Kale Chips Ahoy! Behind the Business with Julie Bednarski of The Healthy Crunch Company
Everyone has their vice, right? Mine happens to be potato chips. I love that salty, crunchy goodness more than ice cream, chocolate, steak…anything, really. But there’s a big ol’ downside, and it grows like a spare tire around the belly. So I’m always on the lookout for an alternative, one that has that crunch, that munch, and that won’t send my BMI through the roof.
Julie Bednarski just might have the answer to what I’m looking for. She’s the founder of The Healthy Crunch Company, and they’re making an amazing array of snacks using everyone’s favourite superfood, kale. We interviewed Julie and spoke about how she started the company and what it takes to make it successful.
So tell us about The Healthy Crunch Company. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
I started The Healthy Crunch Company in 2014, with the goal to create healthy snacks for individuals and families on-the-go. I wanted to create a product that everyone could consume regardless of if you had any dietary allergies, but more importantly I wanted to create something that tastes amazing. All of our products are certified organic, non-GMO, tree nut-free, peanut-free, vegan, soy-free, corn-free, and school safe. What makes our kale chips unique from our competitors is that our chips are BIG in size, BIG on taste, BIG on crunch but made in small batches by hand.
Our products can be found in most major grocery stores including Loblaws, Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, The Big Carrot, health food stores, independent grocery stores, and the Toronto airport. Our customers are individuals and families who are looking for healthy and tasty snack options. With our products found throughout Canada, I guess we can say that our customers are Canadians who want to live a healthy lifestyle, but also satisfy their need for crunch!
How did you decide to get into this business? Were you always a big snacker?
Food has always been a passion of mine. I always spent my time recipe testing and “playing around” in the kitchen even from a young age. After going to school to become a Registered Dietitian, I knew that I had to continue to follow my path in kitchen so I went to culinary school in New York City. After working in restaurants and catering throughout North America for a couple of years, I decided to combine my passion for health, wellness, food, and business, which is how The Healthy Crunch Company was created.
I loved crunching on kale chips, but could never find a kale chip product that met my needs for crunch, flavour and size, so I decided to create my own kale chips. Friends and family members tasted my products and I knew from their positive reactions that my business would be successful. It also helps that both of my parents are entrepreneurs and starting my own business was always a dream of mine.
I wish there was a school that taught you how to be an successful entrepreneur, but so far, I have not found one! I went to school for nutrition and culinary arts, and every challenge or task that comes up, I learn as I go. I always say there are no mistakes, just lessons to be learned. Being a young entrepreneur, I have definitely had my share of lessons learned.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?
I love developing new products, and watching the development from a simple idea to a finished product on a grocery store shelf is what drives me every day. There are many steps and months of work that go into the development of a food product. Working on each step to get the final stage excites me.
Being passionate about healthy eating and food allows me to combine both to create consumer products. My job allows me to connect with many different people and I enjoy sharing my story with others. I also love that my work allows me to be involved in many areas of the business including production, sales, marketing, demos, managing staff, inventory, research and development, financials, customer relations, and business development. Watching customers consume your product and and seeing that reaction of joy makes me so proud. Seeing how far I can take sales for The Healthy Crunch Company and grow it to a national name brand product is what drives me everyday.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
If there is smooth sailing as an entrepreneur, I think something might be wrong. There are many challenges, as it is all up to you to gain success. There are a lot of risks, but with that comes a lot of success if you are passionate, hardworking and smart about your decisions. Entrepreneurship is an exciting adventure when you follow your passion, but I always tell people that you will have very high highs along with very low lows. It’s the times that you pull yourself out of the lows that make you successful.
I have had many challenges during the course of my business, especially with cash flow and hiring the right staff. Being creative and finding ways to overcome my challenges through trial and error has been a positive learning experience for me.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that every day is different, which also means that every day something unexpected happens. I think some wildest times are the media appearances we’ve had the chance to participate in! You never know what is going to happen or who you will see on those sets.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
Although my company tends to keep me very busy, I also think it’s very important to maintain a work life balance. In my free time, I enjoy travelling to remote and unique destinations, especially when it involves learning about the culture and the cuisine of the area. I love my two golden goldendoodles and enjoy taking them for walks outside or playing with them. I practice meditation and yoga and love swimming to stay connected to my mind and body and to keep them active. I also love collecting cookbooks! I’m a cook and I love being in the kitchen, so it’s hard to resist the temptation of new recipes.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
Social media has proved to be a great tool for education, as well as promoting our products and messages. We maintain a blog, where we love to educate people on health and wellness. On Instagram and Twitter, it is a great tool to hear back from our customers. We use @HealthyCrunch to share all things kale and educational about health, fitness and happiness. I also share my entrepreneurial journey on Instagram at @JulieBednarski. I enjoyed connecting with our followers to share all the milestones of The Healthy Crunch Company. We look forward to connecting with everyone, it is a great way to promote where we are so they can stop by and say hi!
How are you involved in your community?
I’m really passionate about educating the community on health and wellness, and hope to continue becoming more involved in that throughout the upcoming year. I connect with the community through the different shows and demos we participate in. For us, it’s all about inspiring people to fuel their bodies with nutrients.
What does supporting local mean to you?
Supporting local businesses with all the amazing entrepreneurs that we have the in the Toronto and across Canada is very important for myself as an individual, but also for our company. Supporting local businesses that also support us is essential. We strive on using a many local ingredients from farmers as possible; many of the vendors that we purchase our ingredients from are local. Working together to build strong and supportive communities that are healthier and happier is critical. I very lucky that I get the opportunity to work with many inspiring business owners during my journey as an entrepreneur. The healthy food sphere in Toronto is so welcoming and I could not have built The Healthy Crunch Company without them.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
The future is very exciting for The Healthy Crunch Company! We recently launched across Canada which means we will get to spread our love of kale from east to west. This has been quite an adventure! We are continuing to experiment with new flavours and will be bringing you two NEW options – Cucumber Dill and Mango Jalapenos – for Kale Chips and Kale Krumbs very soon. There is a lot happening in our future are we are so excited to share it with our Crunchers!
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Be patient! Things will happen when they are supposed to. Try not to rush yourself and your business and just enjoy the small steps and small victories. Also, be passionate about what you do! That old saying is true, if you find something you love to do, you will never work a day in your life.