October 25, 2018

Embracing The Entrepreneurial Journey (PODCAST)

It’s safe to say that few things go as initially planned when it comes to entrepreneurship. This doesn’t mean you can’t grow and build the successful business you’re dreaming of. But rather, how you get there may be very different than what you initially envisioned. We talk about that in this podcast with Eden Cheesecake Co. founder Raelene Bergen Harder and how her journey has made her a better businesswoman and community member

Resources: During the podcast Raelene and I talk about her business coaching business and the services she offers through that. If you’d like more information about that or want to get in touch with her, please visit her website, raelenebergenharder.com or email her at raelene@raelenebergenharder.com. She also has a free e-book available on her site titled Surviving to Thriving. A Personal Account. that may be of interest. Please note, this is not an affiliate link and I am not receiving payment of any kind for this recommendation.

Jennifer: Today’s podcast was for me at least and hopefully for all of you listening, it was one of those experiences where I went into, we were going to be talking about Raelene Bergen Harder’s company and we ended up talking about so much more. And really about not just her company but about your entire entrepreneurial journey, and the ups and downs, and how it can take you different places, and how it can prepare you for the next piece of your life. And it was a really interesting conversation and one that I walked away personally feeling really inspired by, and I hope you will too.

By way of background Raelene runs and owns Eden Cheesecake Co., which is a unique boutique cheesecake company that are designed with the upmost of care when it comes to ingredients and flavor combinations. Eden’s been in business more than 15 years and Raelene has spent countless hours perfecting the art of taking a decadent dessert and making it into an accessible luxury. And as you will see in today’s podcast we cover that and so much more, so I hope you enjoy.

Raelene thank you so much for joining us today.

Raelene: Oh thank you so much for having me, I’m really glad to be here.

Jennifer: As listeners of this podcast know when I talk with food entrepreneurs like you I always like to start with a background question. Just kind of get us up to speed of how you started your company, what your business journey was and continues to be and evolves into. Tell us a little bit about it.

Raelene: Well Eden started more than 15 years ago now. I was a mom at home, I had five young kids at the time, and I was really struggling to find something that I could do that was just fun and really connected me to the community, and wasn’t just in the parenting realm. And it’s really easy as a parent to get sucked into just what your family needs, but I just really wanted something that would expand my knowledge base and my extension into the community.

And I started by reaching out to a local café that was not making any homemade food, as I come from a really strong Mennonite background with grannies all over the place who cook really great food. And I reached out to this café and I said, “Would you like some homemade baking?” And that really started this journey towards baking many things, and then narrowing that down to what people really liked, which happened to be cheesecake because it seemed like a lot of people really like cheesecake. And then from there it sort of evolved into this idea of people make mini cupcakes why couldn’t I make mini cheesecake, and instead of buying a box of chocolates for a gift you could buy a box of cheesecake, and that’s really how it started.

And it’s had some stops and starts over the years, which I’m happy to share in this conversation, but it’s just really been something that I feel in love with early on as a way to just be part of a bigger community that was not just in my home.

Jennifer: You talk about that you originally reached out to the café and then it evolved and to now the miniature cheesecakes, can you just give us a rough idea of how long did that evolution take place? And I say that kind of with a caveat of like of course businesses are always evolving, so not that you necessarily are dead stopped where you are today. But how long did that take from that reach out to that initial café, and getting customer feedback, and realizing what people were really, really liked, and also, what you liked to make and where you thought your expertise was?

Raelene: Yeah, it actually was a fairly short time frame for that evolution because when I started baking for the café and realizing that the customers really liked cheesecake there was a problem with serving a whole cheesecake. The staff didn’t know how to cut it very well, it could be messy, and I didn’t want that responsibility on my plate to try to solve that problem for somebody else’s staff to pre-cut them or do things like that. And it was very quick from a very practical perspective I started thinking, “Why couldn’t I make these smaller, so they’re way easier to serve?” That we could package them up. And over the course of one year I went from selling everything, to just doing those cheesecakes, to partnering with Girl Guides in our small community.

I was a Girl Guide leader at the time. And having some fundraising events, and different things like that, which highlighted the cheesecake through different again, community events. So, in that way it was not so much that I had this amazing creative idea to make cheesecake, it was more from a practical perspective of clearly people liked the cheesecake, that’s where I should focus, but how do I make it even easier for people to access and to really just put a clever spin on it to make it more practical.

