Torill Myre has ruined waffles for everyone. She breaks into a smile when she hears this.
It’s not that she hates waffles. On the contrary, she loves them. She’s spent the past ten years refining her version of her mother’s traditional Norwegian ‘vafler’. Twenty thousand waffles later, she obviously has perfected them because people keep telling her that she’s ruined ordinary waffles for them. Once they’ve tried Torill’s Table waffle mix, they can’t go back to the standard white flour waffles and pancakes. Their children simply won’t let them.
That would put a smile on anyone’s face. But for Torill, it’s personal because she created the waffles to give her family a more nutritious, and more flavourful, breakfast waffle. Soon, everyone she knew was asking her for bags of this waffle mix. Family, friends of family and families of friends. She graciously gave them away for free but eventually realized that she couldn’t spend all of her time as a single mom feeding her extended community for free. So, she decided to turn her creation into a company that would elevate the business of waffles.
It wasn’t easy. Especially creating a gluten-free version, which are all too often focused on taste and texture, eschewing nutrition altogether. A simple alternative flour mix with no fibre wasn’t good enough for her. She was determined to create the perfect gluten-free mix that people would choose over a regular wheat waffle. When crafting the recipe, she packed it with wholesome ingredients like gluten-free flour, oats, almonds, flax seed and vanilla. A little bit of cane sugar for taste. The result is a hearty, nutritious waffle that leaves you feeling sated so you don’t need to snack all day long.
Heeding a friend's advice that ‘you don’t need to know how, you’ve just got to do it’, she dove headfirst into the entrepreneur ecosystem. The logistics of managing a start-up are daunting. It might start with figuring out the right volume of ingredients to sell based on package size, and finding a company to source, house and package the product, but it doesn’t end there. Some days managing a food product company might seem to be nothing but logistics. There are food safety and allergen issues, insurance, shipping, sales, and complications involved in scaling up to move efficiently into different and emerging markets.
There are so many obstacles and pitfalls for an entrepreneur to navigate in the packaged food space that it can be intimidating. You’re not out of the woods once your product is ready to go out the door. In order to get it into large chain stores that control the majority of the market, you need to develop relationships with brokers who decide what products ultimately end up on store shelves.
The food space is so crowded, with iconic brands and other small start-ups, that you have to find a niche, your unique selling point that differentiates you from the pack. For Torill it was finding that sweet spot between taste and texture, and nutrition. She wanted to create a waffle and pancake that was so good and satisfying that you couldn’t help but come back for more. She also wanted to ensure it was a healthy, nourishing food that mothers would feel good about feeding their kids.
It’s all challenging to say the least. Thankfully, she came to the attention of District Ventures Capital, a capital venture fund owned by Arlene Dickinson of Dragons’ Den fame. District Ventures provided the initial infusion of capital needed for Torill’s Table to get off the ground. They also put her through their mentorship and training program which provides lectures and educational sessions from industry professionals that help mentor budding entrepreneurs.
Through District Ventures, Torill was dropped into an instant community of new entrepreneurs that has proved almost as valuable as the funding and training itself. It was empowering just to know that she wasn’t alone on her journey. The advice and support that she received from the community was a godsend. Collaborating on complementary demos at markets helped build camaraderie and friendship. And the community is great for warning others away from unscrupulous landlords or businesspeople who might try to take advantage of less experienced owners.
All of her work is starting to pay off: Torill’s Table mixes are available all over Western Canada in local natural food stores like Blush Lane Organic Market and major grocery chain Safeway. Myre was a finalist in the 2019 Mompreneur Award, recognizing strong female entrepreneurs displaying a passion for both business and family.
When Torill finds herself getting overwhelmed, she thinks about why she does it: it’s still all about family. She wanted to provide parents with something nutritious that their picky kids would still love, giving them all peace of mind. She knows first hand the challenges families face in trying to feed their kids nutritious meals that they actually enjoy.