Being named NEDC’s Best New Business is a big deal, and for Suter Brook COBS’ owners/operators Melissa and Jay Holt, it was more proof of the power of co-creation.
A stay at home mom back in the day with a degree in chemistry, Melissa, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation, signed on at the bakery when it opened in 2008, and from there went on to learn the ropes and become a professional baker.
When the bakery, located in the centre of Port Moody across from city hall, came up for sale in the winter of 2014, Melissa says while it sounded like a good fit for their family, “it was underperforming for its’ location, so when we expressed interest in buying it that’s when we started working with NEDC. When we took over management we did a staff change, and the first month we took over we were profitable.”
Jay at the time was a statistical arbitrage trader, but when the market crashed in 2008 they started looking for something different to do.
The couple have three kids — two girls and a boy aged 14, 16, and 23.
“It was a big change,” she concedes, then explains that it was the the lead-up to the buying of the franchise that cleared the way.
NEDC helped with a market analysis, had the couple take a hard look at all different factors that go into running their type of business in that area, and also helped with financing.
“What we did in preparation to buy the business, as far as business plans, and marketing, and projecting and all those sorts of things; all the tools that they wanted us to use to prove our business, were great, because they challenged us to think forward. They made sure we had a plan in place to run our business successfully.”
Both the Holts are at the shop full time. She keeps bakers hours so her days generally start around 3:30 a.m.Jay oversees administration and operations.
“I was excited… I was proud because it was a lot of hard work,” she said of winning the award, “but it’s great that NEDC does that sort of thing. They put a lot of work into the businesses they’re supporting and the people they’re helping.”
Melissa agrees whole-heartedly that the NEDC entrepreneur program is helping blaze a trail for future First Nations businesses.
“It was a amazing the depth that they went into and the things they challenged us to do, helped us to do.”
And the help doesn’t stop once the businesses are up and running.
“They’ve always been super approachable …it’s great that those resources are so accessible.”
At just under a thousand square feet, their street-level shop with big glass windows and scrumptious smells is a small, homey, busy bakery with a social conscience.
She says they bake anywhere from $4,000 to $5,500 worth of product daily, “and what doesn’t get sold goes to charity every night. Nothing is wasted. ”Share