Queen of pastry has all the ingredients for success
When Heather Daymond of Shut Ur Pie Hole participated in Innovate Manitoba’s annual Venture’Challenge event in 2014 she admits feeling just a little in over her head. How was the “lady baking pies in a jar” going to measure up against the other startups that were competing for over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes?
Yet, it didn’t faze Daymond that some of the companies were already attracting significant interest from angel investors, or that they were years ahead on product design. Neither was she bothered when she didn’t make it into the prize money.
“I’d started the company with a $4,100 tax refund and had just seen sales increase 500 per cent the month before,” Daymond said. It didn’t hurt that she’d taken the top prize of $5,000 at Innovate Manitoba’s two-day Brandon Entrepreneur Bootcamp, held earlier in the year. At that point the company, which is primarily based on Daymond’s unique approach of combining freshly made pie ingredients and pastry in a mason jar, was a month old.
Daymond laughs when she says she was definitely at a disadvantage for Venture’Challenge because the rules didn’t allow her to give the judges a taste of her pie. “After the event, I sent one of the judges my butter tart in a jar and he said I’d make a million dollars!”
Jan Lederman, president of Innovate Manitoba, says that Daymond’s story is representative of what happens on the startup journey. “What we see at the Innovate Manitoba events are great ideas at different stages in the entrepreneurial lifecycle.” She adds, “Shut Ur Pie Hole is an exciting company that literally has all the ingredients for success.”
Daymond has leveraged several of Innovate Manitoba’s programs.
“I’ve now had the opportunity to meet many startups and I always recommend that they take advantage of the Innovate Manitoba programs,” Daymond said. “The advice that I received at the Launch’Pad Startup Skills Bootcamp has been invaluable towards the growth of my business.”
When she presented her business idea to the Bootcamp leaders – all experienced angel investors – they told her that she needed to think about how she could take the product out of her own kitchen and to a larger market. “The information they provided was clear and concise. I knew exactly what I had to do next.”
That brought Daymond to the Knox United Church, which features a half a million dollar commercial kitchen in its basement. This would provide capacity for Daymond to expand pie production to meet growing demand. She and her part-time pastry chef spend two days a week in the kitchen preparing the pies for distribution.
While she’s been able to streamline the baking process to increase production, Daymond stresses that the product relies on the “personal touch” of using fresh ingredients and Daymond’s family recipes – especially the pastry.
“I come from three generations of wheat producers and grew up watching my grandmother bake pies. That’s why I’m so interested in connecting people to where the food comes from.”
Daymond has recently completed a Family and Friends round of funding and is working on an agreement to sell some shares in the growing company, as well as applying for government grants to bring the business to the next level.
“Innovate Manitoba advised me to wait until I had gotten as far as I could through other sources of funding such as government grants and friends and family before looking for larger investors. That way the company looks more attractive for the investment round.”
She is also creating an advisory board comprised of people with retail, food, accounting and legal expertise to help move the company to a more national place.
“The goal is to help us become a stronger ‘machine’ that has sound advice and a clear vision behind us.”
It appears that the delectable Shut Ur Pie Hole products are almost selling themselves through “word of mouth”. One taste and people want more.
With sales of over $50,000 in less than a year, Daymond is looking to triple sales by focusing on wedding and corporate markets where she sells 100 to 200 jars at a time. She hopes this will comprise about 80 per cent of sales in the future but also continues to rely on the farmer’s markets as a good place to test products and pricing.
Shut Ur Pie Hole is in both Winnipeg’s Downtown Farmer’s Market and the St. Norbert Farmers Market where she can see up to a 1,000 customers a day.
“These are loyal customers who are showing up looking for their favourite pie and even returning their jars!” Daymond offers 50 cents off when customers return the much-coveted mason jars. She also participates in the Kenora Farmer’s Market and is looking to showcase her pies in some national gift shows.
This summer, Shut Ur Pie Hole will be at the Winnipeg Folk Festival along with Cornell Crème, a local ice cream company, serving up slices of pie and ice cream in the Festival Village.
The pies are currently available locally at DeLucas, Crampton’s Market and Generation Green at the Forks. Hotels have also been asking for the pies for their gift shops. Daymond’s current goal is to be in 25 retail locations.
And what about that name? Daymond says it was a lark cooked up when she challenged some girlfriends to come up with all the names they’d like to see for a pie. Shut Ur Pie Hole jumped out as one that was too good for just one pie. “I decided to run with it, put it up on Facebook and it took off from there,” she said.
“People will walk by my sign and smile or look twice which is exactly the response I was looking for,” Daymond said. #piesmakepeoplehappy is an integral part of her branding.
She says the support from Innovate Manitoba and the local community as a whole has been phenomenal. “Right from the start, people have been following our story and are saying they want to buy the products just to support us and help us succeed.”
“Innovate Manitoba has been incredibly helpful, giving us the nuts and bolts of how to run the business.”
Want to be more like Heather Daymond?
Register for Innovate Manitoba’s Launch’Pad Startup Skills Bootcamp, being held May 1 – 4 2015 in Winnipeg.
Not quite ready for Launch’Pad Bootcamp?
Take a smaller leap into lean startup bootcamps, with Innovate Manitoba’s Brandon Entrepreneur Bootcamp.
Need more validation?
Take 1 minute to see what Carly Shuler of Kindoma had to say about Launch’Pad Bootcamp: