From students to entrepreneurs, Isabelle Lam and Jamie Lee are paving the way for the food industry and won’t let the pandemic hold them back.
The Founders of Remix Snacks
We are Isabelle and Jamie, co-founders of Remix Snacks – a BIPOC, female-founded snack company dedicated to making healthy, plant-based snacks. After meeting at McGill University studying Dietetics and Nutrition, the two of us realized we had more than just our passion for health and coming from our hometown of Markham, Ontario in common. Together, we had the goal of entering the Annual McGill Startup Competition: The Dobson Cup.
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As soon-to-be dietitians, we saw two major problems in the health and food industry. First, many Canadians resort to convenience rather than quality or health when it comes to snacking. Second, 58 per cent of food produced in Canada is wasted. This sparked our competing idea to develop a product that would equally benefit consumers’ health, and the environment.
During our final year at McGill in 2018, we had many nights filled with fruit-drying rotations and mastering chocolate tempering. We were able to create the market’s first vegan chocolate bark that uses beans for added nutrition. From that, we successfully won two innovation awards at the McGill Dobson Cup, which initially funded the launch of our company – Remix Snacks – propelling us into the entrepreneurial world. Our products are now available at retailers across Ontario and Quebec, but that didn’t come without challenges and setbacks – including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Navigating the Pandemic
Since launching, we have spent a tremendous amount of time learning the ins and outs of the food industry and challenging the traditional notions of snack food. Our products are consciously made to reduce and combat food waste, using upcycled fruit to create our snacks while being nut-free, gluten-free and plant-based. We also use resealable and reusable packaging to ensure we are conscious of our brand’s carbon footprint.
Business was booming and we were finally seeing results from our efforts. That is, until COVID-19 threw a wrench in our development. When the pandemic hit, we were scared what this would mean for the future of Remix Snacks.
Before COVID-19, over 71 per cent of our revenues were generated from selling our product at physical retailers and storefronts, including grocery stores, gyms, schools and cafés. With many of our initial sources of income unfortunately closing due to the pandemic, our sales decreased 46 per cent. With this, we had to quickly pivot to keep up with consumer demands and focus on our e-commerce platforms. We began learning and running ads on Facebook and Instagram, which resulted in a massive increase in online purchases.
Throughout the uncertainty of COVID-19, we are thankful for initiatives like Metro’s Locally Sourced program for not only allowing our business to stay afloat – but thrive. One of the hardest things you can do is get your name out there and be recognized as a small business. Metro enables our brand to be physically seen and enjoyed.
A Proud BIPOC Business
Despite challenges we have faced navigating how to run a business and the unforeseen global pandemic, we never questioned how we use our platform and success. As proud BIPOC entrepreneurs, we are dedicated to advocating and supporting other BIPOC businesses.
Also, we work to integrate business practices that align with our support for equity. We hire without discrimination, elevate underrepresented voices on our socials whenever we can, make connections for BIPOC entrepreneurs and represent diversity in our social media posts. We are conscious and aware of being an active ally to our community and showing younger generations that you can be a part of the BIPOC community and be successful.
This last year has definitely been a whirlwind for us. But, like our other experiences in business, we’ve taken it in stride as a step in the process. Throughout this past year, we have adapted, pivoted and shifted our approach, ultimately helping our business and personal relationship. We have invested in our future, our relationships with customers as well as other BIPOC businesses and are ready for what’s next for Remix Snacks.