Edging out Big Business
See how Calgarians are expecting more from their restaurants and stores
Caroline Fyvie, Contributor
Local and sustainable may be buzz words, but they are holding a lot more weight in Calgary recently.
Now, it’s safe to say that the restaurants that are environmentally responsible and that give back to the community are edging out their good ol’ cheap competitors.
Stephanie Jackman, owner of Respect for the Earth and All People (REAP), worked in corporate marketing until she woke up one day with the feeling she needed to focus her energy on something more meaningful.
“They’re unique compared to their competitors and increasingly customers and prospective customers are looking for businesses that are going the extra mile,” says Jackman.
REAP works as an association for sustainable local businesses to network, share ideas, support each other and gain promotional and marketing expertise. Jackman says the local businesses she works with make the community stronger and reduce their environmental impact.
Jackman says businesses that are local and sustainable are re-circulating their money, hiring more people locally, making more charitable donations and reducing their environmental impact.
One example of this is Village Ice Cream and although not a member of REAP, the local restaurant practices the same objectives as Jackman’s association.
By using local and seasonal products Billy Friley, the owner of Village Ice Cream, has created a successful business on top of delicious premium ice cream.
Village Ice Cream serves items made from purposely-sourced ingredients, avoiding products like concentrated syrup. Friley believes he provides a new experience for people.
The décor is modern but also has a homey feel, which is mixed with stylish music wafting from speakers.
Friley developed Village Ice Cream, located on 10th Ave. S.E., after investigating what kind of an eatery he would like to own. Having never held a job in his life that he liked, he left corporate. Eventually, he decided on a nostalgic treat, ice cream, and got cracking on a business model opening in 2012.
Tripadvisor.ca now ranks Village Ice Cream fifth out of a whopping 2,826 restaurants in Calgary. The rich ice cream includes the classics, vanilla and chocolate, but some unique ones as well like salted caramel, huckleberry, coconut.
Friley’s business has also not been cited in environmental health inspection reports conducted by Alberta Health Services, which is rare for any restaurant.
He attributes this to the high standards he has for the business in terms health and safety. He covers his bases and takes care of the little things – even standardizing all the paper towel dispensers in his shop.
“A lot of it is training and a lot of it is developing systems that guarantee that my staff can easily and efficiently do what is required,” said Friley.
But it’s not just about a go-getter idea, a home-grown beginning or a sparkling clean place. Owning and operating a business requires creating a healthy workplace culture, says Melanie Peacock, human resources professor at Mount Royal University.
“They think ahead as in, whom will we need? How will we get the right people in the right place at the right time? As opposed to scrambling.”
Peacock says that for an entrepreneur to be successful, the person must have a very solid business plan.
“You have to look at all aspects; financial, the accounting side, the operations side, and then you have to think of the human resource side. You really have to think of all capacities, and not look at things in isolation.”
It is all about business planning, and that is something that Friley has done to achieve his success.
Jackman believes sustainability involves more than just thinking about the environment. The other aspect of sustainability REAP considers is what business owners are doing regarding the operation of the business and the treatment of employees.
“The advantages to businesses being ethical and sustainable in terms of how they conduct themselves relate to being able to attract employees that share those values and retain them,” says Jackman.
“We’re really looking at how they treat their employees and how they interact with their community.”