Before launching his business, Etienne Croteau asked himself: “What am I good at?” The answer came to him immediately: “I know about flavours, and I want to share them.” This became the motto for his business, Flavour Trader.
Since May 2016, this 37 year-old from Quebec has been introducing the fragrant world of spices, and all its nuances, to the people of Yellowknife. Far from limiting himself only to food services, Flavour Trader also includes a spice shop and cooking classes, in which Etienne works with recipes from all over the world.
The “naturalized Franco-Ténois”, as he likes to call himself, studied in Quebec to become a chef in 1998, and then worked for two years for a spice company in Montreal. A job which ended up being like a revelation for the young cook: “I completely fell in love with spices. I discovered a world of cultures” he said.
He then decided to travel the world and hasn’t stopped since. “I have one goal when I travel: food. I want to discover new recipes and take cooking classes.” During his stays in India and Morocco, this adventurer developed a spicy knowledge he hopes to share with the people of NWT.
He didn’t jump into cooking right away however; instead, he took another training course in facilitation and project management, and then landed a job organizing events across NWT for Francophone youth. But he never let go of the idea of managing a project, his own project, from start to finish.
His main goal? Independence! “I’m not a big fan of having a boss”, he shares, amused. “I have too many ideas, I’m pretty hyperactive. And I wanted to feel free to make my own choices.”
In 2016, he takes the leap and jumps full-time into developing his business plan. He calls on Futurpreneur Canada, who partners with the NWT Business Development Investment Corporation (BDIC) in the province, to support him with financing. Through Futurpreneur, he meets Frédéric Deschênes, his mentor who helps him through his entrepreneurial journey.
Meeting his mentor, an accountant, has helped him immensely in his efforts. “I meet him once a month. Sometimes, I find myself in a situation beyond my control, because I don’t have the experience. I sit with him and we work together to find the best solutions.”
He also got the support of the Conseil de développement économique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (a member of RDÉE Canada) in terms of communications. “The CDETNO was extremely helpful in building a communications plan for my business.”
Flavour Trader opened its doors in May 2016. A year later, its founder is satisfied with the results: he offers 85 different spices in his shop, serves a meal from a different country every day, offers catering services, and shares the fruit of his travels through his cooking classes. His goal now is to generate enough profit to be able to hire someone full-time to help him.
Is Flavour Trader a dream come true? For Etienne, the dream is still in progress. To fully realize it, he would like to become fully self-sufficient: “I’d like to grow my own food so I can use it in my business. I want to be able to provide for my family without relying on anyone else. I have a bit of hippie streak…, he says jokingly, but it’s been my dream for about 15 years now.”
What pieces of advice would this spice and travel enthusiast give to young entrepreneurs looking to launch their business?
- Your business needs to be tied to your values and your passion. For Etienne, starting up in a market or with a product solely for financial reasons isn’t a desirable position. “It’s better to go with something you are passionate about. You’ll have more talent and desire to get it done.”
- Vary your fields of action. Flavour Trader proposes five different services to carry the business forward. “You have to tell yourself, ‘I have this passion, how can I multiply it?’.”
- Be careful about your health. Etienne is working on that too! He recommends discipline on that subject. “Having a plan for your health before starting up is very important.”
Drafted by La Liberté Communication for RDÉE Canada and Futurpreneur Canada.