We moved for a chance to grow. We started building our new location on March 6, 2020, right at the start of the Covid Pandemic. We were committed. So we blazed forward thankful our build didn't get shut down before we completed.
We moved to succeed a location that only survived by our unpaid labour. To have the resources to grow a team. We moved to put an end to 80 & 90 hour grueling weeks, slinging food and pushing ourselves to extremes to push this business forward. We moved, and now are penalized for that inch of growth, locked out of all government covid subsidies for small business, due to an increase of revenue that came with a 50% loss of catering and food truck revenue, and an increase of expenses nearly 4 times what it was at our previous expenses at our Forest Lawn location. But, sure, this year, if we survive, we are on track to sell just over 1 million from $576,000 last year. It sounds like a lot, doesn't it?
Alas, when you're expenses are $80,000-$90,000 a month, it is game over pretty quick if sales dip any lower.
We, like many, have slipped through the cracks of a legislation that has condemned us, a locally grown brand in Calgary's food scene for nearly a decade, to closed potential doors if my wife and I don't move back into the kitchen and return to 80-90 hour grueling weeks and having to lay off team members just for them to apply for resources that we are being denied.
You can't fathom it, the insane work, the non stop multitasking pushing your body to extreme sacrifices, and the desperation for a day off that comes twice a year when you just can't open the doors that day. Days during stampede where you're pretty sure you didn't even change your underwear during your 2 hour stop at home.
In order to move locations and grow, we scraped by pulling amounts off all of our credit cards, unloading all of our RRSP's at a huge penalty, and draining every dollar from our business. We were that desperate for a chance to grow, after having been denied a business loan (not bc our business wasn't profitable, but bc we personally had sacrificed pay cheques for nearly a decade, throwing every dollar back at the business to push it forward and living off business crumbs to make ends meet. Well, turns out, the bank actually doesn't care that you have zero debt. Impeccable credit. Home Equity. RRSP's. Paid for all of your leasehold improvements and new food truck builds with cash. The fact was, my previous years' incomes were $16,500 and $24,000 respectively, so we were denied).
It didn't matter. We knew we had a brand with growth potential, and the two hardest working women we know. So we pulled every cent, I designed and managed the build from demo to final, glorious building inspection with zero previous restaurant design or contracting experience. and then on to my real job of opening and running restaurants.
When we opened the doors, we had zero dollars in the bank, and 4 full time employees to start. We had no idea if it would work, or if we were about to lose everything and more.
They started flooding through the doors in numbers we could barely handle. We had done it. But still, I had to pull the last accessible $5000 from my line of credit to make my first payroll expense. The business owes us over $200,000 to date, and an accumulating tax bill that by end of month there simply isn't enough money to pay currently. Still we are unable to take a pay cheque.
But, we are not approved for financial aid from the government, because we put ourselves through all of that for a chance at success. A chance, that just a few months later, has quickly melted away due to the Covid pandemic.
I started this business with $15,000 and built a food truck paying for the each portion of build as I could afford it. All be-it, the ghetto-est food truck. They all stared when I pulled up, but I just turned out the most beautiful food that I possibly could and drove this business forward from a food truck, to a catering company where I personal chef'd for the director of the "Revenant" during his stay in Calgary, to a takeout restaurant, to our Forest Lawn location, and now to Blackfoot Trail. The growth plan from here: 2 satellite locations, a production & distribution facility, and possibly franchising. That is our growth potential, and everything in me and the last decade of pure sacrifice and the purest of work ethic, has bet on this future.
Through the utmost of business challenges, staffing challenges, a perversely criminal business partner I had to shed, through "SHIT, we have 7 catering services on top of our restaurant service and only 2 staff today!" challenges, no money in the bank challenges, delivery platforms reaching their giant monopolizing hand into our pockets stealing 30% of our business, but creating a dependency for restaurants due to consumer demand challenges.
I am just so tired of being shoved down, trying to grow this amazing brand. And now, after the shear astonishing taxes we pay as a business, and as individuals, we are being told we simply don't fit the criteria for financial aid. Knowing full well we will have to participate in paying all this mess back. I have met a variety of business owners who bragged about how much money they were getting and as a result, never doing so well. People who don't even WORK IN THEIR BUSINESS. But our case will not be heard by CRA, or by our local MP or Ward Councilor, the people who are supposed to represent us. Instead they point fingers back and forth and say it's not up to me, ask the other.
Completely irresponsible governing, creating a well-fare mentality in a Canadian demographic already lacking in strong work ethic (in our industry anyways, and many I have witnessed in Alberta). Handing out money for people to sit at home taking a paid year off, rather than working. But denying needed support to a front line small business, not even willing to hear the case. It's ghastly.
What would you do?
Right now all I can ask myself, after all of that, is.....to Que, or not to Que?
Do we let the doors shut, or do we keep fighting?
Of course we keep fighting, it's just who we are. We are launching a new online Marketplace under the Jane Bond BBQ brand. Folks will be able to purchase items prepared by us, to cook or finish preparing at home. This will be available for pick up, or delivery on Saturdays & Sundays, with select items available on Skip The Dishes, Uber and Doordash at this time.
Please, please reach out and support your local businesses right now.
And keep the reviews positive, or if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. This is the time to be kind. Very, very kind to one another.
We, in turn, will continue to make beautiful brisket.
Chef Jenny B.
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