Jennifer: That practical piece especially when you were talking about … I love that idea of like, well you didn’t want to have to solve that problem for somebody else’s staff. And sometimes we as a food entrepreneur are so closely tied to our product that we can’t understand how something might be a problem kind of in the eyes of somebody else. So, the fact that you were able to put on somebody else’s lens, and see that as a problem, and then brainstorm how you can solve it, that’s the mark of a great entrepreneur.

Raelene: Well it certainly made my life easier in some ways, and more difficult in others because now as I realize very quickly making petite cheesecake is not the same as making petit cupcakes. The process is different, the storage is different, the ingredients are different, so when we talk about the progression of a business, that was very time consuming and is still ongoing, 15 years later we’re still tweaking those processes, always trying to improve, and make it easier for the customer. Whether that’s a store or a catered event or an individual customer. I always think of it, “What’s the easiest way to get this into somebody’s hands?” And unfortunately sometimes for the entrepreneur you have to take on the hard parts in order to make it easy for a customer to say yes.

Jennifer: Absolutely. Can you tell us, what sales channels do you use now to sell your products?

Raelene: We’ve had a bit of an interesting progression with Eden because I had to stop it for many years in order to help support my family through … we have another business, which is not food related, and we were doing some big transitions. So, I sort of packed Eden up for a few years in the middle, and when I restarted it in a new city back in 2012 I was very fortunate to be a partner in somebody else’s restaurant endeavor, and they had, had the cheesecake all those years before in small town Saskatchewan and now we were in a bigger city in Ottawa, Canada. He had reached out to me and asked if I wanted to bring these cheesecakes into his restaurant, and become a managing partner of the restaurant. And that was what opened up the market for me in terms of getting my cheesecake … that restaurant I was there for two years, and then I took Eden on its own, and we really got incorporated into other people’s restaurants, a lot of little shops and cater lots of different small markets.

And over the years again, as things evolved I realized that my wish for Eden was not to be everywhere. My wish for Eden was to stay quite exclusive, quite decadent, and it’s a rare type of dessert. And I pulled it out of all of those markets, and now we really focus only on very specific higher end places. So, we do a really cool market once a month here Ottawa called 613flea, and that is just a great group of people that come to that every month, and really are looking for awesome products, and other things not just food. We just started working with a really great store here in Ottawa called Jacobson’s Gourmet Concepts, and they do all high end food. And so, we’re really fortunate to be aligned with them. And outside of that we keep it to very specific catered events, and really look at opportunities from a variety of angles before we say yes to anything.

Jennifer: Backing up just for one second, when you had talked about that you basically put Eden on the back burner for a couple years there in the middle, it was interesting to hear that because I think sometimes food entrepreneurs think that if some other life circumstance comes up that you might have to just shut the business down and you kind of keep moving forward. Where you nervous when you were thinking about kind of reviving it, especially because you had moved to a new city? I know you had that partnership in the works as well, but was the concept of bringing it back did that make you nervous or did that make you excited?

Raelene: I didn’t have the partnership arrangement before, I just started to relaunch Eden, that was a result of him hearing that I had relaunched Eden.

Jennifer: Okay.

Raelene: And I was not nervous at all, I was very excited. I didn’t have the opportunity to watch this grow the way I knew it could, because as I said there was other things that got in the way. So, Eden was never gone in my mind, to me that business was evolving even when I wasn’t actively selling cheesecake. So, I do encourage entrepreneurs if they have to put something on hold for a little bit in order to make it stronger later, that’s a really smart move for a lot of people. And I work with a lot of people who struggle with the idea of giving up their dreams. And I always relate Eden back to that idea because I don’t believe that you necessarily have to give up dreams. I believe sometimes the road we’re on leads … it’s almost like that business idea did what it was meant to do and opens you up to the next chapter of that. So, while I put Eden on hold for those years, when I got ready to relaunch it, it was with so much more experience in my life and in other areas, it was with so much more confidence, and I could support Eden in a much stronger way than I would have had been able to earlier. So I was ready.

Jennifer: Do you think that confidence also then helped you make that decision of we are not going to place this everywhere, that we are going to be very exclusive about where these products and this brand is placed? Cause that’s a risky decision for many entrepreneurs. Again, many of us have this idea of, well if we can just open as many sales outlets as possible then it’ll make this work as opposed to being as you’ve mentioned very strategic about where you want your brand and your products placed, and who they are aligned with.

