Over the next six weeks, as part of its ‘Out of Pocket’ series, Global News will examine how inflation is affecting Canadians from coast to coast.
If there’s one piece of advice Meghan Symonds gives new entrepreneurs, it’s this: startups are “unattractive”.
Thrown into a pandemic, inflationary and global supply shortages, and that makes things a lot more difficult.
“Nothing happens overnight,” said the 30-year-old from Halifax, who runs her own barbecue business. “It wasn’t sexy or glamorous at first, but to me, it was worth it.”
Her experience reflects the challenges people are facing across the country and will be the focus of a Global series on rising inflation called ‘Out of Pocket’.
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For Symonds, the reward of having her own startup is being able to share her love of food and grow the business from there.
She has a knowledge base in the service industry and then switched careers to become a registered investment advisor. Since then, she’s added podcast hosts and small business owners to her resume.
Admittedly, she’s not a very good baker, so she decided to focus on baking sheets.
While starting to produce and sell her works for small gatherings in early 2020 during the height of the pandemic, she officially opened her small business, Halifax Charcuteriein December 2021.
“I love art and I’m not Picasso in any way, but kind of put it together. It’s like a creative store, a fun store, and a way of connecting people with food“ she speaks.
But launching a small food business in such precarious financial times has been stressful.
Canadians have had to deal with record inflation over the past year.
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Annual rate of inflationary in Canada stood at 6.8% in November but the cost of food from the grocery store rose 11.4% for the month.
To aggravate the situation, the Food costs are expected to continue to rise through 2023. A recent Canadian Food Price Report estimated food prices to increase by an average of 5 to 7%.
Iglika Ivanova, senior economist at the Canada Center for Policy Alternatives in BC, says that rising staples costs mean Canadians have nowhere to look for relief from inflation. broadcast.
“With the dramatic increase in the cost of living and an even higher rise in the cost of food and the cost of basic things like rent or transport, people with income More humble has really been squeezed, for there is no better word.
To illustrate that point, an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found that 27% of respondents said they have reduced spending on essentials like food or clothing to pay for their bills. other essential needs. The poll was conducted from December 14 to 16, 2022 and surveyed 1,004 Canadians aged 18 and over.
Price hike ‘not a profitable thing’
While she hesitated to do so, Symonds has raised prices twice since starting the business.
The first pay rise was small, she said, but in May of this year she noticed the prices of some ingredients had skyrocketed. Specifically, the price of cheese fluctuates unpredictably.
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Although she has set a budget on how much she will spend per order, she often ends up “spending more” because she needs the essential ingredients.
“It costs even less than your regular Cracker Barrel Black Diamond – they start producing less cheese. Like 400 (grams), now it’s 370, but the price has gone up,” she said.
“It’s not sold very often. And then, even a lot of specialty cheeses, like port cheese or smoked cheddar cheese, went up in price. But they don’t bring it in that much either.
Symonds found that not only did the prices of her essentials go up, but it also became harder to find them.
She found herself driving around the city sourcing some products, which also increased her costs because of rising gas prices. Even sourcing the packaging for her products became a headache.
“I struggled with myself about whether to go up again or stay the same or how to correct. I did another bull run in October…so early in the fourth quarter of the calendar year,” she said.
She pointed out that she was quick to warn her customer base a month before the price increase and explained to them that “it was not a matter of profits”.
“It’s just keeping up with what I can give you. It got tight,” she recalls.
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During the holidays, Symonds said she hasn’t noticed a drop in orders despite the price increase. She attributes to the fact that she has many corporate clients who order food for parties.
But she knows the next few months, which are statistically slower in retail, will speak for themselves.
Ultimately, she wants to move into her small business full-time — whenever the time is right.
“Saving personal funds is a little more difficult than I would have liked,” she admits, adding that her total income is around $55,000.
“The money I want to put aside from my paychecks to help scale my business has been a lot harder than I anticipated, but there are benefits and different things you can do. to achieve that. So I was looking.
Advice as an investment advisor
Meanwhile, Symonds’ main job is as an investment advisor for a large bank, which gives her a unique look at how inflation has affected people.
She says it’s clear clients are worried about finances. The Bank of Canada raised interest rates seven times by 2022, and some customers have told Symonds they’ve seen their mortgage payments double.
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“I always tell people that you want to look at your finances and do what’s best for you. It doesn’t matter what Suzy and the Joneses are doing because you don’t know what their situation is. What makes the most of your budget is what you need to do and you don’t have to explain to others,” she says.
“Money is an emotion, whether you have it or not. So with inflation going on, you want to make sure you’re also setting up a budget if you don’t have one.”
‘I don’t think inflation will affect me’
Symonds said when the dreaded word “inflation” started to be thrown around, she initially thought she would be immune – since her bills were mostly fixed and she was single.
“I don’t have a partner, I don’t have children. Only me,” she recalled her thoughts.
“I’m not too worried. And sure enough, by April, I was like, ‘Oh, no, I’m getting hit with inflation.’ I guess I might have been naive to think so. I’m sure that people who have experienced inflation before (know) it doesn’t matter what your personal circumstances are, you will be affected by it. And sure enough, I was.
She describes her situation as “worrying” because there isn’t much room when it comes to her trading fund. Any excess or profits are saved immediately.
On a personal level, she’s reeling from personal spending and food costs, while keeping an eye on waste and spoilage. Her apartment rent went up in June 2021, but she considers herself lucky because the total amount is still manageable.
“So it takes care of my budget, opens my alerts (on my banking app) — like you’ve spent this much or you’re under,” she says. desired balance — and then consider that,” she said.
“Suffice to say, just take care of my every penny, and just keep an eye on what I’m spending and make sure it makes sense. So that future Meghan doesn’t get upset with Meghan in the past, that’s important.
And she has a lot of plans for “Future Megan”.
Symonds was first inspired to take on the challenge of founding Halifax Charcuterie because she wanted to see herself represented in the wine and food business.
“There aren’t a lot of Black people I know in that industry or in general in wine culture, sommelier culture,” she said.
“So I said, ‘Well, I like it. I will do that. I will bring it to the communities around me, my community and the city at large.”
Her next steps will be to pursue training as a sommelier, while also incorporating wine tastings and events into her business. Her hope is to make her business sustainable full time.
“I’d love to get full-time soon, but definitely have to give my time for it to make sense.”