Canadian Grocer launched its Generation Next Awards back in 2011 to recognize the rising stars, under age 40, in Canada’s grocery industry. Recently, we caught up with a few past winners to see what they’ve been up to since winning their Gen Next awards.
Job then: Founder and CEO of Fresh City Farms
Job now: Still CEO of Fresh City Farms, which recently acquired Toronto specialty food retailer, The Healthy Butcher
What’s changed since you won the Generation Next Award? How has the business changed?
We have doubled down on creating an in-house agile capability to make our own products. We now make a full spectrum of fresh natural and organic products stretching from salads, to snacks, to smoothies, to baguettes and croissants. And whereas in 2016 we were online only, we are now in the midst of an aggressive push into omnichannel retail with eight stores and counting under our umbrella.
What career advice would you give to someone starting out?
In business being successful is often less to do with how smart you are than whether you survive long enough to learn from your mistakes.
What’s your favourite thing about working in this industry?
It is very dynamic. Most people think grocery is boring. But in many ways it is a pinnacle of human achievement if you think of what has to happen to keep our stores stocked. It is both an art and a science. And I think that food retailers can and must be at the forefront of so many of our society’s challenges over the coming decades. You name it, grocery will need to be involved — good jobs, climate change, plastic packaging, biodiversity.
What’s changed in your career since you won the Gen Next award?
About a year after winning the Generation Next Award I was presented with an opportunity to enter the world of online grocery with Metro as director of eCommerce operations.
What do you do in your current role?
I monitor day-to-day operations to continually improve order fulfillment performance, reduce costs while building the long-term strategy and capabilities of our program. I also oversee all operational areas of the online grocery business including in-store fulfillment, replenishment, and store-related eCommerce operations.
What do you like best about your job?
Having the ability to build a program from day one has been unbelievable. Being a part of Metro’s entrance into online grocery has been an amazing growing experience.
What career advice would you give to someone starting out today?
Jump in with two feet, make mistakes, and learn every day. Grocery retail is a fast paced and exciting environment; there is no better place to work!
Are there any tough lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Finding a good work life balance is the key to ongoing professional success.
What’s your favorite thing about working in this industry?
Customer interactions by far are the best part of this industry. At the end of the day everything we do is for the customers we serve.
What’s changed in your career since winning the Gen Next Award?
So much! After winning, I went to the University of Michigan Ross School of Business where I earned my MBA, and from there, I joined McKinsey and Co. as a consultant. At McKinsey, I learned how to handle C-suite level challenges while being data-driven and focusing on getting to results quickly. I went on to join BMO, where I led the rebuild of their customer experience measurement system. From there, I was afforded the opportunity to rejoin the food industry, my first love in business, with HelloFresh. Every day, I’m surrounded by extremely passionate colleagues who are working to change the way people eat for the better! Since our acquisition of Chefs Plate in November of 2018, I’ve been fortunate enough to lead the product across two of the leading meal kit providers in Canada.
Describe what you do?
I lead a diverse team whose roles range from chefs to data scientists. We use all the feedback from our customers to develop and refine our recipes so we are constantly improving and innovating with new product offerings.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
“Perfect is the enemy of done.” Make a decision and execute it; don’t wait to have perfect data and a 100% proven plan.
Know someone working in grocery (retailer, distributor or supplier) under the age of 40 who is innovative, excels at what they do and is showing a commitment to the grocery industry? Nominate that person, and if you’re that awesome you can nominate yourself, too!