Raelene: Yeah and that’s a great question because that was a lot of trial and error just like everything. The restaurant really taught me that overhead is key. When you are paying a lot for overhead staff, bricks and mortar often you’re distracted from continuing to make the best product that you can, because you know have to sell it everywhere and you have to make sure people are coming into that store. The product stops being the feature, really it’s now you have to feed the machine. And when I left that restaurant and put Eden on its own I knew that I would not be looking for bricks and mortar right away, that I wanted to make sure that I was careful. Strategically I knew in order to preserve the integrity of the brand and practically the integrity of the dessert itself, because it’s not easy, it has to maintain certain temperatures, as soon as it goes out of my hands into multiple other stores or other businesses’ hands the quality suffered, it always did.

And my decision to pull it back was for two reasons, to maintain the integrity of the brand and the dessert itself, and my focus really shifted over these last few years into a much bigger mission in my business, in my life, which is really supporting and helping other entrepreneurs get to where they want to be. And in order to do that, Eden does not take a backseat to what I do with my coaching business, but I use it to enhance what you can do if you’re willing to pull back in areas that you have less control over so that you can really keep it what you want it to be. For me Eden is a beautiful special idea and dessert but more than that it’s my life lesson. Eden is what consistently and started from the beginning teaching me how you can use something that you love and something that you’re passionate about to really connect to other people, and to use it as a vehicle to make change in whatever areas of your life and business you want to.

Jennifer: It’s interesting because we started out talking about how you started Eden because you wanted that connection to community beyond just the parents of a young child, which I say being a parent of a young child, I fully appreciate that. But now it almost sounds like Eden itself has helped you on this progression. I feel like we’re using words like connection, community, and progression a lot. So, can you tell us a little bit more about your coaching business, about how that avenue opened up to you?

Raelene: Well and that was such an interesting journey. When I relaunched my business in 2012 it was going quite well with the restaurant, we were reaching. I was able because I wasn’t the partner in the restaurant that had to be there my partner was very supportive of me going out into the community and sharing Eden, because ultimately that brought people into the restaurant, but Eden is a beautiful petite cheesecake so it’s the best business card we could have had if we were going out and giving little cheesecakes away at different charity events, and different community events. And as a slight aside but it is relevant to this story, my husband and I for 20 years have owned a visual affects and animation business. And so, had some really cool credits in film. So, as I’m going out in the community other entrepreneurs are seeing this mother of five children who owns two successful or visible businesses, reaching out in the community, and I was being asked all the time for help, could I speak at their event, could I share what I was doing. I also worked in our other business my husband and I owned it so I worked with my husband, which for a lot of people working with a spouse is really challenging.

Jennifer: Yes.

Raelene: And how do you manage all of this, this creative risky businesses with five children, and keep a marriage going? Those are all things that seemed to be quite fascinating to people. I just thought they were normal, that was just my life. And that was where the concept of deep connection really started happening. When I was seeing other entrepreneurs that were in their heart of hearts struggling so much to figure out how to keep this thing going, entrepreneurs can be some of the loneliest people, and my heart just reached out so big to that group of people.

And I decided that the best way I could promote Eden, and the best way I could get out there was to become a better speaker. I wanted to really understand my story so that I could really share it well with other people. And through that process … I had no intention of becoming a coach, it was never something that was on my radar, I didn’t even really know what that was, but I started searching, who’s one of the best speakers in the world? And of course Tony Robbins was one of the speakers I had been following, I love his way of getting to the bottom of problems. And I thought maybe I would take his coaching certification program, not necessarily to be a coach, but more to just be a better communicator, better speaker, more in line with my own story, and his coaching program it seemed from the surface that it could do all those things. Sure enough it did all those things, and what it did was half way through that program I did realize that I was already coaching, I just hadn’t called it that.

Really, I had to make a very intentional shift to say, “You know what, I can help these entrepreneurs in a much bigger way.” And I became a strategic intervention coach, which is a little different than a lot of coaching. Because I’m not a business coach, I’m not a relationship coach, I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m not a finance coach, I’m all of those things. Because a strategic intervention coach really goes in and finds the crack in the foundation that you probably didn’t know was there, and that’s where we work right from the start. So, it’s about clear shifts right away and especially for entrepreneurs, they need that. So, it moved me from full-time figuring out how to keep Eden moving forward and growing to I want Eden to be part of my story. So it doesn’t have to be big and amazing all the time to do that, it has to be consistent, and clever, and strong, and part of my story.

Jennifer: As a piece of your story because there are multiple pots let’s say that you have going at the same time, do you still find joy in Eden?

