Entrepreneur Profile – Thunder Bay CEDC

Entrepreneur Profile
by the Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC)

In January 2020, the Thunder Bay CEDC launched a new initiative highlighting successful Entrepreneur's that have gone through their Starter Company Program. Nadine Kelly was featured in the January issue:

Meet Nadine Kelly, Founder/CEO of the fast growing meal service business Breakfast Lunch & Deener and Co-Founder of The Cook Nook.

Nadine moved to Thunder Bay in 2015 after completing her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Guelph. Nadine came to Thunder Bay to help her mom and after some research decided to start a personal training business. As her business grew larger, she realized the lack of services available to help busy people with their nutrition, beyond just advisory services. Nadine was, and still is a firm believer that nutrition is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, and grew increasingly frustrated as clients struggled with nutrition, simply because they just didn’t have the time or the desire to cook. Breakfast Lunch & Deener was established in May 2016 as Thunder Bay’s premier prepared meal service. It is intended for individuals who are busy and would rather not spend their valuable time grocery shopping, cooking, and doing dishes. Breakfast Lunch & Deener is designed for individuals who value nutrient-dense, minimally-processed, whole foods. In early 2019, Breakfast Lunch & Deener started re-positioning itself in the market: They are no longer just a meal service, they are now your one-stop-shop for Everything #MealPrep.

"We are establishing ourselves as the premier healthy prepared-meal manufacturer in the region, with a production team of 8 individuals, and an additional 3 jobs coming in 2020." Says Nadine, "At Breakfast Lunch & Deener, we strive to support the local economy by purchasing ingredients and materials from local businesses as much as possible. We believe whole foods are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. We pride ourselves in using simple and pure ingredients, avoiding processed and preserved foods. Our meals are created from scratch: we peel carrots, chop onions, roll meatballs, mix salad dressings, etc.! Our unique distribution model promotes the local economy by driving additional foot traffic and awareness into their establishments."

Nadine most recently helped establish The Cook Nook in partnership with the Nor'Wester Maple Company. Businesses in the food manufacturing and processing industry are often faced with the challenge of growth between starting-up and scaling. Breakfast Lunch & Deener and Nor’Wester Maple Company both rented shared kitchen space locally, designed to help start-up companies. It was a great temporary solution for their part-time space needs. By 2018 both businesses reached production capacity at these rental facilities and therefore were faced with a tough decision: Allow the business to plateau or take the leap to grow by moving into their facility.

Sean and Nadine connected in late 2018 at events hosted by the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre and the Community Economic Development Commission, and decided to explore the option of partnering to establish a shared production facility. This would allow for a permanent home for both businesses, allowing for the cost of this type of expansion to be shared.

In March 2019, renovations started for The Cook Nook. The Cook Nook is designed to house a small number of proven businesses looking to expand, but who do not require a brick-and-mortar location of their own. The Cook Nook is the new home for Breakfast Lunch & Deener, Nor’Wester Maple Company, and Canada West Maple Products as anchor-tenants. The fully-licensed and A-rated facility will be available for rent to other proven businesses over the next few months. The Cook Nook offers a unique long-term solution to a part-time space need and will help grow and sustain the food manufacturing sector in the Thunder Bay area.

Q & A with Nadine:

1. What drew you to entrepreneurship?
I started my first business because I wanted to work for myself, without the commitment of working specific hours or days. I wanted to be able to spend time with my mom, whenever she needed me. I just wanted the freedom to work for myself. But now, almost 5 years later, it’s become so much more than that. On a personal level, my businesses allow me to live my day-to-day life in a way that I genuinely enjoy. I really value personal growth and development, and being an Entrepreneur allows you to develop yourself almost daily. I love creating some kind of structure out of chaos, solving problems, and being able to truly see the effects my efforts have on my businesses. Most days, I don’t feel like I’m working. I feel excited to seize the opportunities that I’m presented with, and I love knowing that I am building something from what used to be nothing.

2. What is your most memorable moment being an entrepreneur?
When I moved to Thunder Bay, I knew less than a handful of people. I found it extremely challenging to build a service-based business, in a local economy that was heavily based on who you know. I think my most memorable moment would have to be winning the Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. It felt like a full-circle moment, going from knowing almost no one and struggling to get the business off the ground, to standing in front of a room full of Thunder Bay’s business community recognized for my efforts.

3. Who was your biggest inspiration/mentor?
My biggest mentor locally has been, without a doubt, Jim Stadey. A friend of mine introduced me to Jim in May 2016 while I was struggling to figure out what I needed to launch my business. Right away, Jim agreed to meet with me, and less than a week later Breakfast Lunch & Deener was officially launched. Jim has been an incredible ally to myself and my business for almost 4 years. If it wasn’t for Jim, I don’t think I would have overcome some of the major obstacles I’ve been faced with.

4. If you could go back in time what piece of advice would you give yourself?
People matter. The people you meet and the people you choose to bring in to your business can have a profound impact on the direction the business takes, and the relationships you have with your customers and your audience as a whole define your brand, and therefore your entire business. The realization of the profound effect people can have has been challenging to navigate, especially because I only truly realized this mid-way through 2019… and I can’t really say that I have it figured out, or that I’ll ever have it figured out, for that matter.