We scream for ice cream everyday, and thanks to Andrea, Co-founder of The Chufa Co., we get to serve up and indulge in dairy-free, tigernut-based ice cream – the first of its kind with so many health benefits. We sat down with Andrea to learn more about her life as an entrepreneur.
Tell us a bit about your business.
The Chufa Co. uses tigernuts, which are small root vegetables with prebiotic benefits, to create an exciting and innovative line of non-dairy and allergen-free products. Right now we have a line of fresh-pressed milk, and a line of frozen desserts.
What was the “aha” moment that sparked you to pursue this?
I was lucky enough to spend a year living in Barcelona, and fell in love with their traditional drink, horchata de chufa (milk made from tigernuts). When I couldn’t find it anywhere in Toronto we decided to make it ourselves!
If you could do anything differently, how would you do it?
I’m not sure I would do anything differently because I really believe that every failure or success is an opportunity to learn. We’ve had times where we wasted a lot of money, but I definitely took something away from each one of those instances (easier said in hindsight – at the time I wasn’t so Zen about it!).
What do you do in your spare time to stay motivated?
What do you mean? Ha. Unfortunately I really don’t have much spare time. I have a 2 year old and 4 year old, so we do a lot of family things on the weekend in and around Toronto and that always feels really good and in fact, keeps us totally motivated!
Is there anyone in your life who has provided guidance or wisdom throughout your entrepreneurial journey?
Oh so many – I don’t even think I could list them all because I would undoubtedly forget someone. People have been so generous with their time and guidance and advice. It’s so cliche, but it really takes a village to grow a business and one of the things I’ve focused on is surrounding myself with the best mentors, peers, friends and advisors anyone could ask for.
What do you do when you’re feeling “stuck”?
I don’t know if I do anything. Entrepreneurship is literally a rollercoaster and the ups and downs are usually hourly. You could have the best meeting and then find out an order has been delayed, or something else has gone wrong. I mean, it’s a flow and I think what’s served me so well is knowing that there are going to be tremendous ups and downs and being okay with that.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
There are a lot of rewarding aspects – my favourite is seeing how our customers love our products so much and that they can make a difference to people with allergies, or vegans or people who just enjoy the flavour! I love that!
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, what is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Focus! A very successful person told us that in his opinion, the most successful entrepreneurs focus on one thing – and for us, that was the aha moment when we realized that we were a non-dairy company as opposed to a company that did a lot of things with tigernuts. It really was the best advice and has streamlined our vision tremendously!
What is one skill you’d love to pursue and develop in the next few years?
I often think I would like to do an MBA, but where would I find the time!? But really – just learning more and more about business. I love it, and I’ve learned so much in such a short period, but there really is so much more to take in.
How do you like to unwind from a busy day?
I try my absolute hardest to come home and give all my attention to my kids. It’s not always possible, but from 4:30 – 7, I love to hang out with them and get away from the cell phone and email. Then after their bedtime, I usually go right back to work.
Do you have any passion projects going on at the moment?
The Chufa Co.! It sounds very one dimensional, but our business is one of my major passions!
How would you like to see your business evolve over the next year?
We would like to have our longer life milk released and available to all Canadians by the end of 2018 and have the ice-cream across the country!
Most memorable moment you’ve had with a customer?
It’s always so rewarding meeting parents and kids with nut or dairy allergies – they are so grateful for a product they can have 100% faith in and feel good about too!
What advice do you have for someone looking to pursue something in the health & wellness industry?
Find something you’re passionate about and learn everything you can about what it is you want to do. And don’t hesitate. There’s never a right time – you have to just jump in!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What about the business?
I think the Chufa Co. has the potential to be a major player in the dairy-free & gut-health categories. Whether or not we sell would be something we decide over time. I have a lot of other ideas I would love to pursue and would love the opportunity to grow another company.