Raelene: I love Eden. I love Eden. I did not love Eden when I was so focused on it growing so much.

Jennifer: Interesting.

Raelene: That was overwhelming and that seemed like that actually sucked a lot of the joy out of it. When I realized that Eden is its own entity, it has its own identity, and my job is not to hold it back or necessarily push it forward in ways that aren’t appropriate. My job is to really support what that business needs and what I need from it. I found so much more joy when I realized that I’m A, a Renaissance person so very good and clever at multiple things, I’m probably never going to just choose one thing and only one do that, it’s another trait of many entrepreneurs that they don’t understand they have, and that it can be used for good and not evil. And when I realized that I can spend every single day giving time to what brings me joy, so today it might be focusing on Eden and moving some things forward, and shifting it doing a podcast that really helps other business owners and highlights what Eden can do and what it did for me. Maybe tomorrow I’m working on the next coaching package that I’m going to be launching. I get to wake up every day and decide what needs my attention, an what I want to give my attention to, and that’s very fulfilling instead of very draining, which Eden could have been if I was hyper focused on pushing it forward in every area I could.

Jennifer: Listening to you speak I really resonate with that. In my own business before I sold it, it got to the point where the joy was leached out of it because I was so hyper focused on just moving it forward. And then I think about your story and I’m like, oh I wonder if I had just maybe taken a step away from it for a little while, and then looked at it again with fresh eyes, whether it was six months or a year later, would that have changed?

Raelene: I know, honestly, most entrepreneurs when they start thinking about that, the idea of taking a step back they immediately associate that with failure. And that it’s such a damaging message, and that is a huge part of why I jumped into entrepreneurial coaching because I wanted to show other business owners that there is so much strength in having the courage to take a step back, to really evaluate what your business needs, and what you need from your business.

Jennifer: That is such a great message. So, I wasn’t going to necessarily do this but I want to make sure that if you are open to it, that we include contact information for your coaching services also in case anybody listening wants to take advantage of that.

Raelene: Absolutely.

Jennifer: Because I personally really like the message that I’m hearing.

Raelene: Yeah, and I’m very open about having a free conversation with anybody who wants it, because sometimes it’s just that one little conversation that you need with somebody that has some experience that can shift you in a way that can change your life. So, that’s not something I charge for, that’s something that I do because it matters, and because I enjoy it. So, your listeners they have access to that. And outside of that of course Google my name you’ll find me everywhere.

Jennifer: And we’ll also for folks listening we’ll make sure that we have Raelene’s contact information if you want to get in touch with her. I guess then, the way that I want to kind of wrap this up is … I kind of ask this question a little carefully, what are your plans for Eden’s kind of next step even if it is just status quo for right now? But I’m just curious of what your thinking is with Eden.

Raelene: I don’t look at Eden right now as status quo. I’ve really incorporated the concept of adding and sharing my success or my ideas with other people. So, I have added somebody to Eden who really helps strengthen what Eden can do, and can go out and represent Eden, because I don’t have enough time to do that really to do it justice. But right now our focus is on one gourmet store at a time, probably not more than three in each city that we approach, so that each of those stores has a little bit of exclusivity and that we can direct our clients and customers to high end stores. And that’s where we see Eden thriving, and that we continue using Eden to cater special events, and to be associated with charities that matter to us. So, it’s something that I would really encourage your listeners to do as well, and it’s part of the coaching initiative that’s coming, but find your tribe. And your tribe is not people you go out and hire necessarily, although those people matter and you need them at times, but it’s finding people who are so aligned and want to be associated with what you’re doing, and it has to be about more than money. If the only reason you’re in your business is to make money, and it doesn’t matter to you beyond that, there’s lots of easier ways to make money than being an entrepreneur in a food business.

Jennifer: Very true.

Raelene: So, yes. So, Eden is progressing and we’re just being very mindful about what types of stores Eden will go into.

Jennifer: Excellent. Well, Raelene thank you very much. You’ve personally given me a lot to think about.

Raelene: I’m really glad you called and that we could set this up. I’m happy to share and participate in anything like this, it’s awesome.

Jennifer: Well, thank you. Thank you very much. Yeah, again for listeners there on the website there will be a transcript of today’s podcast and in that we will include Raelene’s … the link to Eden but we’ll also include information from Raelene about if you’re interested in learning more about her coaching services. So, Raelene thank you.

Raelene: Thank you so much for having me. Have a good day.

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