owner…
1) When and why did you decide to go vegan?
When I was 17 I was living with my mother, and one day she came home and decided she wanted to start living a vegan lifestyle. In solidarity, I joined her. For the first year it was a lot of learning and experimenting. But once I became fully vegan there was no going back, I was so excited about it. The amount of new things to try with different ingredients, playing around in the kitchen, keeping animals safe and happy.
2) Have you always enjoyed baking? When did you decide you wanted to start your café?
In high school I actually hated foods class. I was explicit that all I wanted to do was sweep the floors and choose the music. But at home my dad was quite a chef, most of our bonding time was spent in the kitchen. I think it slowly and unintentionally made being in the kitchen very comfortable and familiar for me. However, I never imagined it as a career. Not until I got a part time baking gig at Auntie Loo’s. That was where I really started to grow as a baker. I started to dream of having a bakery in a sleepy little town by the sea one day. Sadly, Loo’s closed and that prompted me to put my goals and dream into motion. Slowly things began to unfold.
3) What do you enjoy most about running Little Jo Berry’s?
There are two things I enjoy absolutely the most:
1) my customers. Best people in the world. So many good, kind people support us and fuel us on a daily basis.
2) the few hours I take to myself in the kitchen every morning. Having time alone to create and try new recipes. Being able to practice what I am passionate about brings me so much joy.
4) What have you learned from your experiences with your bakery so far?
The most important thing I have learned is to be nice, always and to everyone. Especially when it is hard. Making the right decision and being respectful every time. We have so much luck and good things come our way at the shop and I like to think it has everything to do with our outlook and how we treat others.
5) What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their passion for vegan food into a career?
Get ready to work very hard. To feel exhausted and burnt out and run down. Get ready for all the feelings and pressures and to be overwhelmed. Know that that will come for you and to be prepared. Surround yourself with loved ones and treats and puppies. Take the appropriate steps to find support and self care. Taking time for yourself will make you so much stronger and ready for the next steps.
6) What are your plans for the future?
Our plans are simple, to continue to grow and nourish our ties with our community. To give back all the love we have received. Whether that be with new treats or different events, we want to create a home for our patrons.
Please join me in wishing Jo all the best for 2017!