We’re shining a spotlight on Terracotta Tummy, a plant-based (100% vegan) meal prepping company located in Surrey in British Columbia. We chat with Dani, who shares her story, the challenges her and her fellow co-owner, Tat, faced establishing a business during a pandemic, as well as the most rewarding moments that remind them why they started this journey.
“With the pandemic, we’ve definitely shifted gears to focus on new things as a way of diversifying our revenue during the pandemic and trying to figure out how to survive,” says Dani.
What led you to start Terracotta Tummy?
“Our business started as an idea three years ago now. Myself and my best friend, Tat, moved to a little town called White Rock, outside Vancouver. During that time I had recently transitioned to a vegan diet and after moving there we just realized that there were little to no vegan options. Everything that I ate came from my own kitchen and I realized that there was a big need for it in that community, so we decided to start a vegan meal prep company.
We started really little and it was just Tat and I in the beginning, but the business has grown so much in the last couple years that we’ve now expanded into all of the Tri Cities around Vancouver and Vancouver itself. As of January of this year, we started our food truck journey, so Tat and I have built a truck from scratch and are super excited to have launched in September. It’s been pretty cool watching our business grow.”
What were you doing before you started your business?
“I was managing the front of house at a restaurant and doing all the marketing. Tat was managing the same restaurant doing all of the kitchen and back of house stuff. We just got to a point working for somebody else when we realized that we could do it on our own – and we could do it better. We just wanted that freedom to follow our own dreams.”
What challenges did you encounter or any lessons learnt?
“We’re still constantly challenging ourselves every day. The initial challenge of becoming financially independent was terrifying, but learning how to market ourselves and finding customers helped to reduce that stress. We are constantly investing in ourselves and in our business to enable us to grow. I think we’re always taking risks but they’re now more calculated, and right now our biggest challenge is growing our team and finding people that align with us.”
What tools help you address the challenges your small business faces?
“In this day and age, social media is the biggest tool and asset for any small business. Creating a strong brand identity and helping your clients and customers understand who you are and what you stand for is huge. We really try to focus on investing in our social media, making sure that we’re working on engagement and actually interacting with our customers. So we see those key performance indicators every week and we try to do a marketing meeting once a week to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and where we can make improvements.”
How has the pandemic impacted your business?
“We opened our business three months before the pandemic began affecting companies. Apart from the beginning, we’ve been working amongst a pandemic so it has definitely shifted what that looks like in terms of deliveries and moving everything online. But then it also made us realize the direction that we want to grow. Tat and I have always dreamt of opening our own vegan cafe one day but we just decided to shift gears and focus on launching a food truck so it can be a bit more pandemic-proof. Having the ability to travel wherever we want, pick the gigs we want to do and take time off when it suits has become a lot more preferable.”
What role did technology play in supporting you during the pandemic?
“Technology just makes everything so user friendly and easier. We’ve spent so much of our energy recording transactions and working out how to survive the pandemic, let alone actually grow as a business during one, that it’s amazing that the accounting side of our business almost runs itself in a way. Taking that stress away has really helped us – plus it’s an affordable way for small businesses to stay on top of their books.”
Why did you choose Xero and what specific solution did Xero offer?
“I switched to Xero from QuickBooks. It’s been such an easy transition with being able to update all our books at once and integrate all my bank accounts in a user friendly way. I went to school for business and marketing but it’s been over five years since I’ve done any accounting courses. Xero made it super easy and worry-free to update our books and make sure that everything is good come tax season.
I like how Xero memorizes all my transactions. Once I’ve inputted a receipt, all I have to do is press approve to make sure that the transactions are matched on my books and also in Xero. Updating my books once a week literally takes me 10 minutes, which is awesome.
I’ve also had issues in the past connecting one of my accounts but Xero’s Support Team was on hand to answer all my questions. The one thing I really appreciate about Xero is that I’m not talking to a robot, I’m interacting with actual people who want to help.”
Finally, how do you feel about your business prospects beyond 2021? What are you most excited about?
“Our company’s mission statement is to make plant-based foods more accessible to our community so we’re really excited to see the business grow the way it has already. When we started, we only had three delivery zones and now we’ve grown all around Vancouver, and we’ve made new connections every few months with new retailers that have bought our Grab and Go meals.
Seeing our business grow on the meal prep side, as well as launching our food truck, is very exciting. Every time we get new customers, new gigs, events and business connections, we’re ultimately one step closer to our mission statement..
The Small Business Spotlight series helps us understand the mindset of small business owners and is a reminder on why Xero is in business – to support and help make life better for small business owners so they have more time to focus on their business.