Money & Career

Meet the yummy mummy behind a new organic baby food

Looks like Gerber’s got competition! Baby Gourmet, the buzzed-about organic baby food by Jennifer Carlson, is so good you’ll steal a few bites too!

Sept 2013, Jennifer Carlson in Kitchen

Photo by Corrina Walker

Jennifer Carlson

Occupation: Founder and president of Baby Gourmet

Age: 38

Hometown: Calgary

Training: Marketing degree from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

 

Q: What inspired you to start your business?

A: When my daughter was six months old I was really unhappy with the baby food available, so I made her food from scratch. Then I sold it at local farmers’ markets on weekends. My sister and I did that for two years; in that time I had my second child, and he was basically strapped to my body while I was cooking, packaging and selling. It’s really one of those from-the-ground-up stories. You start with an idea and struggle to make it work.

Q: How did you make the leap from farmers’ market to supermarket?

A: The response at the farmers’ market was great — and through word of mouth our sales skyrocketed. By then I had enough research to show investors the opportunity. My vision from the beginning has always been that every baby and parent deserves access to good food, and when you have a mission that big, there’s no alternative but to go big. I was advised to start selling at small stores, but instead I started at the top — with Walmart.

Q: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?

A: I often had little businesses on the go when I was a kid. I had a dog-walking service, and then a drinks company where I’d load my red wagon full of drinks and pull it up to soccer fields. I also started a business called Campsite Cooking — I’d bake, and my dad would drive me out to campsites to sell my treats.

Q: It must take a lot of courage to launch a business.

A: You have to be a risk taker and use your intuition — that’s what I get by on. You must also be persistent and resilient. I hit walls every day and challenges that seem too big to overcome. But overcoming them is only one step away, and you just have to be persistent to get there.

Q: What are you proudest of?

A: Actually seeing the food I made on grocery store shelves and winning Ernst & Young’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011. When I was younger, those awards were like the Oscars to me.

Q: What do you do to unwind?

A: Exercise keeps me sane, especially hot yoga and running. I also enjoy going for dinner with friends, reading a book or hanging out with my kids [Findlay, 7, and Eamon, 6]. I think chill-out time is mandatory. I’m divorced, so I share my children 50-50 with my ex. When I have my kids, work stops the moment I pick them up. Even when I don’t have them, I cut it off at 9 p.m. — that’s the latest I work.

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: I love that what I’m doing means something, that I’m taking the stress out of parents’ lives, because they know they’re feeding their children something healthy. I can’t imagine doing any other job knowing that this is the way I feel every day. And the fact I’m able to be passionate about what I do is a gift.

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